Mike Stevens | Jul 21, 2009

TRIBUTES CONTINUE to flow from around the world following the death of British rising star Henry Surtees at the Brands Hatch round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

The son of former Formula 1 World Champion John Surtees, the 18-year-old died when he was struck on the head by a stray wheel and tyre which detached from the car of Jack Clarke, who had crashed further up the track.

Unconscious, Surtees crashed head-on into a barrier at the following turn at nearly 190km/h.

After being airlifted to the Royal London Hospital, he was found to have suffered a major head injury.

Series organiser Jonathan Palmer said Surtees was killed by the impact with the tyre, and not the subsequent crash, describing the incident as a freak accident.

"Henry was driving at about 120mph between Westfield and Sheene corners on lap nine of the race when he was struck on the head by a bouncing wheel and tyre from an accident at Westfield corner several seconds earlier,” he said.

“It is clear that Henry was knocked unconscious immediately, and his car then continued straight on, hitting the tyre wall. I understand that the fatal injury occurred instantly and that the impact at Sheene had no influence on the outcome of the accident.”

henry-surtees_01

Palmer said the accident will prompt a full safety review of the Formula 1-standard tether system used to stop tyres from detaching from cars following a serious accident.

“The Williams F1 designed Formula 2 cars comply with the FIA 2005 F1 safety standards, including the fitment of wheel tethers to reduce the risk of wheels coming off in accidents,” he said.

“The F2 car also includes the latest F1 standards of driver head protection with high cockpit sides and lateral deformable structures.

“As with F1 however, wheel tethers cannot provide an absolute guarantee that a wheel will not come off in an accident and in a single-seater race car the front of the head is inevitably exposed to the risk, however small, of being hit by another car or component.”

Surtees’ father John released a statement to the media, expressing grief at the loss of his son.

"Henry had followed his heart from the time he first sat in a kart. He treated seriously the balance between motorsport and school, having just finished his A-Levels. The world beckoned and he was thriving on the freedom to concentrate on his motorsport,” he said.

"Despite bad luck in his motorsport, he had shown himself to be one with the possibilities of reaching the very top. Despite his young age he had shown maturity, technical understanding and speed.

"Most importantly he was a nice person and a loving son and brother. He will be deeply missed.”

henry-surtees_03

Reigning World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx said he was devastated at the news of Surtees’ death after mentoring the Briton during the 2007 Formula BMW season.

“Our sport can be cruel, but never crueller than when it claims a life,” he said.

"It is a tragedy when this happens and yesterday we witnessed this at Brands Hatch. Henry Surtees was a fine young man on the verge of his career in the sport, who I had the pleasure to tutor when he was racing in Formula BMW.

"His death highlights the dangers that we face and my heart goes out to his parents, John and Jane Surtees. John is one of my motor racing heroes who has achieved so much over his life in the sport.”

Although the F2 series will undergo a safety review, it is likely Surtees' death will force the FIA to reconsider current safety regulations in Formula 1, especially after a tyre was launched across the track during the Australian Grand Prix during an incident between BMW's Robert Kubica and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

Follow Mike Stevens on Google+