Australian GP CEO responds to ‘freak’ debris fan accident in Melbourne

Henry Valantine
Smoke fills the air after an accident at the restart. Australian GP Melbourne April 2023.

Smoke fills the air after an accident at the restart. Australian GP Melbourne April 2023.

When Kevin Magnussen crashed towards the end of the Australian GP on Sunday, the race’s chief executive explained that a “freak one-off” occurred.

The Haas driver collided with the wall on the exit of Turn 2 as the race headed towards its final laps on Sunday, his rear-right tyre coming off in the process, but a piece of Magnussen’s car also flew into the nearby grandstand and cut a fan’s arm in doing so, drawing blood in the process.

It was an unusual circumstance in which Magnussen crashed, grazing the wall as he made his way towards the second straight of the lap at Albert Park, but despite there being catch fencing around the circuit, a flying part of his car still managed to complete a dangerous journey to where fans were watching the race unfold.

With the damage hurting a fan in attendance, Andrew Westacott shed light on what occurred.

“We actually coincidentally had one of our engineering staff there who saw it, and anecdotally it would appear that debris, carbon fibre from the wheel hub, has shot 20 metres or so in the air, shot up, landed down and lacerated a gentleman’s arm,” Westacott said, as per Motorsport.com.

“Our people were aware of the incident. It looks as if it was a freak one-off, because you can’t necessarily have these debris fences going 20 metres in the air.

“The debris fences are consistent in height around the world. We’re compliant in our FIA regulations, but like everything in motorsport, you do debriefs at the end of the event and see what you can do to improve.

“I hope the guy is okay. It’s a reminder that safety is paramount when it comes to Formula 1.”

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The race was red-flagged while the incident involving Magnussen was cleared up, creating a two-lap dash to the finish to the Australian GP on Sunday, but even further contact was to come at the first two corners on the restart.

Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly would collide at the same part of the circuit, Sergio Perez was sent onto the grass, Logan Sargeant locked up and hit the back of AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries, and Carlos Sainz received a five-second penalty for sending Fernando Alonso into a spin after tagging his right-rear tyre.

The race was red-flagged once again afterwards, though no further pieces of debris flying into the crowd were reported at the restart – with the final lap being completed behind the Safety Car and the drivers crossing the line in yellow flag conditions.

Australian GP organisers are also facing an investigation into their security processes after a report of a fan invasion onto the track while the drivers were still heading around Albert Park – with a group of fans getting close to Nico Hulkenberg’s car with it still being ‘live’.

They have until the end of June to conduct a “comprehensive review” into that particular incident, with concerns having been raised over security and safety.