Further thoughts on the Bianchi incident

I am now in Dubai and during the eight or so hours I have been flying, a video has emerged which clearly shows what happened. This is very helpful to understand the dynamics of the crash. I do not intend to publish it here (on the grounds of taste) but I am sure that those of you who wish to look at such things can find it easily enough. The video shows exactly what happened and how the two vehicles ended up where they did after the impact. The video shows that the hit was actually a glancing blow with the rear end of the tractor, under the overhang at the back of the vehicle. This is what destroyed the crash structures of the Marussia. One can see how the damage to the left side of the car (which we have not yet seen) was so extensive. The video happens at such speed that it is impossible to ascertain whether Bianchi’s helmet hit the tractor itself, but the G-forces involved in the impact, highlighted by the amount the heavy truck was moved by the force of the impact, were obviously very high. Given the speed that Bianchi arrived, it would have been a huge accident even if the tractor had not been there. The video I saw does show a green flag being waved in the background but this needs to be examined carefully because while Adrian Sutil’s Sauber was being removed from the scene the flagman was waving double yellows. When the tractor with the Sauber reversed in front of his tower (it was only a few metres) he changed flags to green because the sector for which the flagman was responsible had become free of any danger and so the flagging was correct.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 04.45.47If you look at the video that is posted you will see early in it (at around 08.00 on the counter that there was a clear yellow light indicating the caution sector where the accident occurred and there was a green light clearly visible at the end of the sector. So, it is very clear from this that Bianchi knew that the sector was under caution.

And for those who think that the tractor is not an efficient way of removing vehicles, note also that videos that shows Sutil crashing out also show that Bianchi was on the track just ahead of the Sauber. That meant that it was about two minutes before he got to the scene of the accident again and the tractor and crew had almost finished the process of removing the damaged Sauber. And for those who might try to argue about it having been more than one lap, the actual number of the lap on which the crash occurred depended on whether it was counted using the leader’s laps or the laps completed by the driver concerned. I still lap chart each race and quote incidents based on the lap the specific driver was on when the incident occurred, but a lot of people quote the lap the leaders were on when the incident occurred. These are often different.

I have taken a still from the video so that you can see the angle of the impact and the amount that the tractor was moved in the incident.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 04.00.15

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 05.05.14

160 thoughts on “Further thoughts on the Bianchi incident

  1. Not seen the video but if the marshalling is done the same there as here, then the post zone covers half way to the post before it as well, so arguably should still be yellow even if the tractor is in front of it. Not that it makes much difference here.

    Any reason a crane behind the barriers couldn’t be used, a-la Monaco, etc? I don’t doubt the tractors are efficient, but the tire barrier would have been safer to hit and wasn’t the previous fatality at a race weekend from a Marshall getting run over by one of these tractors at Montreal?

    1. Jason C.-J. – there are cranes used at a fair few spots at Suzuka, however the corner at Dunlop is surrounded by grass embankments and a tunnel access road, look on google maps.

  2. Thank you taking the time and starting to put this into context, there is so much miss information out there

  3. I am really upset about the accident. My thoughts are with Bianchi. I am anxiously awaiting updates. That said, exclusive of Bianchi’s crash, there is no way Sunday’s race should have gone ahead. The FIA is supposed to be the governing body. It is about time they start acting like it. They should have forced the race be run on Saturday after qualifying, or better yet not during bloody typhoon season.

    It is high time the FIA started putting the interests of the sport and fans first and not Bernie and CVCs overflowing bank accounts.

    1. Do you mean you believe the conditions were too treacherous for the race to be held or simply it should have been moved up? Hopefully, only the latter.

      For some context in terms of how conservative they’ve become, in 1994 it took 9 cars crashing at Suzuka in the first 15 laps before the race was red flagged due to the rain. It is absolutely impossible to imagine that today. Society’s tolerance for danger evaporates as it demand for total safety increases and F1 follows suit.

      1. I think it is f’n ridiculous to schedule the Japanese GP during typhoon season every bloody year. It isn’t done for the sport. It isn’t done for the fans. It is done to fill Bernie and CVCs already overflowing bank accounts with even more money and frankly I am sick of it. Sunday’s race was not good, irrespective of what happened to Bianchi. It is high time the FIA took control of the sport for the benefit of the sport and the fans and not some greedy a***holes bleeding F1 dry.

