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GP Week : Issue 186
overnight with circuit staff to create a safe environment for the weekend’s racing. But when the time came for Saturday’s qualifying session, track conditions had hardly improved. The GPDA members pressed for the strike to continue, but the race organisers threatened legal action if the race did not go ahead as scheduled. There were rumours that the Guardia Civil would impound the cars, affecting the next race – the Monaco Grand Prix. The race went ahead despite the drivers’ concerns, and Emerson Fittipaldi – defending world champion that year – refused to take part, leaving Montjuic on Sunday morning. It was a wise decision, as the race descended into chaos, and was cut short after 29 laps following an incident in which Rolf Stommelen crashed into the barriers, before bouncing off and being launched over the barriers at the other side of the track. The airborne car killed five spectators. Unbelievably, the race lasted for four more laps before being cut short. In 1994, the GPDA was reformed after a 12-year hiatus, as a reaction to the terrible events of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend in which Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives, and rookie racer Rubens Barrichello was hospitalised following a serious accident in practice. The idea had been proposed on Sunday morning in Imola, and Senna had been nominated a GPDA director by his colleagues hours before the race that would claim his life. The rebooted GPDA was quick to act, and at their first active race – the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix – the organisation pushed for the installation of a temporary chicane at Nissan, citing safety fears in light of the flat-out nature of the corner. With safety high on the F1 agenda, the race organisers were quick to respond. While the GPDA has been active ever since, the organisation has not needed to use the threat of protest, strike, or boycott to achieve its ends. Since that black weekend in Imola in 1994, safety has been a byword in Formula One, top of the FIA’s agenda and of paramount importance to teams, sponsors, and fans alike. And it is for that reason that the threat that GPDA drivers would withdraw from the German Grand Prix had such an impact. These days, safety concerns are dealt with long before the drivers need to get involved. Even Tyregate Mk I, the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, saw the GPDA’s involvement limited effectively to a statement supporting Michelin’s decision to recommend its teams withdrew, and a critical letter to FIA president Max Mosley. The 2013 German Grand Prix marked the first event in a number of years where grand prix drivers came together to voice their concerns about safety – the first time in years that they have felt the need to voice their concerns. No action was necessary at the end of the day, but it was a watershed moment for the organisation nonetheless. 23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: >>> F1 FEATUrE emerson Fittipaldi – man of his word While other drivers made boycott promises they then neglected to keep, Brazilian racer emerson Fittipaldi proved to be a man of his word. At the 1975 spanish Grand Prix the drivers were concerned that the loose barriers around the circuit would prove hazardous, and agreed not to race. Fittipaldi honoured his promise, and left Montjuic on sunday morning. The race prved tragic – the car of Rolf stommelmen broke its rear wing, flew out of control and over one of the barriers in question, into the crowd. Five spectators died ... GPDA meeting, 1969-style – Kyalami, South Africa ...