With Mark Webber currently recovering from surgery following his broken leg in the Pure Tasmania Challenge, questions are going to asked by the teams and driver managers about the dangers drivers face when they take part in potentially hazardous events and sports during the off-season. With a Formula One driver’s primary role of driving a Formula One car, is the pursuit of a challenge like Mark Webber’s triathlon-type competition worth the danger involved?
Formula One pilots are among the best athletes in the world, enduring physical pressures like no other when they compete in a race. They are fit, healthy and very strong. But when they place themselves in situations with increased risk of injury, are they toying with their careers unnecessarily? Geoff Donahue, the director of the 2008 Tasmania Challenge has today admitted that Mark’s future involvement will be carefully considered.
Of course, there is danger all around each and every one of us, but increasing the likelihood of injury just seems a little silly, even if it is for charity. Often, drivers will have something in their contract which prohibits the pursuit of overly dangerous activities, but Webber’s obligations are apparently a little more relaxed.
Juan Pablo Montoya once famously suffered a tennis-related injury in 2005 and despite speculation at the time, the Colombian driver resolutely denied his shoulder injury was the result of coming off his motorcycle. However the injury was inflicted though, Montoya was forced to sit out two races. When Montoya returned to the cockpit in Spain he wasn’t entirely healed and paddock-insiders have since stated that Juan Pablo’s arm was often immobile after races.
Nick Heidfeld has also felt the brunt of cycling accident when he was recovering from a testing accident in 2005. While out cycling he collided with a motorbike which further added to his healing process. Heidfeld was scheduled to return to racing for the remaining three grands prix, but was ultimately forced to sit out the rest of the season.
Earlier in the year, Jenson Button laid down a challenge to eventual championship winner and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton. Upon hearing about Button’s exploits in triathlons, Hamilton was impressed, but also convinced of his own fitness. Button suggested that the two compete in the same triathlon to settle the argument, and Lewis agreed. However, a few hours later Hamilton’s manager and father pulled his son from the challenge, stating that Lewis has to concentrate on the Formula One campaign.
Was Anthony Hamilton right to stop his son from competing? Is Webber doing the best thing by competing in the Pure Tasmania Challenge? Is Kimi Raikkonen really allowed to go snowboarding during the season? I guess drivers will always pursue a challenge to further their fitness and enjoyment of sport. Part of what they do during the off-season is to keep them in trim form, and there are always going to be inherent dangers in any sporting activity.
I hope Red Bull Racing do not restrict Mark Webber’s contract, preventing him from competing in sports away from the racetrack – it is a decision Mark has to make himself. But what do you think? Is it really sensible to compete when the risks of broken bones and other injuries significantly increases? Or should drivers be allowed to do whatever they want, knowing themselves what the risks and consequences are?