McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo hails modern-day safety standards, reflects on Lando Norris crash


Australian Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has hailed the sport’s governing body over “a change in mindset” to safety.

The McLaren driver’s comments follow last weekend’s frustrating Belgian Grand Prix, at which no racing took place due to torrential rain as the grid instead completed two laps behind a safety car.

No overtaking is allowed when a safety car is on the track and, at the Belgian Grand Prix, half points were awarded.

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Ricciardo, competing in his 200th Formula 1 grand prix, collected six points because he had finished fourth in qualifying.

The Western Australian has since acknowledged the shift in attitude to safety, which stands in stark contrast to the hopeless efforts to improve on-track welfare in the early days of the world championship.

“There’s definitely a change in mindset to it all,” Ricciardo said.

“Obviously I wasn’t around in that era, but it was kind of normal to have fatalities and all that in the sport.

“I’m sure it was very hard to accept, but maybe because it was more regular it was somewhat expected.

“Now, knowing what we know, or at least what I know, would I have raced in the 60s? With the knowledge I have now, no.

“At the end of the day, it’s a sport, so we like the risk, but if you’re talking a matter of life and death, I don’t think that’s worth anything.”

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The world championship recorded 11 deaths in the 1950s, the first decade of the competition, before the 1960s resulted in eight deaths and the 1970s nine.

Austrian Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda, world champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984, took an unprecedented stand against the terrible safety standards when he withdrew from the Japanese Grand Prix of 1976.

Lauda and Great Britain’s James Hunt arrived at the Mount Fuji Circuit for a championship decider, but Lauda pulled out after two laps, afraid of relentless rain that had flooded the track. Hunt finished third and won the only world championship title of his career.

A shockwave was sent through the Formula 1 world when Ricciardo’s McLaren teammate, young Briton Lando Norris, crashed his car during the Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.

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Norris lost control of his McLaren in soaking-wet conditions as he tried to navigate the uphill sweep of the fast Eau Rouge corner.

Miraculously, he emerged unscathed and was approved to race in Belgium.

“You look at Lando’s crash on Saturday and I think he proved you can still have a big one,” Ricciardo said.

“And those conditions at the time, they were okay, well, on the edge, but obviously okay for us to have a green light.

“So I think we are still competing in a dangerous sport and playing on the edge of danger, but I think there’s kind of danger and being unsafe and then there’s the extreme, of course, with unnecessarily having people heli-aired out of here.”

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