Car not a factor in the Duxford crash

Two weeks after Maria De Villota’s accident at Duxford Airfield, the Marussia F1 Team has completed its own detailed investigation into the cause of the crash. The initial analysis immediately after the crash concluded that there were no car-related issues and cleared the use of the chassis for the British GP. There then followed a further detailed analysis of the accident with an external forensic investigation, independent of the team’s enquiry.

“We are satisfied that the findings of our internal investigation exclude the car as a factor in the accident,” said team principal John Booth. “We have shared and discussed our findings with the Health and Safety Executive for their consideration as part of their ongoing investigation. This has been a necessarily thorough process in order to understand the cause of the accident. We have now concluded our investigatory work and can again focus on the priority, which continues to be Maria’s wellbeing. In that regard, we continue to support Maria and the De Villota family in any way we can.”

122 thoughts on “Car not a factor in the Duxford crash

  1. Mmmm. Sounds like hand washing to me. Why was the truck anywhere near where the car would be running is a more pertinent question. We don’t see trucks in the pit lane at race weekends when the cars are operating – probably for a reason – ITS DANGEROUS!

    1. I think you have missed the point. The team said that the CAR was not a contributory cause. So why start ranting about the truck? That is a completely different matter

      1. This leaves quite a lot a the investigation that hasn’t been commented on. All that has been said is that the car was not faulty, this had be be confirmed as they needed it for the British GP.

        This doesn’t mean that the team is off the hook or that the driver was at fault. In any work place accident there are far more lines of investigation than that. The HSE will ask about the positioning of the truck and the half lowered tail gate. They will also ask what instructions the driver / support team had been given and if those instructions had been followed etc. etc……

        This actually raises more questions than answers at the moment.

        1. It does not actually raise more questions than answers at all! It actually does the opposite. It eliminates a question. The question being “was it the car”. The other questions such as “was it the driver” or “why was a truck there” already existed as possible inquiries.

      2. Maybe I should have said diversionary instead of hand washing. Point is the team are saying in effect – car fine, not our fault!

        So now explain why the truck was there….Reckon that’s easier than checking 1000’s of bits of telemetry information re: the car.

        1. They didn’t say ‘not our fault’. They only said ‘the car was not at fault’. That still leaves the whole set-up at the airport open for various rulings. The placement of the truck etc. Which all could turn out to be considered the team’s fault.

          1. I think its the inference of the report that most people object to. The inference is clear as commented by James Allen, “Although the report does not say it explicitly, the implication is that the accident was down to the driver”.

            The report merely refers to the lack of technical problems with the car, with no reference to matters pertaining to the whereabouts of the truck or the reason its tailgate was down at driver head height, or to the inappropriate medical arrangements and a number of other issues.

            To release a report which only deals with a part of the whole incident and clearly is inferring driver error is at best tactless of Marussia.

            Further, they are utterly naive if they think people believe this to be sufficient in what needs to be said BY THEM and the matter is now concluded bar any impositions made by the HSE.

            1. I take it as a report that is only dealing with one aspect, i.e. the car. If they’d state that ‘this is the final report in the matter’, then I’d have a problem with it. But they don’t. There’s clearly more to come.

              I think it’s important to know that the marussia cars do not have a design defect that makes them accelerate uncontrollably. If they did, that would be a clear safety concern for those working the pit lane in the races. And not only for marussia employees.

              1. Read the report. Investigations by Marrusia and the independent company they hired ARE CONCLUDED.

                I suggested what needs to be said BY THEM should have been more than jusy regarding the car, not just HSE.

                Further, they clearly have many design defects….not enough acceleration, not enough traction…fairly poor aerodynamics…chasis that doesn’t corner all that well…in high speed corners….chasis that doesn’t corner all that well….in low speed corners…..at best average braking capability…..ugly colour scheme….

        2. I don’t see them saying anything of the sort. They seem to be saying that the car did not suffer an error as a cause to the crash. By the way, regardless of the truck being there… the truck did not cause the car to accelerate. I have noticed a fundemental flaw in the way people think these days. Does the truck exert some sort of gravitational pull or something? If I suddenly accelerate into another vehicle… I am not going to blame that vehicle for my error.

          1. “Does the truck exert some sort of gravitational pull or something?”

            Technically it does.

            I’ll stop being pedantic now.

    2. I really doubt any other straight line test is conducted any different from this one. Including the placing of trucks, staff or whatever.

      This time, something happened, likely driver error, and caused this accident.

      While it happened to her, it just as well could have happened to Schumacher, Vettel or Alonso.

    3. There is no pit lane at Duxford, it’s part of the Imperial War Museum and an aerodrome. So the truck must be parked somewhere which is acting as a temporary pit/paddock area. The tailgate/lift had probably been serving as a seat or table.

