Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Day of Near Misses

Indycar is lucky to leave the Grand Prix of Indianapolis unscathed after several serious incidents during the race.

Right off the start, things were getting dangerous. Sebastian Saavedra, who qualified on the pole, stalled on the standing start. 24 cars dodged and weaved their way around, but two could not. Carlos Munoz side-swiped Saavedra, damaging both cars heavily. Shortly after, Mikhail Aleshin pummeled Saavedra in a violent collision, sending debris flying.

This crash was very violent. Saavedra was lucky to leave only with sore ribs. Replays show him waving his arms to signal that he stalled a few short moments before being struck by Munoz. As the ABC broadcast team pointed out, had he not gotten his arms down in time, his wrists and forearms could have suffered serious injuries. As a whole, Saavedra is lucky to not suffer any back or other serious injuries. Aleshin and Munoz were also lucky to escape without injury.

The result of a nasty accident between Aleshin and Saavedra (Photo: Chris Jones / Indycar Media)
As several people pointed out, more could have been done to alert drivers in the back of a stalled vehicle. Replays show only one marshall waving a yellow flag, In F1, when there is a stall on the grid, there are about fifteen or twenty people waving a yellow flag so drivers know of danger. Now, when your polesitter stalls, it is unlikely that everyone will dodge him, but the efforts couldn't hurt. We need to learn from this terrible incident.

The race restarted happened shortly after this incident. Marco Andretti was fighting for position with Graham Rahal heading into a fast left-right chicane that has one lane. Graham and Marco were side-by-side and Marco had to take avoiding action, causing him to jump the curb. He got some air, landed, and went about his business. After the race, Marco tweeted that the tub of his car had cracked in half. Images of Justin Wilson at Mid-Ohio in 2011 flash through my mind. Wilson went off track and his car launched, breaking his back. Though both incidents didn't look like much, they are both big collisions. Marco is very lucky to get out of that unscathed.

The next hair raising incident involved Martin Plowman and Franck Montangy. Plowman was scrapping with Marco Andretti heading into turn seven. Plowman broke too late and was carrying too much speed. He spun across the curb, launching the car into the air. While in the air, he hit Montangy, destroying the engine housing of the car. A couple feet the other way and Franck could have been killed. Had it not been a "soft" landing (he didn't roll the car nor was his car damaged in a major capacity) by Plowman, he could have been seriously hurt. Another near miss for a couple of drivers.

Montangy and Plowman both have near misses (Photo: Eric Anderson / Indycar Media)

The scariest incident of the day happened shortly after the Plowman-Montangy. Coming down towards turn seven, Justin Wilson made contact with a car, sending pieces of his front wing flying. One of these pieces of debris struck James Hinchcliffe in the helmet. Hinch went straight off instead of attempting to make turn seven, singaling something was wrong. The marshalls rescued Hinch, and got drove back to pit road.

He got out of the car and was stretchered to the hospital. He was diagnosed and released with a concussion. It could have been so much worse. Shades of Felipe Massa Hungary 2009 flash through my head. Marco Andretti said after the race that Hinch was knocked unconscious, and that's why he missed turn seven. It remains to be seen if Hinch will be racing in the Indianapolis 500. EJ Viso will be filling in for him in the meantime.

Lots of bullets were dodged by drivers at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The folks at Dallara deserve a tip of the cap. Also, new safety regulations implemented by Indycar regarding the helmets and visors worn by the drivers may have saved Hinch's life. We were reminded that the sport we love is very dangerous. Thankfully, everyone got out of the race without serious injury.

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

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