Stories…

There are a lot of Formula 1 people at Kansai Airport in Osaka tonight – and some pretty tired faces. Jules Bianchi remains in the intensive care unit of the Mie Prefectural General Medical Center, near Suzuka. Team bosses John Booth and Graeme Lowdon are there and I hear that Ferrari and FIA people are there too. In reality there is not much more that they can do. From now on, the state of health of Bianchi is a private matter and it is up to his family to give details if that is what they want to do. Jules’s parents, Philippe and Christine, are on their way to Japan, as is Bianchi’s manager Nicolas Todt. The medical details that we know are vague, by necessity. He has had one operation only and may or may not be on artificial respiration. It is not our business. The medical people will know a lot from the scans that they have done, but they probably do not know the effects as yet. Just as in the case of Michael Schumacher, there are times when one simply has to wait.

When it comes down to the accident itself, there is more information now about what actually happened and this helps to explain some of the pictures that we have seen. The car seems to have hit the back end of the tractor almost side-on, which destroyed the entire left hand side of the car and tore off all of the crash structures. A great deal depends on the angle of impact and the length of time that a driver has to endure the peaks of the G forces inan accident, which are measured in milliseconds. The FIA will probably know these figures by now and that will tell them a lot about the crash. I cannot stress enough how important these tiny measurements are when it comes to determining the damage that is caused.

You will be able to read in a thousand places about how F1 is now examining its procedures or in crisis, or whatever words come into the head of the journalists, who are writing this stuff. F1 will look at the accident but it is not in crisis. FIA President Jean Todt may be upset, but that is because Bianchi was “one of the family”, a protégé of Jean’s son Nicolas. Jean will also know what this accident will mean to the Bianchi Family.

This is no ordinary family. It is a racing family and it has been for four generations. Jules’s great-grandfather was, I believe, a mechanic with the Alfa Romeo racing team in the 1930s in Italy. This was managed at the time by Enzo Ferrari. After the war the Bianchi family relocated to Belgium, where a band leader called Johnny Claes was running a racing team. Bianchi’s two sons, Mauro and Luciano (known as Lucien), raced with Belgian licences. They climbed the racing ladder and Lucien eventually made it to F1 and in 1968 he won the Le Mans 24 Hours, partnered by Pedro Rodriguez. In the same race Mauro had a fiery accident and suffered very serious burns that left him permanently scarred. A year later Lucien was killed in an accident in an Alfa Romeo, while testing sat Le Mans. Mauro was a clever engineer and eventually settled in France where he son Philippe was dissuaded from competition to avoid further tragedy. Nonetheless Philippe managed a karting facility and his son Jules became a racer.

Motor racing can be a cruel sport, despite the best efforts that are made to try to protect the drivers from all possible dangers.

F1 is not in crisis. This is what the sport does. There has been some noise in the mainstream media about whether or not the race should have been stopped but the voices quoted are few and far between I think Race Control did an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. They were cautious without being ludicrous and gave the drivers the chance to race.

88 thoughts on “Stories…

  1. I too believe Race Control did an excellent job in the circumstances, Joe, being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t re the calling or otherwise of a second safety car period. Double waved yellows would normally have sufficed.

    Our thoughts are with Jules, his family and friends as well as John Booth, whom Sue and I know, and the rest of the Marussia team. Tragic is a much overused adjective, but it truly applies here, as Marussia have been blighted for a second time with a serious incident involving one of their race cars hitting a stationary non-race vehicle. Grim.

  2. Complete arm-chair expert/numpty view; watching live from the cheap seats in my lounge room, it looked like the safety car should have been called a lap earlier. Even when the footage showed the JCB still en-route it looked iffy with that many marshals in the area attending to the Sauber.

    The restart would have meant 10 or so laps of racing and the conditions certainly called for caution.

    Not sure if it would have necessarily avoided an accident though as presumably Bianchi would have already been going slower through that section due to the yellows. Not sure if there were double-waved yellows out at the time.

    Has Charlie said anything yet?

    I completely agree with the statement “F1 is not in crisis”. Tragic business though.

