Felipe Massa’s safety comments draw backlash from IndyCar paddock

IndyCar drivers are continuing to push back on comments made by retired Formula One star Felipe Massa about the American open-wheel series’ perceived lack of safety enhancements.

Massa, now the president of the FIA’s International Karting Commission, criticized IndyCar this week in the wake of Robert Wickens’ Pocono crash and Charles Leclerc’s close call with Fernando Alonso, in which Leclerc was saved by F1’s “halo” device.

Massa tweeted F1 is “always trying to improve” while IndyCar “is not doing much.”

Dario Franchitti and Michael Andretti were among those to initially disagree via Twitter, along with Graham Rahal — who expanded on his comments Wednesday.

“First of all, in his position with the FIA, I think you need to be a little more professional before lashing out like that,” Rahal said after a news conference promoting the Portland Grand Prix. “Second of all, the risk we take is different than the risk they take. Being wheel-to-wheel on an oval at the speeds we go, you’re always going to face these inherent risks.”

Sebastien Bourdais agreed and said others should be more careful about making comments when they aren’t in IndyCar to see what’s actually going on with safety.

I can understand both sides of the story where you could think from afar what we do is overly dangerous and we’re not really doing everything we should do about it, but it’s not true,” he said. “It’s the challenge of getting cars safely around a superspeedway at 220 mph between two walls. That’s always going to be extremely complicated.”

Rahal noted despite Wickens’ serious injuries — spine, leg and arm — none were to his head. So the criticism about not having a halo for head protection, Rahal said, isn’t applicable in this case.

He added a halo wouldn’t work for IndyCars since they race on high-banked ovals.

On the ovals when you look through the corner, like at Texas, you’re kind of looking up,” Rahal said. “If you’re looking straight, the halo would block a visual. It doesn’t work for us. That’s not a concept that works.”

Rahal noted the IndyCar windscreen — which looks like half of a fighter jet canopy — is still in development and “needs to be implemented.” But he added “it’s not that easy.”

The biggest difference is we don’t build a new car every year (like F1),” he said. “So how do you attach that properly? How do you make sure it’s not going to just fall off in the case of an impact like (Josef) Newgarden took where the roll hoop went into the wall first (at Texas)?”

Bourdais said he’d put IndyCars to the test against F1 cars in many safety situations “and they’d be pretty surprised by the results.”

“There’s a lot of effort that’s been put on the safety side for IndyCar,” he said. “The places and the kind of racing we have is exposing us more, which is why we’re trying as hard as we can.”

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