    4. What pit-lane?

      This is an airfield, not a race track, the truck was not moving, it was parked.

      you come across like the ‘blame/claim’ brigade…

      Unfortunately, the reality is that she has to live with the consequences of her own actions, no matter how personally tragic that is.

    5. The safety of the facility is separate to the causes of the crash. The fact that the car crashed into a truck is irrelevant to the fact that the car crashed.

      The car wasn’t defective, that’s an important thin to establish. We can then move on to determining why there was a truck there in the first place.

    6. Beg to differ but i saw trucks in the national pit lane and Silverstone last weekend. There were car movements at the same time.

    7. You would be mortified if you walked around any non-F1 racing paddock where cars drive from the pitlane through the paddock to their trailers. You wouldn’t believe all the things they could hit! Trucks, spectators, walls, buildings… Just think of all of the liabilities!!!

      When I raced at Trois-Rivieres, I would exit the pitlane, slowly drive by a crowd of about 200-300 spectators as I made my way through the paddock to our spot. Then I would turn the car between two (TWO!) trucks into our tent (imagine the damage a tent pole could cause!).

      The fact is, race cars are driven in various places for convenience. It would be ridiculous to have to push every race car around everywhere until it was in an area that was surrounded by walls and tire barriers.

      The location of the truck is not a problem. Judging by the photo, she should have been able to steer around it. I’m not sure why she didn’t. Also, at that RPM, unless she floored it for some reason, the brakes have more torque than the engine, even when cold. There’s a clutch, a brake and she could have shifted to neutral. It’s like blaming Toyota for the “unintended acceleration” problems (which were actually people confusing pedals). I’ve had throttles stick on me and it’s not difficult to bump it into neutral, dip the clutch or mash the brakes, or any combination thereof.

    1. Not being a contributory factor in this case I think means that there was nothing wrong with, or broken in/on the car.

    2. I agree. I think that given the circumstances this is a cowardly statement to put out. As stated above, there are a number of other factors and issues, but this is implicitly saying the driver was to blame. I think it would have been more prudent to wait until a fully rounded report could be issued, with the team acknowledging where it should take responsibility and learn lessons. If it does prove to be driver error, I think there are some pertinent questions around whether it was appropriate for the driver to be put in that position and takes responsibility for that.

      1. Did you consider the possibility that the driver was actually to blame, rather than looking for conspiracy theories?

        1. Absolutely, I don’t see it as a conspiracy. It may well have been the driver. My issues are :
          (a) the statement is almost inviting people to conclude that it was driver error yet provides no evidence (not necessarily the same as “not the car”) and
          (b) even if it was the driver, there are almost certainly a wider set of questions regarding issues which may have contributed to the accident, or at least mean appropriate safeguards not put in place (e.g. should she have been in the car in the first place, what was the truck doing providing a head high risk etc). I would have liked a more rounded appraisal of circumstances incolved from the team.

        2. Indeed. I read that statement as avoiding attributing fault to the driver, which is rather tactful given she is still in hospital.

          1. Avoiding a lot more too! Why be so narrow in the exclusion of fault. Why not include all mitigating factors!

            Further, if they wish to blame the driver because they believe it to be true then do so – at an appropriate time.

            This merely demonstrates Marussia are not at the races in more ways than one…..building a competitive car…..managing PR……recruiting an appropriate test driver….risk assessment……organising proper medical backup…..

            And for those who believe Maria will tell all….No chance….the gagging clauses in the compensation contract are already drawn up by the lawyers.

            1. What was wrong with the medical back-up? I thought there is a FIA mandate what needs to be present medical vice in test sessions. I have not seen any articles stating that marussia did not fulfill the test session medical requirements of FIA.

    3. If you are suggesting the driver, the lack of driver skills could blow back on the team. Did she get simulator time for example? Did she know what could happen with anti stall. Lack of training does not lead to driver error. I think all this says for now is that the car was not an element. The proximity of the truck was, but what else contributed is still to come out and driver error often has other root causes. Lack of experience and training can be the root cause of driver error. Lets wait and see!

  2. I would suggest that the sensible debate is what is the cause of this accident – car lurches forward into tail-gate of vehicle – why was the vehicle there, why were there no other protective measures & was the drivers experience with this car sufficient. On a race / test track in a controlled environment these head height hazards are now removed i.e catch fences; low slung armco barriers now all removed.. The FIA should seriously look at the limited testing and consider permitting testing at tracks & allow new drivers to get the necessary experience with these cars

    1. The story very possibly could have been”car lurches forward into support crew” or any other object truck or no truck. Bottom line, the car was out of control – now identifying how and why which is probably not that difficult with telemetry but may prove more delicate delivering the news if it was human error, especially since the driver has already endured so much.

      In fairness to the personnel responsible for the machinery the team need to clear them to demonstrate and confirm competency, the Team is excluding factors rather than pointing fingers which is a far more diplomatic approach to delivering unpleasant news

  3. A sensible and logical statement to make by the team. First of all from an insurance point of view, but also from a safety one and last but not least, for (potential) sponsors conveying the message that they are a proper organization that is able to build sound hi-tech vehicles.

