‘Winning is Not Enough’

In the early days of Formula 1 racing accidents were an inevitable and accepted part of the Grand Prix experience. In his book, ‘Winning is Not Enough’, Sir Jackie Stewart OBE noted: “To be a racing driver between 1963 and 1973 was to accept the probability of death – not the possibility, the probability, because the statistics suggested, during that period, that if a Formula One driver was to race for five years or more, he would be more likely to lose his life on the track than to survive and retire.”

Initiating change was essential to improve safety

Sir Jackie Stewart and the Grand Prix Drivers Association initiated many important changes in the world of motorsport safety until the campaign was taken up by Professor Sid Watkins, who became the Medical Delegate of the FIA (the governing body of motorsport). He remained in this role for 26 years until retiring in 2004 and during this period, improved safety procedures and introduced new regulations into Formula 1 Grand Prix racing to bring about a transformation in the sport that would improve driver safety dramatically.

Following the retirement of Professor Watkins, the role of Medical Delegate was taken up by Dr Gary Hartstein, who is now the FIA's Medical Rescue Coordinator.

Recent advances in safety engineering have dramatically reduced the expected severity of injuries occurring during accidents, meaning that improvements in the outcome for accident victims will now largely be determined by the quality of care they receive.

Because medical interventions at motorsports accidents are rare and involve complex interdisciplinary interactions, Dr Hartstein and his team realised that simulation training would be the ideal way to evaluate and improve the care process. The Laerdal Advanced Life Support (ALS) Simulator was introduced as an interactive training manikin for simulating a wide range of advanced life-saving skills in medical emergencies.

The simulator responds to clinical intervention, instructor control, and pre-programmed scenarios for effective practice of diagnosis and treatment of a patient.  With spontaneous breathing, airway control, voice, sounds, ECG, and many other clinical features, the ALS Simulator is the fully functional emergency care simulator. Dr Hartstein says: “The Laerdal ALS Simulator provides a tool to reproduce typical injuries, along with the response to treatment interventions. In addition, the programmability of the simulator allows us the flexibility to change the "clinical" course of the simulation, faithfully mimicking the dynamic nature of these patients.”

Teamwork is Everything

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Dr Ian Roberts a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton and Chief Medical Officer for Silverstone and the British Grand Prix adds: “The Grand Prix Medical Team at Silverstone is made up of experienced professionals from a range of acute specialties, all of whom have a common interest in motorsport. All officiate at race meetings throughout the UK during the season, and are used to working as a team. It is with this sense of professional teamwork that they come together for the Grand Prix. We have worked through simulation exercises for several years using a (usually) willing volunteer to act as our injured driver. The use of the Laerdal ALS Simulator however adds a further dimension to the exercise, allowing a variety of injuries to be managed from the incident site on track, through to the Medical Centre and transfer to definitive care. The ability to work together smoothly as a team is essential in any arena, but particularly when on view to a worldwide audience.”

Mark Webber, winner of the German Grand Prix, and spokesman for the Grand Prix Driver's Association says "We recognise the continued quest for improvements in safety fostered by the FIA, and we count on the medical staff of each circuit we race at to use the latest technology to hone their skills."