The troubled history of the 'dangerous' Macau Grand Prix

Questions are being asked about safety standards at the Macau Grand Prix after a horrifying crash on Sunday led to a 17-year-old German driver undergoing seven hours of spinal surgery.

Why is the Macau Grand Prix dangerous?

Motorcycle and car races have been held for over 60 years in Macau, a town with the reputation as being the Asian Las Vegas, and the Formula 3 race in which German racer Sophia Floersch hurtled into marshals and photographers after flying off the track on Sunday is the most popular race of all.

Raced over a temporary circuit at Guia, the 6.2km track is dotted with long straights where speeds of 275km/h are the norm, which are then coupled with tight, blind corners. As with most urban circuits the roads are narrow and there are few safety exits.

Any driver losing control on a corner or chicane will almost certainly hit the barriers and those behind will find it almost impossible to avoid running into them. In a GT category event in 2017 there was a fifteen-car pile up under just those circumstances.

Three people have died on the Macau circuit in recent years: motorcyclists Daniel Hegarty and Luis Carreira — in 2017 and 2012 respectively — and the Hong Kong racing driver Phillip Yau, also in 2012.

Floersch crashed after one of the Macau circuit’s many fast straights into tight turns. Pic: FIA

Another driver, a race commissioner and two photographers were also injured when Floersch’s vehicle flew out of control into a corner over a barrier on Sunday. Miraculously no spectators were hurt, but it would be hard to deny spectators’ lives were on the line in that accident.

What happened to Sophia Floersch?

No television footage exists of the accident but spectators filmed Floersch tearing into a right-angled corner at 276km/h (171.6 mph).

Her Dallara-Mercedes ran into the back of a rival car, sending her into a wall and ripping off her left-side wheels before she flew over the newly installed kerb buffers that made her fly over Japanese driver Sho Tsuboi’s car and then smash through the security grill and destroy a cabin housing photographers, falling into a zone where the race commissioners were.

The result was a fractured spine for Florsch, a broken jaw forJapaneses the race commissioner, one photographer was left badly concussed and the other had a lacerated liver.

The Japanese driver Tsuboi considered as having had a lucky escape after the German hit the safety-arc or halo just behind her head.

What are people in racing saying?

Motorsport journalist Jonathan Noble said that “safety measures proved key for her, the photographers and track workers”, while Edoardo Mortara, who won the race twice, took to Twitter to say: “We need to thank @fia for the work they re putting in order to make our races as safe as they can be. Let’s stop complaining and questioning their work #thankyoufia.”

Brazilian former winner of the race Lucas di Grassi said that “just to be clear I love Macau Grand Prix and everyone entering that race must be aware of the risks. Motorsport is dangerous and it will never be 100% safe. We all should be thankful to the incredible work @fia does in safety and this crash just shows how safe these cars are.

“The big problem with building kerbs inside the track. Remember Prost x Heidfeld first ever Formula E race? Sophia’s crash today at Macau was very similar,” added di Grassi.

“Let’s learn from it. This is not the first time it happens.”