The ongoing struggle between Formula 1 and safety

F1 safety car

Formula 1 is plainly very dangerous and continuing efforts need to be made to ensure that drivers, fans and track workers are protected from harm.

Jules Bianchi's accident at last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix could be seen as a terrible set of circumstances that led to a horrendous outcome; unfortunately things like this can happen in the sport and not all variables can be controlled by health and safety measures.

However, a typhoon had been forecast in the area all weekend, with torrential rain and wind that would likely hamper the drivers on-track. There had been talk of moving the race forward to avoid poor weather conditions, but it went ahead at the allotted time, the race starting behind the safety car. After seven laps it was brought to a halt to allow for the rain to ease off and, 20 minutes later, it restarted.

When Sutil and then Bianchi crashed the rain had started up heavily once again; perhaps it could be said that the race should never have gone ahead considering the impact the weather could have.

But Formula 1 has always been a dangerous sport. In its early days, accidents were not rare; in fact, 47 drivers have lost their lives in F1 cars since the championship began. The first race had no medical back up and proper helmets weren't even introduced until the 1960s, leaving drivers literally facing death whenever they took to the track. Health and safety was of almost no concern.

At the Italian Grand Prix in 1961, Ferrari driver Wolgang von Trips, who was set to become the first German to win the world championship, crashed into the back of Jim Clark. His car flew into the crowd, killing 15 spectators along with the driver. This incident is still regarded as the worst tragedy in Formula 1's 65-year history.

Throughout the 1970s drivers were lost at a terrifying rate. Those who have seen Ron Howard's film Rush - the portrayal of Niki Lauda and James Hunt's battle for the 1976 world title - will know that the safety aspects of the sport have been closely scrutinised in film and television.

At the German Grand Prix that season Lauda requested that the race was cancelled due to heavy rain. The Austrian was outvoted; the race went ahead and, after only a few laps, Lauda crashed heavily. His Ferrari burst into flames and he was airlifted to hospital with third degree burns after struggling to escape from the cockpit of his burning car.

At the final race of the year in Japan rain once again affected the weekend and Lauda chose to retire from the contest rather than risk his life. On this occasion the race was at Fuji, but Japan has always been home to high-risk grands prix due to the possibility of extreme weather.

Perhaps the most infamous tragedy in Formula 1 came during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix weekend, which saw the deaths of both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. Ratzenberger lost his life after crashing heavily during qualifying, prompting Senna to attempt to re-establish the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. However on lap seven of the following day's race Senna crashed at Tamburello; he was airlifted to hospital, but lost his life shortly afterwards.

Senna's death prompted a stringent inspection of health and safety and the faults of the sport, leading to the introduction of the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee, with Sid Watkins elected as its chairman. Watkins had been the head of the F1 medical team since 1978 and throughout the 1990s he helped to place a priority on the safety of drivers, fans and track workers. The speed in the pit lane was reduced, rubber belts and gravel run off areas were introduced, and cockpits were enlarged for greater protection and easier escape access in the event of a crash.

The sport has undoubtedly become much safer, but it still poses many dangers. Accidents are still rife and health and safety measures can't always be to blame for this.

For example, in 2009 Felipe Massa was hit by a suspension spring from the car of Rubens Barrichello during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, leaving the Brazilian in a coma. This was a rare and unpredictable incident, and something not necessarily preventable from a health and safety point of view.

It should also be remembered that it is not just the drivers who are at risk. As recently as the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix, a marshal was killed by a recovery truck, while a cameraman was injured by a stray tyre that had not been secured onto Mark Webber's Red Bull correctly in Germany. The drivers risk their lives for great rewards, but track workers do so purely for the love of the sport.

Safety has certainly improved in Formula 1 over the years, but it remains a very dangerous sport - which is one of the reasons for its huge worldwide fan base. Following Bianchi's horrendous accident in Japan safety once again needs to be looked at, because it can always be improved. But is it possible to make the sport completely safe?

For now, the FIA must revisit track safety issues and investigate the circumstances of Bianchi's accident in a timely, considered manner in order to prevent similar incidents in the future without making a knee-jerk reaction.

And, with the next race in Sochi only a matter of days away, all thoughts remain with Bianchi, his family and friends.