Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg believes that Max Verstappen’s crash could have been fatal if the car had spun in the opposite direction, a point he made before the crash even occurred.
The turning point in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit took place on lap 46 of 51 when race and Formula 1 world championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull was sent spinning into the wall as a result of a left rear tire failure.
Out of nowhere, Verstappen’s car veered to the right on the front straightaway of the 20-turn, 3.73-mile (6.003-kilometer) temporary street circuit in Azadliq Square, Baku, Azerbaijan with just over five laps remaining, robbing him of what appeared to be a sure victory to extend his points lead over seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Of course, the incident understandably left Verstappen quite upset, though there was nothing he really could have done differently to prevent it from occurring.
But setting aside from the 26 points he would have gained, including an 11-point net gain on Hamilton in third place, with a win, the 23-year-old Dutchman was quite fortunate that the incident happened the way it did.
A much-discussed negative aspect of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix race weekend was the pit entry. Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg even discussed the matter before the race when driving the track on a simulator, stating the following.
“Here, I’m going to show you one of the places I always found most dangerous of the whole year. It was quite scary. You’re arriving here at 350 kph.”
Verstappen’s crash happened to occur right at that part of the track, and he was going about as fast as you’re going to be traveling in a Formula 1 car at any part of any track on the schedule.
But even before the race, Rosberg noted that such an incident could be fatal if the car went the other way.
“Imagine something breaks on the car, just four metres to the left, there’s a wall, and it’s facing you. So if something breaks here and you’re in that wall, it’s the end. There’s no more you.”
Fortunately, Verstappen’s car went in the opposite direction.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, speaking after his fifth place finish, backed up what Rosberg had to say, to some extent.
“What would have been worse is if he went [into the wall]. If he’d just corrected it and it went there…that would have been… Boom. I bet he had some brown pants after that.”
However, FIA race director Michael Masi refuted Rosberg’s claim, stating the following.
“No, I disagree with that comment. The pit entry and the entire circuit has been designed, and is homologated by the FIA as a Grade 1 circuit, and fulfils all of the various safety requirements that the FIA has within its regulation requirements. So no, I disagree.”
With that being said, Bahrain International Circuit is also a Grade 1 circuit, and the wall that completely split Romain Grosjean’s Haas into two pieces back in November wasn’t exactly equipped to handle such a crash impact. Grosjean was fortunate to make it out alive.
Fortunately, we aren’t in a scenario where we’ve tested who is right and who is wrong here. Regardless of Rosberg’s “what-if” scenario and Masi’s response, we can all be thankful that what did occur occurred the way it did. Let’s just hope that nothing of that nature happens again at any circuit.