    I must say that as an outsider following F1, the way Marussia handled this unfortunate incident has been very professional. Statements where upright, to the point and more than enough to have some feel for what happened.

    Unfortunately these things happen. I just wish Ms. Villota a speedy recovery.

  4. If this is the case then I believe the accident is therefore the fault of Marussia for putting an incapable driver behind the seat of an F1 car (nothing against her personally).

    1. When is a driver capable, and when isn’t? And who decides?

      It’s not like she’s been a complete rookie, as she has had experience in single seater racing (be it limited, but still, she competed in races). She also has driven Formula 1 cars before, as she tested for Lotus in 2011 and did 300K worth of laps.

      She probably never had what it took to compete in Formula 1, but it’s not like it was her first time in the car either.

      1. Exactly – she has a full season of Superleague under her belt – those cars are similar in performance to the World Series of Renault machines. Fine she she’s not exactly fast, and was certainly one of the weaker drivers in that field, but they don’t just hand out fourth and sixth places at those races to anyone.

        Hell, Red Bull gave Tom Cruise a drive in a pretty much full spec car with zero experience!! As did Renault with Richard Hammond.

    2. She did run a Renault F1 car before without an incident. I don’t think much can be said before they tell us what the driver error was exactly. And looking at this broader, as some point everybody will have their first (or 2nd as here) seat time in an F1 car. Otherwise we’d never have any new drivers. Which some of the current guys might find as a good idea..:).

  5. It’s difficult to understand how a professional driver, irrespective of a lack of experience could themselves accidentally accelerate towards the back of a truck. I find the whole thing very odd (and tragic).

    1. Brainstorming time! The most reasonable hypotheses I can come up with in my lunch break, approximately in order of probability (from unusual to preposterous to tin-foil hat) :

      1) Driver error – specifically relating to potentially quite unfamiliar controls (which she’d otherwise used without any noted mistakes that day?)

      2) Unconscious driver action : thinking sudden muscle spasm or fit (which has otherwise remained undetected in MdV’s medical history??)

      3) ECU bug : a selection of options here (which the team are essentially discounting after their analysis???)

      4) Sabotage : don’t even ask

      The options after that just get stupid and I have no intention of disrespecting Ms De Villota with any crass jokes.

      As stated by a few people, the anti-stall hypothesis seems to be dead wrong, though lack of familiarity with it could feed into point 1 above.

      As for getting a final answer to the puzzle, we might never see it.

      A conclusion-by-telemetry might be tough, we’re not talking about McLaren here, I’m not entirely convinced that the Marussia machine is quite as laden with sensors as the Woking machine usually is. They might be literally unable to produce a pedal-displacement curve to overlay on to a set of engine performance curves for the few seconds they need.

      Similarly De Villota may well not have clear memories of the experience, it’s not unusual for people on the receiving end of such accidents to lose all memory of the seconds or even minutes prior to the incident. I would be genuinely surprised if she remembers what happened.

  6. It seems to be a very carefully worded statement from Marussia, no doubt advised by legal professionals. A lot of this will no doubt be cleared-up if/when Maria communicates her feedback on the accident. I can’t see there being any conclusive details on the cause until then. At the very least if they have missed anything she could point engineers in the right direction, surely? As always, wishing Maria a speedy and positive recovery.

  7. I hate to say it but I think she may have come to grief over the anti-stall system. When you watch the cars coming into pit lane you always see the drivers kill the ignition and coast in to a stop. The only time you see F1 drivers in gear and under power coming up pit lane is when they are either practicing a pit stop or during an actual race. As I understand it – most of the anti stall systems kick in somewhere above 7000 rpm – so there is no such thing as coasting into a stop in any normal way you would be used to in a road car as you come in on the speed limiter button in 1st gear and then select N. If Maria hesitated for a split second between the limiter selection and selecting neutral and the rev’s dropped while in 1st gear – the car could suddenly take off as the ECU kicks the RPM above 7 grand. Really a sad sad end to what should have been a fantastic event in her life. Criticizing the team for parking a truck near the makeshift pit is silly pandering to the legal community. Murphy’s Law states that you could have parked it way over on the other side of the runway and some how the car would have still hit some other object or person. You can take ‘reasonable’ safety precautions and then there are accidents that come out of left field that no reasonable person would have any idea could happen. From the pictures on the web – the truck appeared fairly far away from where the car was supposed to stop. I’ve heard the audio clip – it’s sickening. I wish Maria well and hope something good can come out of this unfortunate accident.

