F1: drivers tell what Kovalainen crash must have felt like

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarTuesday, May 6th, 2008

 
 

For most of us it’s very difficult to imagine what it must have felt like to be in Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren when it hit the barriers at the Circuit de Catalunya at 150 miles per hour.

But one or two of his F1 colleagues have been on hand to explain – and to recall being in similar crashes.

In The Telegraph Mark Blundell wonders whether it’ll have an impact on the Finn’s performance in Istanbul and recalls his own horrendous IndyCar crash in Rio de Janeiro when he hit a concrete wall at nearly 200mph:

Heikki Kovalainen faces tough driving test

…when things go wrong like that, the first thought that enters your head is, ‘where am I heading?’ Unfortunately, 99 per cent of the time, you are heading somewhere that is going to hurt.

Kovalainen did a smart thing, taking his hands from the wheel before the impact. It is so easy to leave your hands on there to try to steer your way out of it. In doing so, you can break your thumbs or your wrists.

All you can do is brace yourself for what is coming. An Armco barrier with tyres in front is not something you want to be seeing close up at 140mph because you are about to stop in a very short space of time.

It is a horrendous feeling. The body is not built to take that amount of stress. One of the things that sticks in your mind is the noise of the impact. That stays embedded in your memory for a long time. After the impact the first thing you do is put your hands down to your legs to make sure they are still there. That’s second nature. Read full article here…

Meanwhile, in his column for the BBC Sport site Mark Webber expresses concerns about the corner that tripped up both Kovalainen and Bourdais at different points during the race weekend, and talks about his own experience of high-speed crashes:

The first thing to say is that the run-off on that corner is too tight and we need to have a look at it because any driver that has an error there is going to have a big crash.

If Heikki’s accident had happened two seconds later he would have been fine and controlled the car, but it probably happened on the worst section of that whole track.

I had actually been round that part of the track on my scooter on Thursday afternoon to see the tyre barriers because in testing Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais had crashed within five metres of that point. Sebastien made a mistake whereas Heikki had a failure but the result was the same.

The problem with Heikki was that he went in at a nasty angle. The conveyer belt system, which keeps the tyres together, works very well for a slightly different angled contact because it is supposed to cushion the whole thing and keep the tyres intact as well.

F1 cars are like a pencil and it meant he went under and penetrated the conveyer belt.

[snip]

I have been in some serious crashes – including two shunts at 200mph at Le Mans – and for the onlooker obviously everything happens so quickly. But for the driver it is amazing how your mind slows everything down.

With experience you know when the car has failed you are going to hit the fence and you brace yourself for the hit. But when a car takes off that was something I had not experienced before and certainly don’t want to go through again.

The feeling is you are in the lap of the gods.

[snip]

That was before I was in F1 and it was four or five months before I drove a car again. When I did, it took a while to get back into it because those crashes were unique, but after that I was punching times in at the limit quite quickly. Read full article here…

Kovalainen is thankfully OK and has said that he is expecting to race in Istanbul this weekend. However he will have to pass medical tests before he is allowed back in the car.

If he is cleared to race, it will be in the McLaren spare car, as his own was destroyed in the Barcelona crash.

One response to “F1: drivers tell what Kovalainen crash must have felt like”:

  1. Keith Says:

    May 6th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Blundell’s comments were especially interesting (here’s his crash by the way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8kH2de1Oqg).

    But Weber’s not quite right, at least according to Charlie Whiting, who said the car didn’t go under the conveyor, it actually pierced it.

 
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