Guest Author - Christine Blachford
When it comes to racing, there's no doubt that motorsport is dangerous. It's printed on the tickets you buy to go to a Grand Prix, and there are signs scattered around the circuit as you meander.
However, the most dangerous place to be during a Grand Prix, aside from standing in the middle of the track, must be the pit lane.
There's a speed limit in the pit lane which was introduced to try and improve safety conditions. There are a lot of people in the pit lane, team bosses, engineers, mechanics, sometimes even guests of the teams. The drivers must hit the pit lane speed limiter as they enter the pits and keep it on until they cross the white line at the pit exit. There are penalties for failing to do so.
This is obviously a great help to safety, but it doesn't solve every problem. We often see team members dashing from the garage to the pit wall, and this means looking before they take that leap. It can't be done during a busy time in the pit lane. We've also seen mechanics having to clear out of the way of cars, especially if they are battling side by side to get out of the pits in front.
One of the major dangers during a pit stop is the refuelling. Temperatures in the pit lane and specifically round the car can get very high, and it's not unusual to see a flash fire. They will normally burn out, or be blown out as the car speeds away, but it can sometimes need the use of a fire extinguisher. Fires and extinguishers are not ideal situations in a race, as they both do damage, but at least the foamy mess will make things safer.
The lollipop men are gradually being replaced by traffic lights. Ferrari have introduced a fully digital system, whilst some of the lollipops are bringing in lighting elements as well. If this technology goes wrong, it can be disastrous. As we saw in Valencia, mechanics can be injured, or collisions occur.
The amount of new technology can also be a worry, as was demonstrated by BMW at a test earlier in the year. Their newly introduced KERS gave one mechanic a serious electric shock. He was okay, and the team investigated the incident thoroughly, but it's just an added danger in an already worrying environment.