        1. Yes, you are anxious and upset and that’s clouding your ability to be rationale. Calm down, and if you can’t go listen to Jenson Button interviews. Being a representative of the GPDA and saying the FIA did nothing wrong might persuade you that you’re wrong.

    2. Kenny, honestly this isn’t oval racing – F1 cars are expected to race in the wet. The conditions at the second restart of the race were fine, as shown by Button immediately pitting for inter’s – that shows how ‘safe’ the track was to race. The leaders, such as Vettel pitted under the safety car during Bianchi’s crash and fitted new INTERS, therefore even they didn’t think conditions where that bad. Lewis was quoted after the race saying he thought conditions “weren’t that bad out there”. Sure, Bianchi’s accident is very sad and unfortunate, but lets not suggest that the FIA, CVC or Bernie are at fault here because they race went on whilst it was wet. At best you could question whether a safety car should have been deployed when Sutil crashed, and I’m sure this will be debated for a long time. But it also didn’t look like Bianchi lifted much under double waved yellows – if the freely available telemetry is reliable he was +150 kph arriving at that scene – which strikes me as excessive under double-waved yellows…

      1. I’ve got no problem racing in the wet but I do have a big problem racing in the middle of a bloody tropical cyclone. Forget about what happened to Bianchi. We would have had a much better race had the race been held on Saturday, or better yet, not in the middle of bloody typhoon season. High time the FIA actually govern the sport they are supposed to govern.

        1. It was not that bad. The typhoon, such as it was by the time it got to Suzuka, was lively but that was at about 04.30 on Monday. It was not nearly as bad as 2004.

          1. Agreed, but the point remains we are only out there when we are because of greed. The schedule is a mess, and only dollars count.

            It seems to me that any time one of the hulking great yellow things is within the confines of the track that the cars should be forced to slow down to SC speeds.

            I thought that before anything happened, and I am pretty sure Brundle does to.

    3. But this is F1. Its a massive, massive business. It is also at a very basic level a very fast disciple of car racing. I wish all forms of Motorsport had a safety record like f1, I would still have friends I have lost over the years. Racing in the wet is part of the game. We can’t pick and choose. All the facts are pointing towards the cause of this accident being down to a driver pushing under yellows. Its no ones fault. The drivers know what they are getting themselves into. Its our own choice.

    4. The FIA cannot enforce that, that’s not their jurisdiction. They offered, and the promoters declined. With that said, most of the race has been run without any incident. The race was started behind the safety car, which according to the opinion of many (including drivers and commentators), stayed out too long for their liking. And starting the race earlier would’ve been no guarantee nothing would’ve happened. These were not extraordinary circumstances under which the race was held (conditions have been worse in the past).

      Until the full details are known about the circumstances under which Bianchi crashed (or which led to the crash), we cannot draw any conclusions nor appoint any blame to anyone.

      I’ve seen many people say this could’ve easily be prevented. All I have to say to that is that hindsight is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t mean there aren’t any lessons to be learned, but the fact this happened, doesn’t automatically mean mistakes were made.

      1. I bet you most of the people who say it was preventable also said that the safety car should have come in earlier at the start and who would have complained if a safety car had been deployed in the worsening rain in the latter stages of the race.

      2. Forget about Bianchi for the moment. Do you think it is right the governing body has no control over when races are run? Do you think it is right the governing body allows the commercial rights holder to schedule a GP smack bang in the middle of typhoon season every bloody year? I don’t.

        I’m not blaming the FIA for Bianchi’s accident. I’m not blaming anyone. But bloody hell! What on earth will it take for the FIA to grow a pair and take back control of the sport they are supposed to control?

        1. They recommended to Honda – twice – that they race be run earlier. But why only recommend, and not insist? Should it not in fact be 100% up to the FIA, morally and contractually? Money again.

      3. Maarten: From what I understand, if the FIA ‘demand’ a race be cancelled, date adjusted, or time of race start altered, then they are financially liable for any further costs associated with this such as Sat time bookings for TV etc. Note the language the press release used where the FIA says they ‘offered’ twice to allow a different start time. I’m willing to bet this subtle but important use of words means that the organizers would be responsible for any extra costs involved in moving up the start time or even to holding the race a day earlier. I’m sure Joe may have further information if this is true or not. I find it hard to believe knowing the power the FIA have concerning safety, that they would merely ‘ask’ the organizers if they would ‘like’ to move up the start times and then (twice) accept the response of no, we’d rather not if there weren’t financial considerations involved in the decision. Smart people (and they all are on both sides) don’t sit in front of a monitor looking a weather radar sites and decide to be intractable without good reason. Money is always a good reason it seems…

    5. Kenny, racing in the wet is a part of F1. This race was not that wet ( most runing was on inters ) and Sutil was the first to bin it all race!! Silverstone 2008 was a far wetter race. There may well be leasons to learn but conditions were suitable for racing.