    1. I thought anti-stall pulled in the clutch, rather than increase RPM? Although your explanation makes sense.

    2. I’ve been googling around for a description of the anti stall system. Some site claimed in conjunction of this sad accident that the anti stall system raises the revs to around 50% if they have fallen too low. With no input from the driver. This makes little sense to me. We’d see cars shooting off the track and around the pit lane if this was the case. 50% is a lot of HP…

      All I can find in the net is that the anti-stall system will automatically engage the clutch if the revs fall too low. This makes more sense. And is supported by various drivers (could find statements from Barrichello, Webber and Koba) stating that the reason for their bad start was the fact that the anti-stall kicked in and hence the car did not launch properly (it wouldn’t, if the clutch was engaged…). If the anti-stall raised the revs to 50%, the car would stay stationary with smoking tyres…

      The only technica explanation I could find confirmed the clutch scenario. But that was from 2003.

    3. Yes, they kill the engine and stop, but that’s because it’s nearly impossible to back up a formula car; you can’t see where you are going and steering in reverse is not easy because of kingpin angles, etc. It’s way easier to stop the engine and let the crew push and steer the car into the garage – the engine is not running and overheating, there is no need to select reverse (which can be difficult) and there is no need for the driver to slip the clutch trying to back up.

  8. I wonder how familiar Maria would be have been from her previous experience, other than the previous test of the Renault F1 car, with a hand operated clutch and left foot braking. I know I always worry when I drive a car with a central accelerator pedal, would I get it right in an emergency, when you have to react in a fraction of a second.

    Wilson

    1. Have seen a similar effect when someone was parking behind my car. Guy was new to an automatic. Put his foot on the throttle instead of the brake. The natural reaction was (as he thought he was on the brake) to press harder. He took out about 6 cars.

  9. Not much of an explanation. They would obviously have data on what happened in the car too but maybe now is not the time to share?

  10. I read into this as the team stating the car was not at fault so that no action could be taken in that regard, nor any negative speculation be placed on the team. I notice they do not provide any further possible explanation, which suggests (a) they don’t know, or (b) the driver’s lack of clutch experience may be to blame but they are being sensibley tactful and not apportioning that blame at present.

    I think the position of the truck will emerge as “regretful” due to what happened, but it will perhaps go down as an unforseen accident, which has reminded all teams to perhaps be more vigilant of potential dangers of a clutch related incident in future (if this turns out to be cause). i.e. take care with inexperienced drivers in use of clutch in pit lanes etc and remove potential hazards.

    I pray she recovers well.
    Jim

  11. “exclude the car as a factor” is an interesting phrase to use as I’m not sure it’s possible to do so considering the nature and complexity of the machine in question. I suppose you could rule that it behaved ‘as expected’, but driver expectation is not a finite property and the behaviour of the car will vary depending on temps/conditions/set-up etc.

    This leads me to think that either De Villota has clearly stated that she made a mistake (which could happen to anyone frankly) or the team is essentially acknowledging the fault was a systemic one – allowing a new driver to operate the car in close proximity to a dangerously shaped object.

      1. On what grounds can you say such madness?

        She jeopardised her life and those around her to crash an F1 car from a minnow team with the aim of getting them thrown out of the championship to help her compatriots HRT?

        Here’s a tinfoil hat, don’t eat it all at once.

      2. Wouldn’t she have gone faster than 30 mph then? It was not exactly a moped she was driving now was it?

      3. Congratulations Paul, you win the award for the alltime most idiotic comment anywhere, ever. In fact, I think you get the lifetime acheivement award for that one. Unbelievable. Really well done.

    1. “allowing a new driver to operate the car in close proximity to a dangerously shaped object”

      Every team allows their drivers to do that, whether they are new or experienced F1 drivers. At 300 km/hr everything is “a dangerously shaped object”.

  12. The driver’s eyes and face are the least protected elements of his/her body in a crash, it would seem. Some say Massa was never the same after being hit in the face by a spring. Is anything being done by the FIA to improve helmet visors? Is there even anything that can be done?

    1. After the Massa incident FIA did introduce a Zylon strip on the visors. Plus they have been testing jet fighter style cockpit canopies

  13. When it comes to driver protection, whether the driver is responsible or not is irrelevant, in racing or testing situations.

    To err is human and therefore the testing facility must be set up in such a way that the driver is always as well protected as possible. The cause of the accident is irrelevant when it comes to driver protection.

    Clearly, the transporter was in a dangerous location. And by the way, the picture I saw after the impact also shows in the background an old war plane with its folded wings and no protection whatsoever.

    1. You’ve clearly never been around a paddock of any non-F1 race, where cars drive through the paddock under their own power. Trucks, tents, mechanics and spectators everywhere. Is this dangerous? No, because it’s not the racing surface.

      You can’t be suggesting that no racing car can ever be driven unless surrounded by walls and barriers, are you?

      She was effectively in the paddock. They don’t need to start installing barriers around every paddock.