    1. Charlie is not saying anything. He did his job and I don’t see why he needs to justify what happened.

  3. Your measured and correct comments require no further comment – they say it all and as it is. We can only hope that JB recovers quickly and comes back to racing soon.

  4. It was a very sad freak accident, and I hope that Bianchi pulls through. I’m sure there are and will be changes that can and should be made, but these need to be done with some thought. The last thing the sport needs is a knee jerk reaction as happened after Senna’s death when they started adding chicanes to the tracks.

    With regards to the race I think it’s absurd that they start and stay behind a safety car for such a long period. If it’s too wet to race then don’t race, but if they are to start behind the safety car it should be for one lap then let them race.

  5. Joe, I respect your knowledge and perspective immensely, however, I can’t agree with you that Race Control did “an excellent job in very difficult circumstances”. I believe they failed dramatically in those critical moments and the costs is now high for their mistake. They had two events that preceded Jules accident where they clearly should have deployed the safety car which would have avoided Jules accident. The first was the dramatic increase in rain and the loss of visibility. The second was Adrian’s incident. Both of these events should have immediately brought out the safety car. Add to this, the number of additional laps ran after Jules crash before the safety car deployed and it is clear Race Control failed Jules in a serious way. I’ve been a long-time critic of F1’s poor use of the safety car; prioritizing the “show” over safety. I believe strongly that change is needed and the teams and drivers need to demand it before racing in Russia.

    1. I agree with you. In addition, not moving the race to Saturday (qualification took place at 40o C) due to the potential arrival of a major event (typhoon) on Sunday (which puts race fans in great danger on the way back home). This means tv interests were a priority over safety. Seemed to me that at that point the biggest priority of race control, organizers, etc was to get over with a GP that should not take place on that Sunday.

      Another big mistake was not deploying SC to check on the status of the track when rain increased. Despite of Sutil aqua planning. The result was 2 cars aqua planned out of track at the exact same point.

      Another safety breach was not stopping the race due to deteriorated weather that prevented chopper service. In Austin we had to wait for over 2 hours for a practice to start while fog dissipated on a cool morning.

      In my opinion, SC should be called in every time an outside agent (golf term) interferes with safety assets (barriers, tire barriers, sand traps, etc).

    2. I’m not sure what you mean with, “… the additional laps ran after Jules crash before the safety car deployed…”. The film circulating on the Internet of the crash clearly shows the SC board being hung out from the same marshal’s post less than 90 seconds after his accident. I don’t think it could have been faster.

  6. Hi Joe,

    Hoping that Jules will at some point walk away and will be able to pick up his career.
    However what will the team do in the mean while? Will they find a replacement driver for Sochi already or is there not enough time for this?

  7. I fully agree with you!

    Nevertheless, I think that FIA didn’t learn some obvious (and lucky) lessons: I mean Nürburgring 2007 (where Liuzzi was very lucky to avoid hitting the SC first and a tractor seconds later) and Michael Schumacher marginally escaping a tractor at Interlagos (don’t remember the year, it was extracting a Jaguar shortly after “Senna S”). There are surely others…

    It’s very clear that hitting a tractor will be hundreds of times worse than hitting another car, as it won’t flex at all and almost all of the energy will be absorbed by the car components.
    Such kind of machine should never be in the path of a racing car and even less if it’s a single seater’s racing. So, in case the circumstances are such that a crane or a tractor are needed, the race should be suspended or – at the very least – the next car passing near that crane/tractor should be the Safety Car.

  8. A fine piece – informative, unemotional – just giving the facts; a far cry from a lot of the hysterical crap that I’m sure we’ll all see over the coming days churned out by the generally uninformed who know nothing about or, indeed, care nothing about the sport. Agree with the comments about race control; hindsight is always a wonderful thing. Up until the end, the race had me on the edge of my seat – especially the duel up front. Jules, keep fighting and please pull through. You & friends & family will be in my thoughts and, I suspect, many others.

