Would you drive into a wall if someone asked you to?
Crashing a Formula One car is easy. Even I could do that, although fitting into the cockpit might be a bit of a squeeze. It’s the driving that is difficult.
In the old days, when there were fewer races in a season but more funerals, you crashed at your peril.
“In my era, if you crashed a car it was pretty serious. Nowadays if you crash a car you can’t get hurt really badly because it is so fantastically made,” Stirling Moss observed this week in an interview ahead of his 80th birthday.
That said, crashing deliberately is simply counter-intuitive. Everything in a driver’s instincts tells him to back off, correct the slide, lift the throttle, avoid the wall. Self-preservation is a basic instinct.
All of which makes the allegations being levelled against the Renault Formula One team, who have abstained from commenting, all the more extraordinary.
The former champions will be hauled in front of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) in Paris on Sept. 21 to face accusations that they ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet to deliberately crash in Singapore last year to create a situation that would allow team mate Fernando Alonso to win the race.
Alonso pitted early, Piquet crashed a lap or two later and the safety car came out.
As a result of the accident, Alonso (who said on Thursday he knew nothing of any plan to fix the race) went on to win. The race leader until the safety car interlude, Ferrari’s Brazilian
Felipe Massa, failed to score after a bungled pitstop.
Without that interruption, Massa might have won the race. And don’t forget that he lost out on the championship by a single point in the end.
The accusations are heavy indeed, not least because — if true — they would suggest a wanton disregard for the safety of the public as much as the driver.
You hear of ordinary roadgoers hitting trouble after blindly following the voice on the satnav but one of the best racing drivers in the world agreeing to crash on demand? Surely not?
“I think it is a very stupid thing to do because you take a lot of risk for nothing,” Red Bull’s title contender Sebastian Vettel told reporters at the Italian Grand Prix when asked whether he felt any Formula One driver would really be prepared to do that.
“As the driver you have the control of the car and yes we are always driving on the limit and sometimes things go wrong and sometimes you might have a crash.
“But if you do it on purpose you know there is risk for yourself and also risk for others, you can’t anticipate how big it is going to be and what will happen. Therefore I don’t think it’s a good or clever thing to do.
“The most important point is why would you take the risk, for yourself, for others, for spectators or whosoever?
“I wouldn’t do it no matter what situation I was in…it doesn’t make sense to you as a driver. In the end you are the one looking after yourself and deciding for yourself. You have the steering wheel in your hands and you are the one to decide.”
PHOTO: Former Renault Formula One driver Piquet of Brazil drives during practice session for Singapore F1 Grand Prix. Sep 27,2008 REUTERS/Tim Wimborne