  14. While I’m sure their comments are valid, I also think I’d be more inclined to accept these findings from a truly independent source. Perhaps the FIA should be doing the investigation, or at least have an independent body, assigned by them, do the investigation.
    This is a little too much like letting the police agencies themselves do their investigations when one of their members are under investigation. But let’s wait and see what else is uncovered.

  15. Are the team _gently_ trying to suggest this was unintended acceleration through pedal misapplication?

    I suspect they are. As this was an independent finding, I cannot blame the team for releasing this information. The truth is the truth.

  16. Forget all the arguing who did what to who! forget the trailer, the hse and the team will have to establish what happened, something happened. Remember maria, she was the casualty, with a very lucky escape. sarcasm on this blog about such serious matters is counter productive….

    1. Actually, it _would_ seem to preclude the anti-stall having caused the incident. There was rampant (and very likely false) speculation immediately after the incident suggesting anti-stall may have been to blame.

      That scenario never made a bit of sense. This is because F1 anti-stall systems engage the clutch. With the clutch engaged, there would be no drive to the wheels. Therefore, a properly functioning anti-stall system could not have caused the car to dart forward.

      Were the clutch to remain engaged when the anti-stall was activated it would be a de facto malfunction. Since both the team’s analysis and an independent analysis have ruled out any sort of malfunction, there seems to be no way the anti-stall system could have caused the incident.

      The vast majority of accidents, whether in road cars, race cars, aircraft, or sea vessels are caused by human failure. With mechanical issues now ruled out, it’s very difficult to see the cause of this incident being anything but a driver mistake.

  17. If the accident were caused by the anti-stall system kicking the throttle open to 50% with resultant loss of control… that wouldn’t actually be a fault with the car. The anti-stall system would’ve worked the way it’s meant to. So this statement doesn’t preclude that scenario, does it?

    (I’m not saying it couldn’t have been poor throttle application.)

    1. I’d imagine the telemetry the team has would show if the anti-stall behaved any differently than intended (however that actually is).

      The car would be legally required to be safe to compete in the British GP. I doubt the team and their sponsors would agree to flouting such a requirement, as it would be a terrible image and they would likely be called for bringing the sport into disrepute by deliberately fielding a knowingly unsafe car.

      1. What I mean is… could anti-stall, working as it should, be responsible for the accident? My understanding is that it can turn the throttle up to 50%, which could be enough to cause the car to lurch out of control.

  18. I would guess that the team feel it necessary to make this statement in order to establish some kind of legal standpoint regarding partial responsibility/liability concerning the car.

    Now that this kind of freak accident has happened, future safety precautions will need to include a stipulation regarding the pit or “acting pit” approach/reception/exit path and general layout of equipment/vehicles and personnel present, this at any test not using conventional pit/garage facilities. (It should be very easy to write)

    It totally is obvious than any “run on” or skidding of a car when intending to stop, needs to be catered for. (Ask Kobayashi) It is a simple matter of common sense, unfortunately not foreseen on this occasion.

    Everybody who gets into a Formula Ford car stalls it on the first attempt so it is not impossible to conceive that a driver may have the opposite problem with a complicated double clutch computer controlled anti-stall system.

    However in this case the layout of the acting pit area must be held to be integral in it’s contribution to the accident whatever other factors are involved.

    1. “Everybody who gets into a Formula Ford car stalls it on the first attempt …” Really? Not me.

      Here’s a short story about track danger: I was at Seattle International Raceway testing my FF. I paid my money, signed the legal waiver, unloaded the car, buckled in, then did a slow lap to look for things on the track, etc. As I came around the last turn back to start/finish I saw something across the track – a steel cable strung to keep spectators cars off the dragstrip the previous night. The track people had failed to remove it and let had me go out with a neck chopper strung out ready to decapitate me. I was furious and went into the office to discuss this with track management. I didn’t even get an apology.

      1. Obviously a man of talent and money! Seattle, is that the one with Frasier?
        You were lucky I suppose, to have spotted the cable.

        I only went in the FF at Brands once and having watched everybody else in the class stall it before me, the mechanic, said “everybody does that”, I then did exactly the same myself. I found the gear lever position most unreal. Obviously the five laps I had were insufficient to get comfortable and I then thought “what if it rains, the spray will get shot straight at me every time I turn the wheel” So I decided to do the course in saloons instead. I found saloon (XR3i) much more instinctive but was never fast enough to graduate from the school. Had I more money at the time things may have been different. (Using understeer to rub off speed was a basic fault I had, I was never cured.)

  19. as far as im aware antistall disengages the clutch at the same time as forcing an increase in engine RPM, so why this would suddenly accelerate a car that kicks into this mode makes no sense to me, everyone has presumed it was the antistall without being told otherwise…..

    1. Basically, yes. Everyone has ‘assumed’ it was anti-stall because as humans we were compassionately looking to technology as the fault in this accident.

      The technology seems (or is claimed) to be fine, so the issue exists elsewhere, which is what the remainder of the investigation should uncover.