  9. The circuit owners and promoters Honda were correct to stay with the original start time, rather than bring it forward to 11am. No one likes to see a race start under the safety car yet eventually what a terrific race we witnessed; Lewis’s move on Nico was sublime. Thoughts and prayers with Jules and family

  10. It does pain me every time I read an article such as the one in the Guardian, saying F1 is in crisis. What a load of twaddle. This a terrible time for the Bianchi family, but accidents will happen, it is the nature of such things.
    Race Control did a pretty good job, although I thought they were overly cautious at the start. One thing though, perhaps all track side tractors and cranes need redesigning so that if a car hits one, it does not pass underneath?

    1. If you’re talking about Giles Richards’ article from yesterday, it says nothing about F1 being in crisis, it says, “F1 knows it will now have to undergo a bout of serious self-examination.” That, surely, is inevitable as media and social media alike demand a response. I thought it was quite a measured and balanced article.

      As for tractors being redesigned to prevent cars going underneath them, surely that’s a knee-jerk reaction? To remove the danger to drivers in the event of a collision, they would need a “skirt” of tyres three deep just the same as the safety barriers.

      Nevertheless, I agree that race control did as good a job as possible under the circumstances.

  11. Clear video of Bianchi’s impact (but not of his slide off of the track) has emerged online and it’s horrifying. The car hit the back of the tractor at roughly a 45 deg. angle and the Marussia’s nose submarined under it and threw the tractor up in the air as Bianchi’s helmet, airbox, and roll hoop slammed into the solid tractor back.

    I’m not happy with Max Mosely’s statement. Because it was a freak accident does not mean the powers that be shouldn’t be trying to visualize and thus subsequently mitigate potential future serious accidents. It cannot only take a genius for someone to figure out that if there’s a way for this to happen then there’s a way to visualize scenarios and create rules that further lessen their possibility.

    1. I have removed the links to the videos because I do not believe that such things should be broadcast (on the grounds of taste). I think what MNosley said was very sensible and measured.

      1. Thanks for the guidance on your position about the links, Joe, and I won’t do that again. And I’ll reconsider Mosley’s piece further.

        Independent of that, I do still strongly feel that the powers need to brainstorm as many theoretical accidents as they can (admittedly easier with stationary objects like walls and tire barriers as opposed moving tractors) and smartly create new policies. For example, how about having different rules and danger scenarios for when a crane/tractor is behind a barrier and picking up a stranded car from in front of it as opposed to if the tractor comes out into harm’s way, in both wet and dry situations.

        Another idea I had a while back is for drivers to be required to slow enough for a yellow flag area to actually downshift a gear or two. This would both ensure that cars are slowing down in them more than they seem to do now (i.e. hardly at all sometimes) and also provide the stewards with a clear trackable sign that the driver indeed slowed down — no sign of a downshift by telemetry in a yellow zone would be an easily confirmable penalty.

  12. Thanks for a very balanced respectfull piece. It’s not many years since we had that storm in Brazil, I cant remember how many cars went into the same gravel trap in the space of two laps, there is a precedent for this happening before so it probably does need looking at for the future, I dont like the sensationalist reporting you see in some places. This was a rare accident, but given the weather forecast for the weekend could have been predicted at some point.

    I do agree with your view that given the circumstances race control did a pretty good job. For the future, starting earlier, when there is a track record of darkeness at the end of the race would seem a prudent piece of risk mitigation as it would reduce the pressure to “finish the race”.

    My thoughts are with the family and those closest to Jules.

  13. I have just seen an apparently genuine home video of the accident and I can understand why FOM did not show it. The luckiest person is probably not Bianchi but the completely unprotected marshal who was holding a rope to balance Sutil´s car. He was facing the track and saw Bianchi coming but would have had no time to react if the car had been coming in his direction.

    Bianchi´s car goes nose first towards under the back of the digger like a missile with such force that the whole dumper is thrown up into the air. It seems that Bianchi was fortunate that the angle meant the cockpit area went under the rising rear part of the dumper and that the digger didn´t crush the car when it came down again. The left sidepod was torn like a tin opener effect.

    A green flag is being waved at the marshal point (I suppose because the area after the accident is back under racing conditons).

    It was a freak accident from a racing point of view and the digger is as far from the track as it could be, however I feel that ther track marshals are risking far too much in these situations.

  14. It’s not often I agree with anything you write, but I think this was spot on. As flippant as it sounds in the wake of what has occurred, accidents happen.

