McLaren driver Jenson Button said Thursday that thick haze would generate a “big health risk” to drivers in the Singapore GP as organisers remained on edge despite an improvement in air quality.
Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are choking under a thick haze of smog caused by the annual burning of land for the production of pulp, paper and palm oil on the island of Sumatra, in western Indonesia and Borneo.
Button does not think the smoke presents any particular safety issues, saying the visibility was good enough for drivers while medical helicopters were not needed in Singapore because the hospitals were so close to the track.
But he is worried about the health dangers of breathing in smoke while driving. “It’s very difficult walking around in the streets. You can smell the smoke but when you’re pushing yourself to the maximum in the car and you’re having to take big gulps of air” he told reporters Wednesday
“It would have been a big health risk if it was as bad as yesterday,” Button told AFP, “unhealthy” levels of air pollution when he arrived from Phuket, Thailand.
“The biggest issue would be coughing in the race but I think it’s [worse] post-race because you are pushing your body very hard in the race, you’re going to have health issues after the race,” Button said.
“I think it’ll be fine this weekend, fingers crossed,” said Button, who was speaking under a grey sky on a boardwalk overlooking the posh Marina Bay race circuit.
“We all know that it’s not good breathing in fumes. You’re racing a car and your heartbeat’s very high.”
He said for some drivers the heart-rate during a race can reach as high as 170 beats per minute.
“For me I am lower, I am more relaxed in the car… about 150, 155, which is quite high for me because I do a lot of training.”
Singapore Grand Prix organisers said on Tuesday that the haze situation was unpredictable but there were no plans to change the schedules of the race and related events, including a post-race outdoor concert by rock icon Bon Jovi.
“The haze situation is highly changeable not only from day to day, but from hour to hour,” Singapore GP said in a statement.
“Therefore, it is currently not possible to reliably predict what the [pollutant] level might be over the race weekend.”