  20. Clearly and sadly she made a mistake and the team are being careful about saying just that. However, having made the mistake and assuming the car shot off at great speed, she then hit the truck. It will be difficult for the team to wriggle out of that one. Someone somewhere is at fault for leaving it there, though I am sure as this event was unique, they hadn’t thought that it might get hit.

  21. Well, I read all those. It’s obvious to me that Marussia should share ALL the information they have with the ‘fan’ on the sofa.

    Now.

  22. I thought the anti-stall theory was viable until you think about it carefully and realise it’s just not the way that system works. It’s a red herring. I think the poor inexperienced driver possibly simply failed to engage neutral properly and then let out the clutch. These engines tick over at 10,000rpm so you are definitely going to move forward if you do that. I know everyone wants someone to blame but I fear it’s as simple as that. We’ll find out soon no doubt.

    1. Absolutely right. It is a red herring. The anti-stall system would have to malfunction to have caused the incident. Given that an independent analysis has found no such malfunction, that system cannot have caused the issue.

    2. Except if you fail to engage neurtal properly and let out the clutch without depressing the accelertator, the anti stall would kick in and disengage the clutch. And the car would not lurch forward, unless the driver engaged the first gear again and gave the engine enough RPM to prevent a stall. So does not sound like it either.

      I also saw speculation that what if she pressed the pit lane speed limitter by mistake. That does not fly either, as the speed limitter only prevents the car from exceeding a set speed. If you press the speed limitter but not the accelerator, the car won’t move anywhere.

      All this leaves just the option that she drove the car into the truck. How on eart is that possible, why did she not steer away from the truck (unless there were people standing around to all other possible directions), why did she not brake? I have no idea…

    1. I do not think it has any effect. As I have said before what is required is a driver with the right ability. There is one out there somewhere, I am quite sure of that, but the key to the problem is finding her. The wrong thing to do is to have too high expectations for drivers without sufficient talent.

  23. The team have put out there statement, why not wait for her statement, if it comes as to what happen, or her view on what happen, before passing judgement on driver / car.

  24. as far as im aware antistall disengages the clutch at the same time as forcing an increase in engine RPM, so why this would suddenly accelerate a car that kicks into this mode makes no sense to me, everyone has presumed it was the antistall without being told otherwise…..

  25. Not sure I have ever seen a blog post on Joe’s blog that has attracted so much nonsense in the comments. The statement makes it quite clear as far as I can see, Sadly she made a mistake and for the team to come out with a statement like this I imagine that she hit the accelerator not the brake. The data from the car will show this. Even if it was inexperience with clutch or anti stall I don’t think you make this statement. It wouldn’t suprise me if Maria has backed this up verbally as well. Again I be sure I should make this statement at this point unless she had said that herself as well.

      1. It often is just that simple.

        Unintended acceleration through pedal misapplication is terribly, terribly common. I personally know a few people who’ve done it. Cases of it are written up a few times each week in my local paper, usually when someone accidentally drives into the front of a local business, the explains to the police that they hit the gas instead of the brake.

        Most of the time those who hit the wrong pedal realize what they’ve done before they run into anything. The acceleration of an F1 car is so tremendous she may not have had much time, perhaps less than a second.

        Clearly the team knows the cause, they have the telemetry. One suspects that out of deference to their severely injured driver they’re not yet releasing the specifics. Still, many in the press are now reporting that the team’s release makes it clear that she was to blame. As for the cause, the simplest cause is the most likely one, she touched the wrong pedal for an instant.

        1. That would only be the case if she confused her right foot for her left foot, as in an F1 car, you left-foot-brake. There is no clutch pedal – it is activated by a lever on the steering wheel. That precludes the wrong pedal theory.

          1. Confusing the left foot and right foot is no less likely – and no less possible than confusing the left and right pedal.

            With mechanical failure ruled out,it’s hard to see many other likely causes.

    1. I doubt it was something so blatant, whilst she is no Fernando Alonso, she is still a competent racing driver in lower formula and would be unlikely to make a mistake that would make a teenager fail their driving test.

  26. Just sounds like they expect a law suit. I’m reading nothing into this at all.

    But Wilson’s point about left foot braking is a good one. Only telemetry will tell.

    1. I suspect you’re reading too much into it.

      Lawsuits for personal injury are far less frequent in the UK than in the US, especially from those engaging in extreme sport. History shows that Injured racing drivers have been very hard pressed to win damages – even in the litigious US. In the UK, winning damages would be harder by an order of magnitude.

      The team’s press release was necessary to clear their car for competition in the coming events. The lack of specific information was likely in deference to the terrible injuries suffered by their driver. While the blame probably lies squarely with the driver, saying that now would be impolitic and crass.

