Formula One faced calls for improved pitlane safety after a cameraman was hit and injured by a bouncing wheel that came off Mark Webber’s Red Bull during Sunday’s German Grand Prix.
Mechanics wear flameproof overalls and helmets during pitstops, but others in the restricted group given access to the pitlane — such as the media — do so without protective headgear.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told reporters after Briton Paul Allen was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone and fractured ribs that it was time to tighten up the procedures.
“We should be thinking that all people in the pitlane are properly dressed and equipped. Everyone in the pitlane should have a helmet on,” he said. “It is certainly worth reviewing the whole thing.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner agreed.
“These cars have so much energy in them and it is a timely reminder that things can go wrong,” he told reporters after Sebastian Vettel won his home race at the Nuerburgring.
“The mechanics wear safety gear and helmets. Maybe it is time that we looked at safety equipment for the other operational people working in the pit lane,” he said.
“The camera guys are getting close to the action. They are getting some great pictures, but it is still a dangerous environment,” Horner said.
Tire changes are now quicker than ever, regularly under three seconds, and pitstops are also more frequent because the 2013 Pirelli tires are less durable than last year.
Allen was fortunate that the tire struck him on the back and not the head.
This season has already seen one racetrack fatality, with marshal Mark Robinson killed at last month’s Canadian Grand Prix when he was run over by a recovery tractor removing a car from the side of the track.
The two previous Formula One race weekend fatalities involved trackside marshals being struck on the head by wheels flying off cars — Paolo Ghislimberti in Italy in 2000 and Graham Beveridge in Australia in 2001.
Tethers were introduced after Ghislimberti’s death to prevent wheels from flying off cars in accidents, but Webber’s was never properly attached.