Formula One safety chiefs are set to launch an investigation into how debris from from a crash at the Australian Grand Prix flew over safety fences and left one fan needing medical attention.
Kevin Magnussen clipped the wall on the exit of Turn Two and damaged his rear right tyre, bringing out the safety car with just seven laps to go as marshals cleared the debris from the track.
But a piece of the delaminated tyre appeared to fly over the fences, designed to stop anything more sizeable from flying into the crowd, and struck a spectator.
Will Sweet, originally from Essex but now resident in Australia, was left with a cut on his forearm and was treated by paramedics.
“My forearm was raised because I was holding a tiny FM radio to my ear, but if my arm hadn’t been there, I could have been hit in the neck,” Sweet told reporters afterwards.
“It could have hit my fiancée standing next to me on the head. I was also lucky not to have been hit by the very sharp end of the debris because that would have gone straight in.
“It could have been a lot worse. It could have been horrendous.”
i understands that FIA, F1’s governing body, will use its Remote Operations Centre in Geneva, described as F1’s answer to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), to collate all the footage of the incident as part of its post-race safety review, which will inform any changes made to the set-up in Melbourne for next year’s race.
The issue of small debris is one considered by all circuits on the calendar though and the FIA’s findings feed into safety plans at other races, as well as with Australian Grand Prix bosses.
Andrew Westacott, the outgoing CEO of the race, described the incident as a “freak one-off”.
“The debris fences are consistent in height around the world,” Westacott said.
“We’re compliant in our FIA regulations, but like everything in motorsport, you do debriefs at the end of the event and see what you can do to improve.
“I hope the guy is okay. It’s a reminder that safety is paramount when it comes to Formula One.”
Westacott was also forced to answer FIA questions just hours after the race when fans entered the track after the chequered flag but before all the cars had returned to the pit lane.
“We work every year to allow the fans to access the track at the end of the race after the cars have passed,” Westacott added.
“This was clearly a breach of what is a very robust protocol, a protocol that’s been developed and improved every year.
“And a protocol that we sit down with officials from Motorsport Australia and the security providers, engineering providers and Victoria Police and we not only do table top exercises, but we do simulations out on track.
“Something hasn’t gone quite right and that investigation has already started.”