  15. Nice to hear a reasoned voice about all this.

    It’s ridiculous to hear talk about whether or not the race should have been delayed or cancelled when the conditions have been far worse. The fact that there was one (mechanical) retirement until Sutil spun off as part of this unfortunate incident says a lot, I think.

    It was a perfect storm of unfortunate events which is part of the risk involved in the sport. Let’s just hope Bianchi recovers.

    1. Why don’t you go away and be rude to people elsewhere. My enthusiasm to help fans understand things if seriously undermined when people like you come here and write this rubbish.

      1. I just think it is inappropriate and disrespectful to Bianchi for anyone to draw sweeping conclusions so soon after the accident. That’s true for “F1 has done nothing wrong here” as much as it is for all the sensationalist garbage in the other direction. You (and most other F1 journalists), always sound like you have a vested interest in protecting the business interests of F1. On the other hand, you published my post and replied to it, which I very much respect.

  16. “They were cautious without being ludicrous and gave the drivers the chance to race.”
    Best description I’ve read yet. Thank you, Joe.

  17. Jean Todt has a big heart. I met him many, many years ago and was very impressed by him. He is also an extremely practical man. He will ensure that the correct lessons are learnt and changes made. He loves the sport.

    1. I agree in principle but he is not active enough as FIA President in my opinion. And he has surrounded himself with some pretty useless people.

      1. Joe,
        you commented that Jean Todt has surrounded himself with some pretty useless people in his time at the FIA. Frankly that is shocking news given his time at Ferrari where he picked and maintained the best team and did pretty damn well in his days before that at Matra and in rallying without such spectacular financial resources as he enjoyed at Ferrari. Did he loose his touch?

        You have never been one to shy away from shining the spotlight on FOM and Bernie. Maybe the time has come for a considered blog on what the FIA and Jean Todt can do to improve themselves. It is after all, like all sport, something for the fans. In the end the fans foot the bills directly or indirectly and certainly contribute handsomely to the profits. Pretty simple no fans. no races.

        So come on Joe what would you do and who have the resumes they need for the long term if you were selecting a new and improved team at the FIA? We know your agenda for FOM, so now what would it be for the FIA?

  18. Hi Joe,

    The video of the crash seems to show the car going under the back of the tractor almost front first and shearing the top off the structure. Not completely sideward. Can’t bring myself to watch it again but he carried some serious speed into the tractor.

    1. I watched the video several times and the impact was a glancing blow not head-on. It is impossible to say more. The impact did move the vehicle a large distance and turn it around and so that explains why it was difficult to understand what had happened just from the photos visible after the crash.

      1. I also watched the video several times and on a frame-by-frame basis. The tractor was reversing at the time so it had some momentum of its own which contributed to it being raised in the air. It’s not as if Bianchi’s car launched a static object which surely would have moved less. But I agree with Darren: it does seem as if he was travelling at considerable speed.

  19. There is a video from a fans Smartphone as he was watching the recovery of Sutil’s Sauber .. both before during and after Jules impact now online of the crash . Its more like Jules car went head on right into the back left side of the tractor .. lifting the back end of the tractor up massively due to the impact as the car went underneath and beyond . How Jules managed to survive is a miracle . But having seen the video now * .. the chances of a good outcome for Jules seems slim at best .

    [ * Warning .. the video out there is not for the faint of heart … personally even if you find it I do not recommend watching it and am wishing I hadn’t ]

    As far as race control … in light of how many crashed into that corner this weekend along with the conditions during the race .. in my opinion they should not of allowed the race to go green until the tractor was gone . That … was a mistake of epic magnitude and one I’m guessing will come back to haunt them for years to come

    As to F1 being in a crisis though ? How can you say it is not in light of millions tuning out .. races that are at best scripted .. a business model that is rapidly failing .. almost non-existent new major sponsors .. rampant controversy and corruption hiding in every corner … F1 teams falling by the wayside .. a Silly Season turned absolute madness .. and by the looks of things the inmates running the Asylum … especially now at F1’s cornerstone … Ferrari .

