F1 fan struck by debris in Australian Grand Prix crash escaped 'horrendous' injury

Handout photo provided by Will Sweet. Formula One fan Will Sweet who was hit by debris at yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix. Picture date: Sunday April 2, 2023. CREDIT: Will Sweet/PA
Formula One fan Will Sweet was hit by debris at the Australian Grand Prix. Credit: Will Sweet/PA

A British Formula One fan who was struck by flying debris from a crash in the Australian Grand Prix said he was lucky to have escaped a "horrendous" injury.

Will Sweet, 31, was at the race in Melbourne on Sunday when F1 driver Kevin Magnussen crashed into the wall.

Magnussen's right-rear tyre flew off and bounced along the race track, while a large piece of wheel rim launched 20 metres into the air, over the catch-fencing and cut into Mr Sweet's arm.

The British racing fan, who is originally from Essex but now living in Australia, said: “I saw a puff of smoke and was following Magnussen’s car along the track and not following where he hit the wall and then suddenly a piece of debris came up flying over the fence and hit me on the arm.

“I was looking at my arm, not really sure what was going on and didn’t realise I had been hit by a piece of debris. I thought I had been hit by a person.

Formula One fan Will Sweet who was hit by debris at yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix. Credit: Will Sweet/PA

“But people behind me were scrambling around, fighting over who gets this piece of wheel and I’m like ‘what’s that?’ We pieced it together and I realised, ‘holy s***, that’s just hit me in the arm’.

“My forearm was raised because I was holding a tiny FM radio to my ear, but if my arm hadn’t been there, I could have been hit in the neck. It could have hit my fiancee standing next to me on the head.

“I was also lucky not to have been hit by the very sharp end of the debris because that would have gone straight in. The debris was very sharp and very warm. It could have been a lot worse. It could have been horrendous.

“There were a bunch of kids behind me, too, and they were fortunate that their dad was looking in the right direction and pulled them out of the way of danger. If I wasn’t there, and it hit them, it would have been bad.”

Mr Sweet called on Formula 1 and its governing body, the FIA, to make sure it did not happen again.

The race at Melbourne's temporary Albert Park street circuit was suspended for 15 minutes before a third red flag followed and led to a 33-minute delay in the race.

It was eventually won by Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton finished second.

Mr Sweet continued: “It was such an exciting part of the race that I wanted to watch the end so a group of mums behind me had some anti-septic cream and a bunch of plasters on them and they patched me up.

“But after the one-lap restart we realised there wasn’t going to be much of a race so I headed over to the medical tent.

“The paramedics were a bit bemused and didn’t believe me when I said I had been hit by debris because I just had some tissues and a plaster on my arm, but then they peeled it back.

"They cleaned up the injury with some alcohol and told me I might need a tetanus jab if it gets red or sore.”

Formula One fan Will Sweet required medical attention after he was struck by flying debris. Credit: Will Sweet/PA

Asked if the injury would deter him from attending another F1 race, Mr Sweet replied: “I suppose it hinges on whether this was a freak accident or whether it could easily happen again?

“It could just be a freak one-off. I am really divided on it because we had a such good day and it was a great corner to watch the action.

“And if anyone was going to hit me with their car I’m glad it was Kevin Magnussen because I’m a Kevin Magnussen fan.

“A friend in a group chat on WhatsApp said ‘Will is going to be gutted that Magnussen went off’, and I said ‘I think I know he went off, because I’ve just been hit by the debris from his car’."

There were other safety concerns during the event when some fans went onto the track in the seconds after the chequered flag was raised - at the end of a race when the drivers were speeding back to the pits.

The FIA said organisers have promised to launch a “thorough investigation” into the spectator invasion after they agreed it was an “unacceptable situation”, and “could have had disastrous consequences”.

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