Mr. Glock, when you’re not racing, do you use driving assistance systems in your regular everyday car-lane assist, braking assist or the parking aid?
Of course I do, these systems are components in almost every car these days. I usually turn off the lane departure warning, but otherwise the systems help in situations where you might have overlooked something. They increase safety in everyday traffic and make a lot of sense.
And in racing? Suppose you were millimeters away, tire on tire, with a rival during the last lap of the DTM season and the brake assistant suddenly tells you that your driving is too dangerous. Can you imagine that?
You really have to clearly differentiate between the two. In regular street traffic, these assistants are undoubtedly appropriate—but they have absolutely no place in racing.
Why is that?
In racing it’s the drivers who make the difference and decide that sort of duel, not computers. Racing stands for emotions, excitement and action. And that all results from one driver taking more risks and another fewer. If we let computers make those decisions, racing would lose its appeal. The action on the course, driver versus driver: these are moments that are very emotional, they’re fascinating. People want heroes, not computers.
Photo: Getty Images (left); BMW (right)
Even if it would considerably increase safety in motorsports?
Safety is the highest priority, even for car racing. But motorsports are fundamentally different from street traffic. First, we racers don’t have to deal with oncoming traffic, which already reduces the danger of an accident quite a bit. Second, we’re trained and qualified to reach the highest levels of sporting achievement. On the racetrack, you’re a completely different person, highly focused for the race’s duration. It’s about pushing your limits but always maintaining control of the vehicle despite this.
Jean Todt, a former Formula One team manager and current president of the International Automobile Federation, could imagine electronic driving assistants being used in motorsports because society is also changing.
I see it differently. Our racing cars have become much faster and more complex over the past years and safety has had to increase accordingly. However this increased safety has been mainly focused on the track itself, the boundaries, the course of the track and the run-off zones. A lot has been accomplished in this area in the past years. But of course there have also been continuing deliberations about how to make the cars themselves safer. What’s important is that we can trust the technology.
Is that the only way top performances are possible?
A person can only take risks when they can rely on the safety. After all, we’re pushing our limits for up to seventy laps: the driver is continuously subject to enormous centrifugal forces, and the strain is huge since the car is running in its maximum range. In addition, there is extreme heat in some races.
Yet accidents can never be ruled out.
Of course danger is always present. The forces acting on a driver who crashes into a guardrail at 200 kilometers an hour are naturally immense. When a Formula One car “lifts off” into the air at high speed or when an accident sends parts flying across the tarmac, it looks spectacular. But even after these sorts of crashes, drivers often emerge from the cars without serious injury. This shows how sophisticated the passive safety systems in the cars are, how well they can mitigate the consequences of a crash. Safety in races doesn’t necessarily require active systems to help prevent accidents.
In your opinion, how have the risks of racing changed over the past few years? Which effective measures have increased the protection for drivers?
As I see it, the cars and the tracks have become much safer over the past fifteen to twenty years, not just in the past five. Bigger steps were taken a long time ago: for instance the cars’ monocoques [body and chassis as a single unit] were improved and investments were made in course safety. Yet all of this cannot rule out that there will always be accidents that you cannot predict.
What differences have you noticed in your career so far between Formula One and DTM?
One difference that you repeatedly see is the driver’s head. This is currently the most vulnerable area in Formula One, if you want to put it that way. But steps are being taken. Starting in 2018, for example, the Halo hoop guard is going to be used in the cockpits.
Is DTM safer than Formula One due to the closed body of the vehicle alone?
In this respect, a DTM car is somewhat safer, yes. DTM cars are also a bit slower and heavier, which lessens the dangers somewhat. Despite this, anything can happen, and in the worst case, you can fly through the windshield at high speed.