    If that is not a Crisis … then I don’t know what is good sir ! Because after following etc F1 since 1964 … this sure as ___ isn’t anything even remotely approaching … ‘ normal ‘

    1. Just one small addition if I may good sir . Once one has chosen a career that places him or her into the public eye as a celebrity of any kind … that person then [ unfortunately ] forfeits any right to privacy when it comes to one’s health and well being . Personally .. its an aspect of celebrity I despise and no small part of my decision to walk away from it all when the opportunity arose . But that is the [ unwritten ] contract one signs when one choses a career in the public limelight .

      1. No, it does not. In my view once a person is in a hospital it is no-one’s business but the victim, his family and the doctors. The rest of us have no rights to stick our noses behind closed doors.

    1. I try to talk to them sometimes to make sure that they get facts, rather than rumours. I did a bit of that on Sunday night at Suzuka but information was fairly sparse at the time.

  20. I agree it was freak circumstances, but these amateur marshals need better training or directing. The corner working is waving a green flag while the car is being towed off and even after Bianchi hits the tractor with devastating force. I’m sure you’ve seen the video. It is very disturbing. It is also lucky that at least two of those workers aren’t dead.

  21. Joe, thanks much for the balanced opinion in a sea of bloody rumors. Wish people would be more sensitive in such times, especially when it comes to spreading rumors.

  22. Another elegant and thoughtful post, Joe, characteristic of this blog which is why I enjoy reading it so much. As an F1 fan for 30 years and a journalist myself (albeit as a non-specialist radio news reporter) it strikes me that the problem for the F1 with this crash is that it appears to the outside world to be almost an exactly repeat of the Brundle incident at Suzuka in 94, and that, to the average hack and media consume,r will look like someone, somewhere has been negligent – and our trade sees it as its duty, if not its right, to find that person and point its finger at them.

  23. My thought and prayers go out to Jules & his family, this is a very sad time and I wish Jules all the luck the world has to offer in his speedy recovery

    Very interesting article Joe, I knew none of what you have said about Jules family so thank you for posting it. I too agree race control did a good job balancing safety against racing, however I hope we never see recovery trucks or personnel on track again in very wet conditions without a safety car being deployed first. They saying is lightning never strikes the same place twice but we all know it does constantly, just like if 1 car has aquaplaned off the track at a particular corner its highly likely someone else will to.

    I have seen both the video of the incident and the photo of Jules being attended to by the doctor, are you confident his helmet did not strike the crane as the two seem to some how contradict each other. In other words, Is the injury related to massive deceleration or impact?

  24. Very very saddening, especially as Bianchi is one of the most impressive young men in F1, and a rare talent indeed.
    Like many, I’m waiting and hoping for the best.

  25. Also, most of the journalists in the mainstream media as well as users commenting know nothing about motorsports. In fact, I’ve see some questioning whether racing should be allowed to take place in any type of rain at all. This is what we’re dealing with. Shoddy journalism and commentary from know-nothings suddenly looking to a police sport they only found out existed 30 seconds ago.

  26. Having seen the accident it was a truly horrific crash. The only solution I can think of is along with revised procedures for vehicle recovery, that the tractor have plating or shielding around them like military vehicles that prevent cars from sliding under the vehicle.

    It’s almost a welcome distraction that the internet is awash with utterly absurd rumours about Alonso at the moment.

  27. Video shows typical novice track workers. The tractor doesn’t look well suited to remove cars. Its just the typical crap you get at all race tracks. F1 is not in crisis true but it just continues to show how these tracks are forced to work on a shoestring budget to pay for the F1 races or any racing.
    In the 70’s I witnessed how difficult is was to keep Mosport running. Nothing was simple, the pit garages burned down, concession stands blew up, stands not fit for use and half of the people get stuck parking (same wreckers from the race would be used to get people out). Nothing has changed, some places still half ass stuff. Even COTA has its rough edges. They have to cut corners somewhere to pay these sanctioning fees.

      1. I understand your opinion however I think you may have missed the point or not. If you have the accident on the highway do you want a construction worker with a modified fork lift move your car with the help of a eager passerby or would you like a purpose built tow truck with experienced driver move your car?

