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Street tracks hold no safety fears for Ecclestone

NEWS STORY
14/05/2007

Having concluded deals which will see two new street circuits join the F1 calendar in 2008, one of them scheduled to be held at night, Bernie Ecclestone has said that there will be no safety issues.

"There's another street track we've been racing on for quite a few years that's in the south of France - Monaco I think it's called," he said, according to The Times. "We've had no trouble there, so I don't see why we should have any trouble at these other street circuits. But of course there won't be a race unless it is safe."

Absolutely correct. However, the fact is that Monaco is a total anomaly as far as contemporary race tracks are concerned, and were it not for the fact that due to its (supposed) glamour and status it would not be on the calendar.

As long as Ecclestone decries other tracks as being 'third world' or in need or a "bit of a spring clean", Monaco will always remain the jewel in his, and thereby Formula One's crown.

While Ecclestone, CVC and whoever else it is that owns F1 these days, sit back and count their money, long-term contracts tucked safely in the safe, it is the drivers who will be risking life and limb.

Speaking at the weekend, a number of drivers, although delighted to hear that Valencia and Singapore have been added to the calendar, were adamant that safety must be the first priority.

Fernando Alonso is understandably confused as to why Valencia is hosting a street race, when it has a purpose built track just a few miles away.

"The direction that Formula One is trying to go in the last couple of years is to improve safety and to slow down the cars," he said. "And now, to have a race on the streets when we have a circuit only 20 or 30 kilometres away in Valencia, that is a little bit difficult to understand. But for us, so far as it is safe and they put in what is required to make it safe we will race anywhere."

"We are all asking for safety first," added Pedro de la Rosa. "We want to be sure we will be as safe as Barcelona, for example."

Speaking about the proposed night race, Mark Webber said: "We have always said you need to do the homework. I mean you never say never. But something can be done. There are other categories that race at night. There is not much artificial lighting around at places like Le Mans, or in America with the oval racing, but we obviously don't have lights on the car and the power of the lights you would need to light the place up artificially for visibility for the drivers and for flag marshalling and the other things that go with it… I think you could light the place up. But it is also a question of the rain and the other bits and bobs that you can take over embarrassingly if you don't do your homework. However, I am sure that the FIA will do that and we all know the repercussions of having so much egg on our face if it doesn't work.

"Street tracks are very challenging for the driver," he added, "but obviously we want them to be safe.

"Generally I like the idea of night racing and street circuits," added Mercedes boss Norbert Haug. "But as Mark mentioned I see some issues about safety and if that is sorted, I am fine with it. But obviously normally street circuits are more dangerous because there is no run-off area and the light system has to work perfectly, because it is not like a soccer game where if the light turns off nothing happens, but if you are doing 300 kph then it is a bit more of a problem… I hope they will manage everything for it."

An opinion shared by BMW's Mario Theissen.

"Racing on street circuits in city centres is spectacular and improves the show," said the German. "That's something we support, as long as the stringent safety standards are met. However, it has to be admitted that realising these safety standards in street races is difficult. Nonetheless, the safety of all those involved must be the top priority when it comes to the evaluation of street circuits.

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