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Formula One mulls tighter pitlane safety

A cameraman is carried on a stretcher after being injured by a lost rear tyre of Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia during
A cameraman is carried on a stretcher after being injured by a lost rear tyre of Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia during

(Reuters) - Formula One pitlane television crews will have to film from the pit wall during races in future after a cameraman was hit and injured by a bouncing wheel in Sunday's German Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone said on Monday.

Mechanics wear helmets during pitstops but others in a very restricted group given access to the pitlane - such as the media - do not and there were calls at the Nuerburgring for tighter procedures.

Cameraman Paul Allen was filming for Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) and the commercial supremo said the incident, caused by a wheel coming off Mark Webber's Red Bull as the Australian pulled away from a pitstop, had been "just one of those things".

"There was a whole bunch of mechanics and the tire could have hit any one of those guys," Sky Sports television, which shares British broadcast rights with the BBC, quoted the 82-year-old as saying.

"The cameraman just happened to be looking the wrong way at the wrong time. In future, all our camera crews will only be allowed to film from the pit wall."

Allen was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone and fractured ribs. FOM said in a statement that he was receiving medical care and was expected to make a full recovery.

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, whose mechanics dodged the wheel, said it was time for a rethink.

"Everyone in the pitlane should have a helmet on," he said. "It is certainly worth reviewing the whole thing."

TIMELY REMINDER

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team were fined heavily by stewards for the unsafe release, agreed.

"These cars have so much energy in them and it is a timely reminder that things can go wrong," he said after his triple world champion Sebastian Vettel won his home race at the Nuerburgring for the first time.

"The mechanics wear safety gear and helmets. Maybe it is time that we looked at safety equipment for the other operational people working in the pit lane.

"The camera guys are getting close to the action. They are getting some great pictures but it is still a dangerous environment," he added.

Tire changes are now quicker than ever, regularly under three seconds, and pitstops are also more frequent because the 2013 Pirelli tires are less durable than last year.

Allen was fortunate that the tire struck him on the back and not the head.

This season there has already been one racetrack fatality, with marshal Mark Robinson killed at last month's Canadian Grand Prix when he was run over by a recovery tractor removing a car from the side of the track.

The two previous Formula One race weekend fatalities involved trackside marshals being struck on the head by wheels flying off cars - Paolo Ghislimberti in Italy in 2000 and Graham Beveridge in Australia in 2001.

Tethers were introduced after Ghislimberti's death to prevent wheels from flying off cars in accidents but Webber's was never properly attached.

Television camera crews at the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race, where there is also the risk of a flare-up as cars are refueled, wear light protective headgear as well as overalls.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Clare Fallon and Sonia Oxley)

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