        Honestly every time I watch F-1 races it amazes me to see the three stooges out moving wrecked cars with some sort of farm tractor. The NBC commentators always are commenting and are concerned when cars are being removed from the track from precarious positions. Its not one race but its every other race. How would this be unless novice volunteers are doing the job a professional should do?

        I am sure someone could run through the tapes of the last couple years races and isolate each time a car was removed and analyze the process. I am sure the process could be improved and made safer. Its going to cost someone money. Who will pay and at what cost?

  28. As usual, a measured and accurate post Joe. As a marshal / cornerworker for over 25 years I truly sympathise with Jules’s family – but also with all the marshals and medical staff who had to attend such a tragic incident. I know from experience that it is a traumatic experience – we can only imagine how bad the utterly blameless “tractor” driver must feel right now.

    When a car goes off there is a decision to be made in race control, because there is now an extra hazard near the track, a greater level of danger than before. Assuming that the hazard is not so dangerous as to require an immediate stop to the session, then the decision that must be made is:

    Is it reasonably safe to leave the car where it is
    Does it need to be “tidied up” – i.e. moved parallel to the barriers or pushed a little way but not behind the barriers
    Does it need to be moved behind the barriers.

    Option 1 is safer for the marshals but leaves the hazard there. The hazard to the drivers remains at the level until the end of the session.
    Option 2 involves some transient risk for the marshals as they have to go trackside, and leaves a hazard, but presumably a lesser one. There is no significantly increased hazard to the drivers during the “tidying up” operation, and the level of hazard for them is reduced, but not eliminated, for the rest of the session.
    Option 3 involves an increased, but transient risk to the marshals and also to the drivers as the recovery takes place but results is the total removal of the hazard for the rest of the session.

    Clerks / stewards make this kind of value decision week in week out around the world. This increased risk during recovery is why the rules about slowing down significantly is rigorously enforced (except in F1 and a few other categories). Poor Jules may have contributed to his accident but that discussion is totally for another time. I believe that the Stewards on this occasion make a sensible decision and, very unfortunately, circumstances combined to result in a tragic outcome. Whilst it might be possible to make the “tractors” a little safer to hit in F1, the costs involved would be totally impossible for your typical clubbie meeting. Similarly it might just be possible to have cranes able to reach all parts of a GP circuit, but financially, and probably physically, impossible to do so at non GP circuits. I do hope that there is no knee-jerk reaction to this; I am absolutely sure it will be examined in detail and conclusions drawn – let’s wait for them folks!

  29. Whilst I totally agree with your sentiments here, I cannot help but keep coming back to the words you wrote last week.

    Why hold a race in Japan at the height of the Typhoon season?

    We all know the obvious answer to this simple question – it goes something like “money grabbing bastards”

  30. I really do not understand all these people who say owhh they should have stopped earlier or not have started or not have started so late…..this was a freak accident, if F1 can learn from it and do things a different way the next time they will. But this could also have happened in the dry…..and if this would not have happened we’d all be talking about this great rainy race….

    Having said that…I am wishing Jules and all his family & friends all the best.

  31. It is unfortunate, but there is no such thing as 100% safety guarantee with racing. F1 has grown incredibly safer now than it was even 20 years ago. There are routine accidents now that may have been fatal not long ago. Each new incident should rightfully spark an evaluation of what went wrong and what, if anything, can be done to correct it and/or prevent it from happening again. But, even after that is done, something else will happen.

    I don’t think this situation calls for sky-is-falling over-reaction. It’s terrible, we all wish the best to Jules, and a speedy recovery, but let’s focus on that and not on sensationalizing the accident itself.

    Also, I completely agree with your point about Jules’ medical condition. I’m sure everyone is curious, but let’s respect the family and be patient.

    My thoughts are with Jules.

  32. We can try to imagine how bad the crash was, but when you see it, your heart stops. Terrible crash. They should mount metal barriers around all tractors to stop F1 cars going under. These tractors are pretty high up and if an F1 car crashes into them, most likely will end up hitting the underneath of the tractor. If they mount metal bariers, they will hit that just like a tyre wall, and the crash structures are designed to withstand crashes like that.

  33. I notice the media is already starting to ask all the wrong questions… It seems to me any issues arising from this accident are easily fixable without messing with F1’s DNA. I hope stakeholders in F1 feel the same way.

