Hong Kong – The Macau Grand Prix’s street circuit is not to blame for a teen driver’s horrific crash on Sunday, her team boss has said after the accident raised concerns about safety standards.
Seventeen-year-old Sophia Floersch’s Formula Three car catapulted spectacularly over safety barriers during Sunday’s race, fracturing the Van Amersfoort Racing driver’s spine and injuring four others.
But despite the horrifying crash, her team principle refused to blame the historic Macau circuit, which has been raced by some of the giants of the sport including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
“I don’t think the accident was Macau-related,” Frits van Amersfoort told Autosport.com, saying it could have happened on other tracks.
“We also race in Pau (in France) and F1 also races on all kinds of street circuits. Macau is a special track, everyone knows that,” van Amersfoort said.
“The contradiction is that everyone knows the dangers, but most drivers also say that Macau is the most beautiful track in the world. That indicates how strange it sometimes is.”
The 6.2-kilometre temporary circuit features long straights with speeds of about 275km/h, coupled with tight, blind corners.
Three racers have died in Macau in recent years: motorcyclists Daniel Hegarty and Luis Carreira – in 2017 and 2012 respectively – and Hong Kong driver Phillip Yau, also in 2012.
But Charlie Whiting, race director for the International Motoring Federation (FIA) which is investigating the crash, also defended Macau.
“Macau is not a dangerous circuit,” Whiting said. “In common with all street circuits the incident rate is higher than a normal circuit but there is no evidence to say that the circuit is dangerous.”
Whiting added that investigators know the “initial cause” for Floersch’s loss of control, but that it was too soon to say what caused the accident.
As with most urban circuits, the roads are narrow on the Guia track and there are few safety exits, leaving little room for error.
“However, where cars do hit the walls it is generally at a very low angle which imparts lower forces into the car and driver,” Whiting said.
“The guardrails, crash barriers and debris fences have been systematically upgraded over the past few years with significant improvements in a number of areas,” he added.
On Sunday, Floersch’s car lost wheels after a collision down a high-speed straight and then bounced off a kerb, clipping Japanese racer Sho Tsuboi’s vehicle and flying backwards into a hut housing media and officials.
The German underwent marathon surgery on Monday but despite her ordeal, she has said she is determined to race again.
A team statement said her nerve functions are reacting well, and that it took doctors more than nine hours to repair Floersch’s fractured vertebra and remove a bone splinter, which was sitting dangerously close to her spinal cord.