Wayne Gardner says it is vital that Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi do not blame themselves in any way for the accident that killed Marco Simoncelli in MotoGP's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Edwards and Rossi struck Simoncelli as he crashed in their path on lap two at Sepang yesterday, in an accident that left the Italian with fatal injuries.
Gardner, the 1987 500cc world champion, was involved in a similar crash with Franco Uncini in the 1983 Dutch Grand Prix, striking the Italian as he tried to run out of his rivals' way after crashing and coming to rest in the middle of the track. Uncini was left in a coma but made a full recovery and is now the MotoGP riders' safety representative.
"Having been involved in a similar incident with Franco Uncini many, many years ago, I have a pretty good idea about how they'll be feeling, but it simply wasn't their fault," Gardner wrote of Edwards and Rossi. "There's nothing they could have done. Both will be replaying the event in their mind over and over again, wondering if they could have veered to the left, the right, braked harder.
"But while a small consolation, the TV footage of the accident – now and in the years to come – will show them they had absolutely no time to avoid the collision. It was, sadly, just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
He said the crash had been particularly unusual and hard to foresee.
"The accident that claimed Marco's life was freakish in the extreme," Gardner wrote. "I've never seen anything like it in all my years associated with racing.
"The start of the incident isn't entirely clear as it happened off camera. All we saw was his bike veering violently to the right and into the path of Colin and Vale. I think he must have initially lost the front, only to have the tires somehow grip again and launch him straight across the track."
The Australian told FOX Sports that he regarded Simoncelli as the next big star of the MotoGP scene.
"He was a shining light that was coming through," Gardner said. "He looked like the next superstar. It's a great loss for the motorcycle riding fraternity and a black mark on motor racing."
Gardner hopes Simoncelli's death does not trigger hysteria over MotoGP safety.
"You know, a lot of people and media have been asking me over the past 12 hours if this sport is too dangerous," he wrote on his website. "The honest answer is that, yes, to a certain extent, it is. And if fans and TV executives are honest, they'll know that danger is part of the appeal and excitement.
"For the riders themselves, the adrenaline-charged thrill of being on the edge is also a huge part of why they race. Of course, we're talking very high speeds and when things go wrong the consequences can be disastrous. But, at the same time, we need to put things into perspective. Other sports like horse riding, rock fishing, soccer, cycling, skydiving, are also dangerous. Even simply driving on the roads is dangerous.
"As for MotoGP, everyone involved knows the risks, and extreme measures are taken to ensure a high degree of rider safety. Things like track run-off, protective riding gear, and on-site medical facilities are all first-rate, while the skills of the actual riders themselves is staggering. Yet we still have to acknowledge that the worst can sometimes occur.
"Yesterday's dreadful tragedy was one such time. And while no words can ever make up for such a loss, I'll be choosing to remember Marco for what he was: an exciting, enthusiastic, entertaining, talented, fearless competitor. And, I think it's fair to say, a great bloke."