  34. I think people must be very careful not to overreact and start apportioning blame where it does not belong.

    This was a perfect storm scenario where everything that could go wrong all went wrong at one moment. Everyone involved in the accident did was doing there jobs correctly at the time.

    The race start time is not an issue as it rained all day and there was actually an hour or so of racing where there was no rain falling. To my knowledge there has never been an accident like this in the history if formula 1 where a car has hit a recovery vehicle so the people on other sites who are suggesting a safety car should be deployed every time there is a recovery vehicle on track are overdoing it a bit I think.

    The best solution I can think of is when it is raining is to introduce something similar to the pit lane speed limiter which can be activated for just the corner where there is danger to limit the drivers to say 80mph or whatever speed and then leave the drivers free to race the rest of the lap. This would then be the same for everyone and can be made so that each driver has to pass through that section at reduced speed the same number of times so it is fair for everyone. That should then avoid anything like this ever happening again without ruining the racing and having a safety car at every incident.

  35. Joe, what do you think about an enforced maximum speed with double yellows? I heard other series have these.

  36. I would like to clarify that in my previous post I meant Bianchi was “lucky” with reference to having even survived such a huge accident – sorry if that may not have been clear.

    I have just been checking race stats and it seems that another factor in the accident could have been the state of his tyres. He stopped on lap 24 so his inters would have been quite worn by then and may not have been as efficient at evacuating water on a wet track. A lot of drivers stopped after him for new inters – Sutil included and there was a tweet on the Marussia account about debating on whether to stop or not.

    It is understandable that at the time he was ahead of Sutil and battling Caterham and that Marussia needed to keep its constructor points lead over these teams – I just wonder if this was a contributing element.

  37. Sutil’s car was right next to an opening amd could be recovered quickly under double yellow without having to red flag the session or a safety car.

    If a retired vehicle is unrecoverable, then a safety car (or red flag as they do in FP sessions) is needed.

    This accident is tragic amd could lead to rule chances that red flags the session every time a vehicle retires…. or increase the number of safety car situations in races by an insane ammount…

    There is always risk but I really think that when a car is quickly recoverable and the calculated risk sensible and therefor acceptable, that F1 shouldn’t overreact. The acceptable risk does not mean ‘no risk’ amd what that means is what we sadly have witnessed last Sunday… If F1 overreacts now it would be a step back instead of showing maturity by making small sensible chances (like the type of crane vehicles used etc)

    This is just my opinion though and I could imagine emotional reactions viewing this opinion as invalid.

  38. F1 is not in a crisis…. not because of this sad, possibly entirely avoidable, event, no.

    But the possibly in the above statement is a possibly rooted I think in a form of crisis.

    No, I do not want to be bleating the sky’s falling in. It’s a very difficult line, between expressing genuine concern, and being objective when things are patently in great difficulty. I personally keep thinking, No, F1 is okay, because it can yet do X, Y, or Z. But some ABCs usually come before that, and I worry time is running out. Too many have squandered, it failed to establish, what political capital they might have had, to raise their hands and admit there is a need for change. I consider that a dangerous situation. Some, some certainly, will connect the deeper problems, with this tragic crash. We can only give up prayers and our best wishes, and absolutely I agree that this now is a private matter for Jules’ family. It was so, form the moment he was admitted to hospital. Neither ought the team or anyone come under unreasonable or invasive scrutiny. But my fear remains, that this accident could have been avoided by the very same thing all of F1 needs so much: visibility and daylight.

  39. There’s fan footage of the crash out there now. Such bad luck – the tractor is moving; 2 second earlier and Bianchi would have missed it and passed behind. 2 seconds later and his nose would have hit the wheel and probably been fine.

    Some kind of fender around the tractor body would seem to be what was needed, and very simple.

  40. Joe did you see the horrific video of Bianchi. The flag man was waving the green flag even after Bianchi hit the loader. He finally stopped after someone climbed the tower. I have often wondered why F1 or all professional racing series rely on volunteers and do not have full time marshals. It surely can’t be to save money…..

