Hats off to Laurent Mekies ― FIA’s safety director

Mekeis makes racing safe for drivers. ― Malay Mail pic
Mekeis makes racing safe for drivers. ― Malay Mail pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — He’s a man with many hats, which may explain his hair! Grungy, a little unkempt, dishevelled even — the kind of locks rock stars would kill for.

He goes about his business quietly, quickly, efficiently. Only stepping in when needed, safe in the knowledge the groundwork and plans have been put in place to ensure the safety of racing drivers.

He is Laurent Mekies, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) safety director as well as Formula One’s deputy race director and Formula Two race director.

Asked how he juggles his jobs, he replied: “I enjoy it. It’s a good mix. We try to support all forms of departments from a safety perspective.

“It is good to have a role (in the two championships) to have a clearer picture of what is needed for both sides of the (safety) topic.

“One of my jobs is to make racing as safe as possible for drivers. There have been some new guidelines — while not popular with team owners and drivers — which are necessary if we want to save lives and reduce or even eliminate injuries.”

Mekies said educating drivers about safety issues has been one of the hardest aspects of his job.

“Drivers may not agree all the time. We need to educate and convince them we are not trying to curtail the speed of the car or their talent,” he explained.

“We are trying to anticipate what could happen instead of reacting to an accident. That is why when we come up with certain solutions, there are people who may question what we are doing.

“They don’t see or understand the rationale behind such decisions until we explain them. That’s why I keep saying we need to educate drivers.”

Mekies is convinced the new “pyramid scheme” in formula racing — where drivers start earning points to their Super License by racing in Formula Four, Three and Two before reaching Formula One — will help educate drivers better.

He explained many guidelines in F1 would eventually filter down to the other forms of formula racing where the younger drivers can better understand what FIA is trying to do.

“We develop the high technology in F1 — crash tests, exotic material, halo cockpit protection and other high level developments because teams have strong engineering support,” he said.

“Once we do it for one or two years and as the technology gets better known we implement it in the other formula races. By which time, it would be less expensive for the lower category.”

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