How to get a 40g crash out of your head - The Race
Formula E

How to get a 40g crash out of your head

Mar 20 2021
By Sam Smith

Jockeys fall off horses, skaters slam into the ice and footballers break legs. It happens regularly.

The jockey gets back on the horse, the skater carries on and the footballer gets back training as quickly as possible. It’s just what athletes do.

So why is it always somehow slightly more astounding when a racing driver does the same?

“For me, it is justified that you push through these things, you try to overcome even physical pain,” a still recovering Edoardo Mortara tells The Race from his home near Geneva.

“I think we are all different in terms of what your pain threshold is. I know that I can deal with quite a lot of pain.”

If you haven’t seen the first lap of the 1990 Italian Grand Prix, go and check it out.

Derek Warwick slammed into the barriers at the Parabolica in his top heavy Lotus-Lamborghini and slid 70 metres on his head.

As it comes to rest he pops his belts, walks to the edge of the track before breaking into a jog back to the pitlane seeking his spare car. Twenty minutes later he’s taking part in the restart.

“The first second is trying to understand what the hell is happening, and then you have maybe two seconds where you understand what’s going to happen, and so you try to look for the best option” :: Edoardo Mortara

Thirty years on, Edoardo Mortara effectively did the same but minus the running, after suffering an equally worrying horrendous accident.

After completing the morning Formula E practice session at the Diriyah street track, he attempted a practice start and headed to the first corner at somewhere in the region of 100mph.

He was trying to generate some temperature into the brakes because a brake sensor had previously not been giving his Venturi team “the right information” according to Mortara.

“I was braking and accelerating and so every time that you do that it kind of feels natural when you press the brake pedal to have quite a big sense of deceleration,” he adds.

But as he approached the first turn “nothing was happening” as he pumped the pedal.

“It’s very strange, because with our car with the brake-by-wire system, the way it reacted, my brake pedal was stone hard,” says Mortara.

“From the moment that I tried to apply the pressure on the brake pedal to the moment where I hit the wall it was four seconds.

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“The first second is trying to understand what the hell is happening, and then you have maybe two seconds where you understand what’s going to happen, and so you try to look for the best option [of where to hit].

“It’s a very, very scary feeling because you understand quickly that this is going to hurt a lot.”

The moment before Mortara hit the wall he briefly glanced at his dash. It read 144 km/h, or 89.4mph.

“I thought that this was going to be terribly painful,” he understates.

This snapshot evaluation was sadly accurate and when the Mercedes-powered car impacted the TecPro lined concrete wall, which was pushed back several metres, he was instantly in “a lot of pain”.

“I tried to move a little bit my feet, because I thought that really I had some broken vertebras or had some proper damage and I could not breath,” Mortara recalls.

Edoardo Mortara crash Diriyah Formula E 2021

He tried to switch off the car but “could not even lift my hands because the pain was so much and I was still conscious”.

“I just stayed as steady as I could because we’ve heard so many stories where you do like a real small movement and the worst is happening, so I really tried to stay as much as I could steady,” he adds.

After the extrication, Mortara was checked out at a Riyadh hospital. Miraculously he was diagnosed with just muscular bruising and stretched ligaments making him “stiff, like a wooden plank”. It was a huge relief for him nevertheless.

“When I understood that I was fine, then my motivation, my determination was pushing me to try at least to race” :: Edoardo Mortara

The flush ninety-degree angle of impact that Mortara suffered was akin to a sped-up official crash test.

The Race understands that the G-sensor, located under Mortara’s seat, hit 40G on impact. To put that into perspective, the FIA crash test regulations for the Formula E chassis’ state that a test is conducted at a speed of ’11 metres per second’. That equates to 39.6mph.

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Mortara is believed to have hit the wall at approximately 80mph, just over twice what a crash tested chassis goes through. The big difference in Diriyah was that Mortara is not a 75kg aluminium and steel constructed dummy.

“I still feel extremely lucky, to have escaped without major injuries and that’s the most important thing,” he says.

“I think one of the qualities that I have, as a driver, is I’m extremely motivated and determined, and this has helped me throughout all my career. It’s one of my strengths.

“When I understood that I was fine, that they made sure that I had no major injuries, then my motivation, my determination was pushing me to try at least to race.

“You also view it in this way, you have 30 people working extremely hard, doing the best that they can with software or whatever, they work in order for you to be competitive.”

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Sadly for Mortara, his car could not be readied in time and he was forced to watch the race with his Venturi team.

Over the last two weeks he has been undergoing daily physiotherapy to try to speed up the recovery of his bruised back and stretched ligaments. The first week home was tough because he could barely move.

“You have to move on,” he says matter-of-factly.

“If you take too much time to think about it, if you stop and really think about these things, you have to change a bit the career.

“This was probably the biggest shunt and thankfully nothing happened.

“I think that you have a sense of competitiveness that is so strong, that we’re almost like addicted to racing, it’s like a drug for us. Or at least it’s a drug for me.

“So no matter how big the accident is, if you are still in one piece, just put that aside, and you’re not even thinking about it.

“It comes very naturally and it’s the normal thing to do.”

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