  27. I just don’t think it’s sensible to imagine that a car can be operated and maintained in isolation from any other solid object. It’s not as if Marussia parked their canteen truck in the middle of a fast straight. There was a maintenance vehicle providing ‘pits’ facilities in a designated low-speed area, in itself a reasonable arrangement.
    It would be interesting to know if it was a driver or a team decision to route the incoming car in such a manner that the truck ended up directly in front of the car, because that was needless (unless it was a swerve to avoid pedestrian staff which led to the trajectory). In any event, to imply that even a ‘pits’ area should have dozens of yards of run-off before any obstacle is just impractical.

  28. This was a dreadful accident. I feel a great deal of sympathy for all involved. Obviously foremost in that sympathy is maria de villota and her family. In cases like this it is always importamt as well to remember that the ‘team’ is made of people. The truck was parked by a person, the car was designed, built and prepared by people. So if you blame the truck you are really blaming the truck driver and if you blame the car you are really blaming the designers and mechanics. I think it is reasonable for marussia to make the simple factual statement they made.

    It was a dreadful accident. Nobody wanted it to happen and there are precautions which can be taken in the future. Most of all maria de villota deserves sympathy, support and dignity whilst she recovers.

  29. I think it is obvious what happened: Team Marussia positioned a truck very carefully with the expectation that somehow, at some point… the car would accelerate into it and wound the driver. They intentionally hired an human and not a robot to drive the car… since a human has a better chance at having an error.They did this because they don’t care about their reputation or safety record. They were hoping that something terrible would happen, so that they could figure out how it happened by coming to this thread and reading the ramblings of armchair experts like yourselves.

    Seriously though… it happend. We know the car was not at fault. There is only one other element that could be at fault and here is a hint: ITS NOT THE TRUCK!

    WAIT! I take that back! The truck was fitted with a “tractor beam” which exerted a tugging force on the vehicle and initiated the crash!

    1. Actually Dale, what you have forgotten is these truck lift uses very large magnets, and any car in the near vicinity could easily have been pulled into the magnetic field causing extreme acceleration of the car and the ensuing accident.

      I found it an odd statement to release, as clearly they felt the car was not at fault as they used it subsequently, and perhaps for decency’s sake, they could have simply said nothing until the HSE made its announcement. But I guess they saw it as a stain on their professionalism and might dissuade sponsors so had to make sure they weren’t seen to be to blame.

      1. If it is indeed factually correct that the car had no issue, then it would be prudent to publicly make that claim. No point in holding back the truth over the fear of implying that a driver may have caused it. Facts are facts, regardless of when they are released.

  30. Some interesting comments here.

    I see nothing wrong with Marussia’s statement nor the need for them to put out a statement. They are, correctly, not laying blame with Maria but stating that there wasn’t a fault with the car. This is important information. Yes, it does then automatically point the finger at driver error but it could just as easily be a problem with the instructions she was given. She may have been doing what she had been told to do and the car reacted in an unexpected (for her) way.

    The truck is irrelevant to the cause of the accident. It’s a bit like a road accident with a car wrapped around a tree – the tree didn’t have any effect on the creation of the crash, it was the object in the path of the car.

    Maria also isn’t completely inexperienced. It wasn’t her first time in an F1 car, and so would at least have a rudimentary understanding.

    One final point, i have to make (in the form of a question). Assuming it was Maria who did something wrong, kicking off the anti-stall, how many other drivers have made exactly the same mistake without any consequences because there was nothing to hit?

    1. “how many other drivers have made exactly the same mistake without any consequences because there was nothing to hit?”

      That would be ideal but what if a pit crew member was ‘mowed down’ by an out of control car? Obstacles are of course a basic concern but CONTROLLING a machine with 750 hp and almost instantaneous acceleration is probably the issue as there are always obstacles frequently human,

      i.e the front jack man in the pit crew http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yePx6BbpEsc E , this is when the car has almost stopped hitting these guys at even low speeds of the Duxford accident could be fatal. Its a still a dangerous sport, to drivers and bystanders.

  31. Marussia had to put out that statement once they’d established that it wasn’t a fault with the car. They have two guys who are going to get into that car and give it 90 minutes plus of stick in F1 races – at high speed, with other fast moving cars around and with lots of things that they could hit. They need to know that the car has been checked and that if there are any dangerous or misfunctioning systems on the car that these have been replaced. And so do the other drivers and FIA. Nobody wants to be around a pit lane with a car that might suddenly accelerate despite driver inputs.

    It’s perhaps not the most pleasant thing they could have said, but it’s the responsible thing to say.

  32. What the team are saying that there was nothing technically wrong with the car. Which is important to know especially before the weekends GP. The drivers and other teams need to be reassured that the cars themselves are OK and there is no indication that there could be a similar occurance in the pit lane, due to an inherant fault in the car set up or softwear. This maybe should have been clear before last weekends British GP.
    What the actual cause of the incident has not been decided yet, so no-one can second guess. No doubt lessons will be learnt.

