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.