Title anniversaries for Fittipaldi, Andretti this Tuesday

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Today, September 10, marks two Formula One World Championship anniversaries at Monza from the 1970s. Emerson Fittipaldi (1972, pictured at Monaco) and Mario Andretti (1978) each clinched their first World Championships on this day all those years ago.

Fittipaldi’s win in the 1972 Italian Grand Prix secured the title for Lotus with two races remaining in the season. It was a modified Monza circuit, chicanes appearing for the first time after the 1971 race.

“Emmo” became the youngest World Champion at age 25 and 273 days, a mark that stood for more than 30 years. However, since Fernando Alonso usurped that title in 2005, that’s been beaten twice, by Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and by three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel in 2010. Fittipaldi won a second championship for McLaren in 1974.

Andretti, meanwhile, who served as a guest analyst for NBCSN’s coverage of the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, took his first and only title under somber circumstances in the 1978 Italian Grand Prix. Andretti’s Lotus teammate, Ronnie Peterson, was caught up in an accident past the start line and died from complications after surgery.

The fatality ensured Andretti had enough of a gap the final two races of the 1978 season to where he was not overtaken. It was the second and thus far most recent World Championship by an American driver (Phil Hill, 1961) in F1 history.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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