One downside to the IndyCar aero kits is that there are more bits to fall off, and sometimes those don't land in the best spot. One spectator at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg found this out the hard way when a flying piece of carbon fiber nailed her in the head, fracturing her skull.
According to Autoweek, Brigette Hoffstetter was at outside a concession stand at Turn 10 when a carbon fiber piece launched 100 yards in the air to strike her in the head. IndyCar officials are now investigating the incident.
MotorSportsTalk confirms that the fan was taken to the hospital in stable condition, and linked to this photo of the piece of carbon fiber responsible for the hit:
Per the St. Petersburg Tribune, the spectator is expected to recover, and IndyCar is reaching out to her family to see how they can help.
Sunday's race was a mess of debris cautions due to the new bits, with five long cautions punctuating the race action.
"The safety of IndyCar's fans and participants is of the highest priority," said the series in a statement quoted by Autoweek.
Drivers have given the new aero kits mixed reviews, saying that cornering speeds are higher, but that it's also harder to get up close to other cars because of all the turbulent air coming off the cars. Of course, there's also the issue of debris. Driver Will Power had this to say to Autoweek:
It's not that they're brittle, it's the fact that you've got more stuff hanging off.
[The number of cautions] does break the race up. Did they really need to get a yellow for all the debris? Could someone have gone out on the track and quickly got it? Or is there another system that we can come up with it that prevents it going yellow? We need like a fishing line or something.
Will pointed to the front wing as a source of much of the debris. It's right there at wheel-level, there's a bunch of elements to it, and folks were knocking off front wing bits like crazy during the race.
Count me in the "marshals need long-armed fishing nets for this" camp. Pick that hot mess up as soon as possible before cars hit it and/or launch it in the air.
Both Will Power and Scott Dixon told Autoweek that the fact that the aero kits were new and everyone was in the process of learning them likely contributed to the amount of contact, however, IndyCar should still keep a close eye on how those bits fall off.
"I think (IndyCar) just needs to see how it plays out over the next few races," Power told Autoweek. "It is a problem if you have debris flying and it's an open cockpit, it could get you in the head, that could be pretty nasty, so something they need to keep an eye on."
Fallen off bits, as we know, are a risk for both drivers and spectators.
Photo credit: AP Images