    1. It was not an error. He was waving double yellows until the Sauber (on the tractor) past his post and thus the area became a green zone. If you watch the same video at 00.08 you will see the yellow zone lights clearly flashing in that sector, with a green light at the end of the sector.

  41. Marshall tower 12 went from waving double yellow flags to waving a green flag before the Sauber had been cleared. That was a significant error. My thoughts are with the Bianchi family.

    1. It was not an error. He was waving double yellows until the Sauber (on the tractor) past his post and thus the area became a green zone. If you watch the same video at 00.08 you will see the yellow zone lights clearly flashing in that sector, with a green light at the end of the sector.

  42. Thanks for this Joe – a sensible overview at last. I’ve been reading elsewhere so-called experts (who weren’t at Suzuka) giving their well-balanced and entirely “scientific” opinions based entirely on the one very long distance TV shot, slagging off Charlie Whiting who of course has no experience and knows nothing about Formula 1…

    Meantime, my thoughts are with Jules Bianchi and his friends, family and colleagues.

  43. The one haunting sentence in my mind was part of David Coulthard’s commentary. The commentator on BBC said something about the race being stopped and DC said that something to the effect that Charlie would wait until there was a serious crash before he brought out the red flags. This was sickeningly unlucky… but I’m sure there are lessons to be learned. Rivers of water… why not better drainage? Why not red flag when clearly a very high risk of aquaplaning? Big JCB’s in the run off areas…. ?

  44. Or instead of speculating on how the car impacted the tractor you could just watch one of the (at least) two videos available online which show the impact was not side on.

    1. Instead of preaching to people who are out in the field and may not have access to the same stuff, you should perhaps think about how easy this job is.

  45. Without wishing to state the obvious, clearly the procedures around vehicles on the track must be (and presumably will be) reviewed.

    However, I do hope that this extends to recovery of vehicles after the race. I was at Melbourne this year, and many rushed to see, photograph and touch the Williams of Massa that was being lifted by a recovery vehicle. It was hairy stuff – people getting right up close to the tractor with the difficult footing of deep gravel, walking backwards, looking through a camera etc. The driver of the vehicle had no hope of being ‘aware’ of everyone around him, and it showed how easily an accident like the one in Canada involving the marshal could happen.

  46. Thanks for a very considered piece that sets just the right tone.

    I wouldn’t usually even think of responding to an article such as this as it feels macabre to be commenting in such tragic circumstances, but it seems to me that the “elephant in the room” regarding the mainstream presses continual quoting of Massa’s “I was screaming for the race to be stopped…” statement is that the majority of the field were on intermediate tyres. Surely, if you’ve still got a tyre choice to go to in order to deal with the conditions, that is the first step for drivers and teams to consider first – “fading light” is obviously a different issue.

    My suspicion is that Massa made his comments in the heat of the moment having seen a close friend involved in a serious incident; it is then continually repeated by sections of the press seemingly to portray a situation where even the protagonists feel the FIA are at fault.

    It feels as though a good headline is all that’s important (to 90% of the press industry) rather than a structured thought process and a bit of respect for all those involved. Can it be right for people to immediately start blaming the FIA and Charlie Whiting in particular for what looks like a tragic sequence of events – particularly when the teams/drivers could have mitigated against effect of heavier rain; but at the expense of track position? To me it just reinforces the fact you state, that these guys are racers and therefore they take risks to finish as high up the field as possible and in so doing provide us with the spectacle that we’re all fans of…

  47. Joe

    the video shows a sickening impact with a very rigid and heavy mass, displacing the mass by a considerable distance. I hope I’m wrong but the lateral head protection crumple zone and helmet internals will not IMO in all likelihood provide sufficient time/distance for the brain to cope with the deceleration.

    Typical values of mass for a crane of that size might be 10 tonne, so for a > ten to one weight ratio the deceleration on impact is going to be very high. Coupled with the height of the counterweight relative to the lateral energy absorbing crash structures on the chassis, it may be that little energy has been dissipated on impact.

  48. The video in question is grim, but it does clarify just what happened and may it at least help to minimise the risk of further such incidents in the future after the FIA has undertaken a thorough investigation. I feel it might help if people should thougt of poor Jules, his family and friends before spreading such footage via social media.

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