  33. I suspect Marrusia felt that they had to put a statement out saying the car was safe before the next GP due to rubbish in the press. EG Did anyone see the first Daily Mail article after the crash?

    “Doubts have been raised about the MR01 model which had to have corrective work after it failed a safety test in February. Yesterday was the first time Miss de Villota had tried it out.”

  34. Where I work, when the fork-lift drivers stop for any reason (when they aren’t carrying any load), they MUST drop the forks all the way down to the floor. This is a common sense safety rule.

  35. If, as looks possible, Maria did make a mistake, it doesn’t mean she was incompetent or unsafe. F1 drivers, however talented and experienced, do make mistakes, even at low speed (see Kobayashi running his pit crew over, or Button driving into the wrong pit box).

    After all the investigations conclude (and until they do all this talk is entirely speculative) I suspect we will find there is no single cause, but rather a series of events and conditions that combined to result in a freak accident. There will be some changes to procedures and regulations to prevent a repeat, but ultimately I doubt there will be a single person to blame.

    1. I do not believe there is any serious project at the moment. It is a proposal for post-Games usage and will not necessarily be successful. If it is successful, then we must wait to see where the money is going to come from.

      1. So why make a partial comment when the full circumstances have not been disclosed?

        “Not our car’s fault, Gov”

        1. Because it wouldn’t do to have their drivers competing in a vehicle with suspected critical defects. Not just for the safety of the drivers, but for that of their pit personnel.

          There was a definite need to quickly clear the car, there was no such need to rapidly assign the blame. I found it was a very straightforward and kindhearted press release.

  36. Do Marussia define “car” as the complete package in this press release, or just as their own chassi?

  37. Surely the Marussia team have to have the car checked after such an incident. The fact they have races lined up imminently means it’s in their interest to get this done as soon as possible. They have, and they issued the appropriate statement based on the information to hand..i.e. that relating to the car itself.
    I’m sure everything else will be investigated, but for Marussia, they are against the clock, making sure their machinery gets the ‘all clear’ before the next race.
    Am I missing something here, because it all seems pretty straightforward, even for an old cynic like me.

  38. Shouldn’t we be waiting for Maria to complete her healing so that she can tell us what happened from her side of this sad tale? The team are within their right to tell us the conclusion they’ve come to, but Maria’s earned her right to give her side of the story as well.

    1. She has, and the team have left her that. They merely report that there has been an investigation and that this investigation has ruled out a problem with the car she was driving. That’s fair enough and is not unfair to the driver.

    2. I wonder if she’ll remember anything. Massa has no recollection of the time before his accident, and do not know if he still doesn’t. Head injuries do that to you…

  39. What has any of this got to do with the truck – other than she drove into it?

    It’s not like the truck was jinking about – it was parked. It’s also pretty big – so not hard to mistake for something else. She all about it and where it was – after all,presumably that’s where she started her session. It’s really no different to any other fixed object on the circuit – you drive around them, not into them.

    So sorry, un-pc as it is, if it wasn’t the car, then it was the nut behind the wheel – driver error. She’s paid a dreadful price for getting in above her head. It takes more than sponsors $ to drive these cars, and clearly, she didn’t have the skill level.

    1. I think this goes too far. Everybody that drives an F1 car has to drive it for the first time, come to grips with the systems (presumably these are explained to the driver beforehand).

      Did you read Gary Anderson’s short piece on this sad incident? He opines that she made the error of hitting the left pedal in a reflex action as if it were the clutch (it’s the brake). He said it’s an easy enough error to make, that he himself has made it when he knows very well how the system works and that he’s seen experienced race drivers do the same.

      1. Gary Anderson’s explanation makes some sense. He’s not shooting in the dark, he based it on a listen to the audio recording of the incident. That said, we would need more specific technical information on this car’s systems to know whether Anderson’s experience would apply in this case.

        For those that haven’t read it, Anderson suggests similar situations have occurred previously (15 years ago) when one hits the brake pedal – thinking it is a clutch pedal.

        He relates that even if a driver realizes what they’ve done and then selects the hand clutch, the brake torque fighting the engine torque could prevent the clutch from engaging and keep the car moving forward.

        Still, the brakes should always be stronger than the engine. If the brake pedal remains engaged, the car should not dart forward. Though perhaps not when the brakes are very cold, and certainly not if the driver momentarily releases the brake pedal. Even if the brakes were cold, would the car dart forward if the brakes remained fully engaged? That’s hard to believe.

        This also doesn’t explain the source of the engine torque. One would think a well designed anti-stall system should not apply throttle if the clutch cannot be engaged. Given that these systems are entirely electronic, such a lockout may only require a single line of code. Further, cases of F1 transmissions locking into gear are hardly unknown, such a preventive measure on the anti-stall would seem pro forma.

    2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – she may not have be fast, but she has a decent amount of experience of high powered single seaters. much more than some who’ve driven f1 cars over the years.

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