I picked up some old memorabilia from England recently, and yesterday I was looking through the programme for the 1966 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.
Two things struck me:
Firstly, the drivers in those days look so much older than the current crop.
And secondly, at a quick estimate, I reckoned that about 40% of the drivers that took part in that race died in a racing car.
I checked and in no particular order, the unfortunate drivers were: Jim Clark, Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt, Bob Anderson, Mike Spence, Jo Bonnier, Bruce McLaren, John Taylor and Lorenzo Bandini (didn't race due to a metalworker's strike in Italy, but was listed in the programme).
That's 45% of the grid as it turns out. Not counting Denny Hulme (who died in a race car, but of natural causes) or Graham Hill (plane crash returning from a race). Or Peter Arundell, who was struggling to make a comeback after a big accident in 1964 and never lived up to his talent.So that's over half of the drivers on the grid losing their lives due to race-related incidents.
We must continue to ensure that progress is made in the area of safety, such as further improvements to visor technology, as suggested by Luciano Burti. - see: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/77573
And it's also necessary to work more on securing wheels, which may mean making uprights or monocoques stronger, so that tragic accidents like Henry Surtees' can be avoided.
But immense progress has been made. Between 1950 and 1986, 76 F1 drivers lost their lives in accidents. Since 1986, three F1 drivers have suffered the same fate, Michele Alboreto being the most recent in 2001, when his Audi R8 suffered a tyre failure during testing.
That's still three deaths too many, but a clear sign of progress. Long may it continue.
F1 Trivia: that 1966 race was quite unusual, as all of the points scorers were Grand Prix winners. In fact, the first five finishers were all World Champions during their career.