Fresh safety concerns sparked in Canada
21 Jun 2001

Following Mika Hakkinen's impact with the newly-laid kerbs at Turns 14 and 15 of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, fresh safety worries have been sparked when ballast that came loose from his car is thought to have narrowly avoided hitting a marshal.

The Finn straddled the raised sections on the kerb at speed during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix, damaging his car and ruining his timed qualifying lap. This blow is thought to have sheared the bolts holding the ballast in place.

The ballast is reported to have come free from the car at Turn 2, making contact with the tyre wall and missing a marshal positioned there by just a few feet. The tyre wall was described as being compressed by the impact with the ballast, and the lead tyre was allegedly pierced. Safety concerns have been raised as to the damage that it could have caused, should it have hit a person or another racing car.

There was talk that the ballast was comprised of depleted uranium, but McLaren has vigorously denied this. "We don't, and we never have used, depleted uranium," said a spokeswoman for the team.

The FIA has confirmed that they are examining the incident, although they have denied that an official investigation has been launched. "We are aware of this incident which, although not the subject of a formal report, is being examined," they confirmed in a statement to formula1.com.

This latest safety fear follows the death of two marshals, who were fatally wounded by tyres wrenched free during collisions. Paolo Gislimberti was killed during last year's Italian Grand Prix, following a multi-car pile up at the second chicane, while Graham Beveridge lost his life at this year's Australian race after Jacques Villeneuve rammed the rear of Ralf Schumacher's Williams.

The sport's rulemakers responded to concerns about the nature of the accident that killed Gislimberti by doubling the strength of tyre tethers for the 2001 season, but this proved not to suffice in the opening race of the year when Beveridge was fatally wounded in similar circumstances. Current rules surrounding the securing of ballast to the car state in article 4.2 that: "Ballast can be used provided it is secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate."

McLaren has confirmed that Hakkinen's car did lose ballast after his collision with the new, higher kerbing in Canada but were unaware as to whether any damage was caused to the track or tyre wall as a result. The team was also unaware of any investigation by the FIA.

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