BOTH LEWIS HAMILTON and Jenson Button have paid tribute to compatriot Dan Wheldon, after the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner was killed during Sunday’s Las Vegas Indy 300 race.
The 33-year-old Wheldon was flown to hospital after his car was involved in a massive 15-vehicle crash on lap 11 of the race, his car flying over another on the track.
Randy Bernard, chief executive of IndyCar, later confirmed that he had died from ‘unsurvivable injuries.’
Hamilton, the 2008 Formula One world champion, said: “This is an extremely sad day.
“Dan was a racer I’d followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motorsport ladder in the UK.
“He was an extremely talented driver. As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy 500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration.”
Button, meanwhile, paid his tribute on Twitter.
He wrote: “Just woken up to the most horrific news.. Dan Wheldon RIP…
“I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90s, a true fighter. We’ve lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy.
“I can’t begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.”
Scotsman Dario Franchitti, who was racing but not involved in the pile-up, claimed the warning signs were there due to the number of cars in close proximity to each other at such high speeds.
“I could see within five laps people were starting to do crazy stuff,” Wheldon’s former Andretti team-mate told IndyCar.com.
“I love hard racing but that to me is not really what it’s about. One small mistake from somebody…”
He added: “Right now I’m numb and speechless.
“One minute you’re joking around in driver intros and the next he’s gone. He was six years old when I first met him. He was this little kid and the next thing you know he was my team-mate.
“We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships and today it doesn’t matter.”