Melbourne spectator hit by debris


As Melbourne promoter faces potential sanction following track invasion, it has been revealed that a spectator was hit by debris following Kevin Magnussen's crash.

On a day understandably described as "chaotic" by much of the media, as Guenther Steiner stormed his way to the stewards HQ to protest the result, it was revealed that a representative of the race organiser, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, had been ordered to report to the stewards following the track invasion at the end of the event.

Found to be in breach of the FIA's International Sporting Code, the organisers now have to carry out an urgent investigation of the incident and how it intends to prevent further occurrences.

Other than the fact that spectators were able to access the track "while the race was still ongoing", of particular concern was the fact that Nico Hulkenberg's abandoned Haas was still 'live' with a "possible electrical discharge".

Not included in the stewards investigation, because it wasn't known about at the time, was that earlier a spectator had been hit by debris from Kevin Magnussen's crash which brought about the second safety car of the afternoon.

"I don't really know what happened," Will Sweet told Melbourne's 3AW radio station. "I was just sort of standing in the crowd at Turn 2 and all of a sudden there was a commotion on track so I looked to my right and Magnussen goes flying down the track.

Then, all of a sudden, something hits me on the arm and a bunch of people are sort of running around, scrambling around me. Someone holds up half of his rim, which has just flown over the fence and managed to hit me in the arm, so it was a bit weird."

Though unharmed in the incident, Sweet admits that it could have been worse, a marshal having been killed in 2001 after being hit by wheel following a collision involving Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher.

The subsequent inquest found the incident to have been 'avoidable', as organisers were aware that debris could break through gaps in the safety fence.

"In this case, those agencies responsible failed to satisfactorily manage the risk to marshals created by gaps in the debris fence," said Victoria State Coroner, Graeme Johnstone in his report.

"The issue of the potential for debris to go through the gap had been identified by CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) years prior to the running of the 2001 event at Albert Park.

"The AGPC, through its chief executive officer, was aware of the gap issue. The eventual solution was not only obvious, it was practical, and should have been in place before the racing incident at Albert Park. Mr Beveridge's death was avoidable."

"I was holding a really small radio to my ear, a bit like you would hold a mobile phone," said Sweet of Sunday's incident. "So, I guess I had my arm up and I'm taller than my fiance so it kind of hit me at about... my arm was covering where my neck would have been but if that had hit my fiance, it probably would have got her right in the head. So, it could have been worse, but kind of lucky it hit me and not somebody else."

"It's very rare that things fly over the top of the debris fences," AGPC CEO, Andrew Westacott told 3AW. "They were heightened to a standard that exists and is consistent with every circuit around the world, and, statistically, they look at it all and say that that's the right height, and I think it probably is the right height.

"But, we've got to look at all this and learn and see what can be done, whether it's the way we... in 2001, when sadly the marshal Graham Beveridge passed away because of a tyre going through the fences, the fences were all changed and so were the tethering arrangements for the wheels and so on.

"A lot's changed technically since 2001 and this, I think, is more of a freak one-off but the important thing about major events and motorsport is, you always have a thorough debrief and we'll do that with everyone and CCTV, which you'd expect there's a lot of it going around from our perspective."

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Published: 05/04/2023
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