What’s Wrong With Vitaly Petrov?
Yesterday, Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov suggested that the the Mugello Circuit wasn’t really suitable for Formula One testing. Today, he’s reiterated that point in an interview with Autosport: “I don’t think we should have come here,” said the Russian. “It is not safe and wide enough. If you lose it, the walls are so close and you will smash into the tyres. It is not for Formula 1 and, if you lost the steering or the tyre pressure dropped or whatever, then it will be a big crash.” A perfectly reasoned opinion you would think but apparently, no…
Cue the predictable cliches: “if you can’t stand the heat…”, “he needs to grow some…” and so on. It’s the same comments that were thrown in Jackie Stewart’s direction forty years ago and like then it ignores the fact that Petrov still went out there and did a job despite his misgivings. Fear isn’t the issue.
Even Autosport chose to contrast his comments on safety with his colleagues’ opinions of the track as if they were actually the same thing. To put it into context, here’s what Petrov said yesterday which actually prompted Autosport’s line of questioning: “I have very good memories of Mugello as this is where I won in F3000, so coming back is good. I’m not sure the track is right for today’s F1 cars – you get very close to the walls and it’s maybe a bit small for the cars now, but it’s still a good challenge putting together a quick lap.” It’s a comment that’s been carelessly overlooked today in the name of a good story in what one outlet headlined as “Petrov blasts ‘unsafe’ Mugello”. It’s irrelevant whether Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and indeed Petrov himself think the circuit is a great place to drive – Petrov’s issue was whether it’s a great place to have a crash.
But is Mugello suitably safe for Formula One testing? Well it’s no use comparing to Monaco for starters. This is a circuit comparable to Silverstone and Suzuka in terms of speeds, not the principality’s winding streets, and one look at the run-off area accompanying the new Abbey turn suggests that he may have a point. Quite simply, the design of Mugello’s run-off areas seem dated.
However, I don’t really want to go into that issue as I’m not best placed to judge the circuit. My main issue is that nobody should be afraid of raising such questions for fear of ridicule and such dismissive remarks. Or in the name of not offending circuit owners, Ferrari.
Petrov should be applauded for his bravery in making this statement. Not hailed a coward.
Credit: Caterham F1