Formula 1 Cameraman Accident: Bernie Ecclestone Confines Crews to Pit Wall

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2013

NUERBURG, GERMANY - JULY 07:  Mark Webber of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives in for a pitstop during the German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring on July 7, 2013 in Nuerburg, Germany.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

According to Andrew Benson of the BBC, Bernie Ecclestone has banned camera crews working for Formula One from the pit lane during races. Instead, they will have to film the action from the relative safety of the pit wall.

The move came after cameraman Paul Allen was struck by a stray wheel during the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring (video here (UK) or here (US and others)).

Allen, an employee of Formula One Management (FOMthe guys in charge of, among other things, what you see on your TV screens), was hit by a wheel from Mark Webber's Red Bull.

The wheel had not been attached properly during Webber's first stop, and as he pulled out of his pit box it came away from his car and began rolling down the pit lane. It ran into an object on the floor (perhaps a wheel gun) and bounced up, striking Allen in the upper body.

The live TV cameras were on the incident, and horrorit looked like it hit him in the headquickly turned to relief as Allen appeared conscious and alert.

It was later revealed he escaped with two broken ribs and a broken collarbone. It may not sound like a positive result, but an F1 car's wheel weighs somewhere in the region of 12-14 kilograms (26-30 pounds), and it was travelling pretty fast.

It could easily have caused far more serious injury.


Red Bull Team Principle Christian Horner suggested increasing the protection for those who work in the pit lane:

It's a timely reminder that things can go wrong.

Mechanics have to wear safety gear and helmets. Maybe it's time we looked at some of the other people working in the pit lane having some as well.

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh questioned whether F1 was becoming complacent, and Ross Brawn of Mercedes said:

On the basis of what we have seen we should be thinking that all people in the pitlane are properly dressed and equipped.

Everyone in the pitlane should have a helmet on. It is certainly worth reviewing the whole thing.

Right Move?

Knee-jerk reactions rarely produce positive outcomes. The pit lane is a dangerous place for everyone down there, and anyone with a drop of common sense has known that for a long time.

We shouldn't kid ourselves that we've only just discovered hazards exist because of what happened at the Nurburgring.

The situation we have is that FOM camera crews can no longer do their jobs as effectively as before because of a freak accident which stemmed from one of the teams botched a pit stopfor which they were fined a paltry €30,000.

Others may say that safety is king, but there's a difference between sensible safety and going too far.

This move is an overreaction, and makes little sense when other pit lane workers aren't being shunted out.

Some level of protection would be a good ideaa lightweight, open-face helmet similar to those favoured by rally drivers could certainly be designed to match F1's exacting standards.

Such a helmet wouldn't severely compromise vision or hearing, and would add only minimal discomfort in the form of heat retention. And most importantly, it would provide protection for the most vulnerable part of the bodythe head.

By all means, Bernie, give camera crews some protection. But confining them to the pit wall is simply not necessary.


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