F1's victory lap seatbelt controversy a safety step too far

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How far should you go when dictating safety to a driver who spends his time running wheel-to-open-wheel at more than 180 mph? How ridiculous is it to lash him to the cockpit with red tape when running at a tenth of that speed?

The subject has come up following questions over whether there is a ruling on a driver popping his belts during the cool down lap (slackening them off being an awkward 'race is over: can't be a--ed with this' option in the cramped cockpit).

Let's deal with one issue before we start. If the catalyst for hand-wringing by the safety-obsessed was Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll managing to fall over each other in Malaysia, then the world really has gone mad if F1 feels obliged to take care of the best drivers on the planet when cruising home.

Video evidence suggests Vettel once again misjudged the dimensions of his car but that, surely, should be no reason for issuing a directive on a subject that could be dealt with by the simple application of common sense by those taking part?

Whatever next? A speed limit in the F1 car park? Remain seated and strapped in when the drivers' parade vehicle is in motion? No running in the paddock or onto the podium?

F1 drivers are, per force, increasingly buried in a sea of safety and carbon. The chance for a driver to rise from his submerged position and wave to the paying public ought to be encouraged rather than crushed. Ayrton Senna knew all about that.

When he won in Portugal in 1985, his red shoulder belts burst from the Lotus cockpit not long after he had crossed the line. Senna's sense of unbridled joy over his first victory was unmistakable and the world rejoiced with him as arms and fists flew high. Oh, and the track was extremely wet, the very conditions which could have been interpreted as a hazard for his one-handed victory lap but which, in fact, had allowed Senna to exhibit his sublime touch for the previous two hours.

His most spectacular semi-evacuation of a moving car came in May 1987 when he won Monaco for the first time. You can imagine the excitement that generated. On arrival in Casino Square, he somehow twisted himself out of the cockpit of the yellow Lotus, the better to look up and wave deliriously to friends and family perched on some balcony at the front of the Hotel de Paris.

Can you imagine him rolling to a halt in front of the Royal Box and an FIA official leans in and solemnly says there's a race-losing penalty for having undone his belts before the car was metaphorically parked neatly against the kerb, ignition off, handbrake on and the gearbox in neutral? Yeah, right.

I appreciate this may be a step too far for some, but I always liked the sight of drivers removing their crash helmets on the slowing down lap. Didier Pironi did it regularly. The Frenchman may have been one of those drivers who sweated profusely and needed the blast of cool air, but it was nice to see the wind blowing through his hair on the three occasions he accepted the winner's plaudits.

Okay, so none of this is possible because of the risk averse world we live in. In that case, would it be possible for the first three, once the podium ceremony is finished, to complete a lap of honour?

I accept this might be tricky at Spa (long lap), Monza (scary and impossible) or Bahrain (no spectators around 95 per cent of the track), but if Liberty Media is keen on drivers connecting with the public, then there is no better means for everyone to show an appreciation that would flow both ways.

My colleagues in the media will be appalled at the thought of having to wait an extra half an hour for their press conference. Tough. There's plenty of other team personnel (mealy-mouthed Ferrari excepted) available for interview.

They could, for instance, get out there and see if drivers will admit to the FIA's irritating beeping red icon coming up on the steering display because they had dared pop their belts before reaching parc fermé.