Retired multiple Formula 1 star David Coulthard believes IZOD IndyCar Series officials should assess whether the high top speeds being attained during events such as the Las Vegas race in which Dan Wheldon was killed last weekend are necessary.
Coulthard, who never competed in American open-wheel racing during his career, said in his column for Britain's Daily Telegraph that he did not believe cars needed to race at 225mph for fans to be entertained.
"I take my hat off to those racing in IndyCar now," said the Scot. "I could have moved my family over there and made a life for myself in the U.S. But the risk-reward ratio was simply too high for me. Formula 1, I felt, was at an acceptable level but IndyCar was, and is, probably 20 years behind in terms of safety.
"The main reason is simple: speed. There is no need, in my opinion, to be racing at 225mph, wheel to wheel, around mostly oval circuits. You don't need to be doing that to entertain the crowds. We have street circuits in Formula 1 with close walls...but the speeds are much slower."
Coulthard's former Red Bull teammate Mark Webber also raised concerns about the nature of racing in packs on ovals, but said that he believed the IndyCar Series would learn from the events of the past week.
"I think the pack racing element of it is particularly hazardous," he told Australian newspaper The Age. "The single seaters, to be that tightly packed to be rubbing each other at 220mph, that's what they are probably going to look into on a short oval.
"I've never raced on an oval, but I've spoken to a lot of my mates who have, and I know that it's something that they would like to improve and do a better job of – the bullring racing. I'm sure they will learn from this type of accident and this type of racing and look to improve in the future."
Coulthard said that he hoped Wheldon's accident and the subsequent media attention that has been put on the IndyCar Series would accelerate development in safety. The Scot also revealed that he once had harbored ambitions early in his career to compete in IndyCars, but changed his mind when he saw the severity of the accidents on ovals.
"I always had a dream to go to race in the United States myself," he said. "I can remember as a young driver sitting in a shared flat in Milton Keynes with my mechanics watching practice for the Indy 500 and being blown away by it all.
"Then Nelson Piquet crashed [at Indianapolis in 1992]. My enduring memory is of my hero, visor open, mangled feet dangling out of the cockpit, skidding down the racetrack. My dream vanished in that instant."