I’m always going on about the inexperience of the current leadership of the medical arm of the FIA. I think it’s important, especially in view of the issue of intentional water/calorie restriction (which may well need regulatory input from the Medical Commission), that people understand that this is not (only) residual anger and bitterness because I was fired. So here’s a small example of what happens when important decisions are left to people without the background, experience or knowledge to carry them out appropriately.
At a 2012 meeting of the Medical Commission (I was still an observer), the president (Gérard Saillant) and vice president (Jean-Charles Piette, also the Formula 1 Medical Delegate) presented a draft regulation to the commission members, for what they expected to be rubber-stamp approval. In essence the regulation said the following:
In closed cockpit series, if the cockpit of the car is too small to allow either expeditious extrication of the driver or prompt removal of the helmet, drivers are REQUIRED to wear open face helmets.
Sounds simple, eh? Maybe even logical, right? They were happy that the cause of driver safety was being advanced. Interestingly, neither of the authors of this regulation have ever, in any way, managed an airway.
The intention of this regulation was laudable – to allow airway access rapidly under conditions of difficult extrication. But beneath the face of it, this proposition illustrated everything that is wrong with the current leadership.
The reading of the reg was met by silence around the table. I need to point out that the members of the medical commission are massively experienced, massively motivated, and massively frustrated. The president, until he was appointed by his friend Jean Todt, never had direct involvement in motorsport medicine. Same with the vice president, until he was named F1 Delegate, for the same reason.
Just as this proposition was about to be put to a vote, I raised four questions.
Question 1: How many drivers have suffered an adverse outcome due to failure to access/control the airway in a closed car? The answer is rather simple – ZERO. Although this is the nightmare situation of every motorsport doc, IT JUST HASN’T HAPPENED.
Question 2: How many drivers have suffered catastrophic head and/or maxilla-facial injuries due to contact with cockpit elements WHILE WEARING FULL-FACE HELMETS? The answer – well, I can name 4 or 5 off the top of my head. And I’m pretty sure had they been wearing open-face helmets, things would NOT have been better.
Question 3: How will the FIA answer the lawyers representing the family of a driver killed as a result of head injury wearing a mandatory open-face helmet?
Question 4: Why just accept that there are FIA-homogolgated cars still racing, with cockpits so small and roofs so low as to preclude satisfactory rescue operations? As the FIA body responsible for medical regulations, when the Medical Commission gets it wrong, lives are at stake. Why, I asked, has the Med Comm not gone on record with the relevant OTHER commissions to demand a say in cockpit design, before closing the technical regs for each series? This is the concept of cockpit-out design that I blogged about some months ago.
The reg was immediately withdrawn. I needn’t point out the eye-rolling among the membership at having been presented such a . . . silly proposition.
This is why I’m a bit fearful of knee-jerk, symptomatic responses to the weight control issue. This is why I’m enraged by the stagnation in medical progress in motorsport – it’s not down to nothing left to do, or to obstacles to advancement being thrown up. Rather, it’s down to a total lack of vision, perspective and knowledge of the ins and outs of this field, resulting from nepotistic, incestuous appointments. Again, Jean, you can give your mates titles, but that doesn’t mean you’ve made them competent.