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Friday, March 13, 2009


In no area has the sport of Formula One racing changed as much over the years as that of medical provision. As late as the early 1980s, medical provision at many Grand Prix events was shockingly poor by modern standards. Now it is one of the top priorities at every race.

The serious nature of some motor racing injuries means that speed of medical response is absolutely vital to saving lives. Because of this all Formula One races have several tiers of medical staff, which can be rapidly 'escalated' as appropriate. The circuits have paramedics and doctors based at various points around the track, intended to provide first aid to injured drivers or officials, and to make an assessment as to whether further medical aid is required. Specialist medical teams are positioned at key points in high-powered cars, which can be quickly driven to a serious incident.

There are also medical extraction teams, which carry the equipment necessary to remove any casualty trapped in a car. On top of all this there will be ambulances and a MedEvac helicopter. And, at all races, the FIA's chief medical delegate, Doctor Gary Hartstein, will be ready at all times in the medical chase car, in which he can be driven to the scene of any major injury. When he arrives at the stricken car, a warning light system located on the top of cockpit provides an immediate indication of the severity of the accident.

Each circuit must also have a fully-equipped medical centre. This will include full resuscitation equipment and a fully-equipped operating theatre. Local hospitals will also be on stand-by during the course of a race, more serious injuries can be transferred to them by helicopter or ambulance if appropriate. The medical staff at most race meetings will also have their own radio network, through which they will liaise with race control.

Formula One racing is vastly safer than it used to be, and medical provision is infinitely better. But there is still no room for complacency, and it is a certainty that the scope and capacity of medical provision will continue to be at the forefront of the sport's evolution in years to come.