      1. Re-read what I wrote. I didn’t say I’m against wet racing. What I did say I’m against is scheduling a GP in the middle of bloody typhoon season for the benefit of no one but Bernie and CVC’s bank accounts. High time the FIA took control and actually put the sport first for once.

        1. “Conditio sine qua non” says that the accident wouldn´t have happened if the race had been started earlier as it was intended but shrug off by Ecclestone (and not by Honda as it was told!!)-same way like he wanted drivers to race at the infamous Spa Grand Prix of 1985. At that event, FIA overruled him-time to do it again.
          You may think my comment is far-fetched but that´s exactly the way fact finding commissions and prosecutors are thinking.

    6. I echo the other comments here – as awful an accident as this was – this is F1. In recent years the safety car has been used far too much in the rain. In Korea a couple of years ago the safety car was kept out so long for wet weather that when it came in, every single driver came in for intermediates.

      Bianchi’s accident was incredibly unfortunate. We should perhaps look at the design of the cranes used – their height is obviously not ideal, or perhaps some kind of skirting protection on them. Or even, as a rule if a crane is deployed on track whilst it is wet it’s an automatic safety car – but certainly not at all times which has been suggested by (surprisingly in my opinion) Jacques Villeneuve.

      Some of the most classic races over the years have been in the wet – Hamilton 2008? Belgium 1998? etc. etc. We are in danger of losing yet another aspect of our great sport.

      So, wishing Bianchi all the best, and if procedures can be improved somehow as a result as well then after reflection, great. What we really don’t need is knee-jerk reactions, as mentioned this morning by Alex Wurz – incidentally a top guy to be head of the GPDA.

    7. I disagree totally Kenny. The conditions were not the issue, there were many things that combined to cause this accident and apportioning blame is irresponsible. All the facts are not yet known or have not been made public but I’m assuming you had the same armchair vantage point that I had and its impossible to point the finger at anyone at the moment.

      The conditions were clearly OK to race in as evidenced by the fact that until Sutil did no one else had yet crashed in the race. The only possible question would be whether or not the safety car should have come out after Sutils crash, in my opinion the answer is no as the car was already being hoisted away and would have been clear in another 30 seconds or so. The car was far from the track and so the chances of this accident under double waved yellows was incredibly small. Yes it happened and the consequences were terrible but you cannot remove all danger otherwise they may as well just run the entire race under the safety car as soon as theres a shower.

      Just think yourself lucky you werent a fan in the 60s and 70s when a drivers died far more regularly and thank god that there hasnt been a fatality in F1 for 20 years. We should never get complacent on safety but we must also not overreact and over sanitize everything.

  4. The “not the next lap” argument I believe comes from most commentary not noticing that Bianchi had stopped for at least a couple of minutes later. The Timing app did note that he had not come around.

    Jason C.-J., cranes are fantastic when feasible but it’s not overly practical at most tracks as you’d need quite a few. It works in Monaco due to the lack of space and even then there are some areas where cars are hard to remove. At most non-street circuits, there are too many areas inaccessible for a crane sitting behind a barrier as the cars are (potentially) too far away.

  5. As I commented previously (didn’t show cause I may have botched it) the thing that alarmed me most is the corner worker didn’t have the presence of mind to switch to the yellow flag after Bianchi slammed into the tractor. Regardless of the FIA’s process, this would be the correct action of a corner worker who knew his business. I think F1 does a superb job with on track safety and think this was a one in a million, but with the far flung nature of many of these tracks that don’t necessarily have a huge base of unpaid but very experienced corner workers from racing clubs this is a problem that seems to occasionally impact the quality of the workers. I am a vintage auto racer and you can be sure that flag would have been switched to yellow immediately.

      1. I did. It is green even after he crashes into the tractor. I realize that once a driver has sighted that station’s flag it may, according to protocol, be considered “past the incident” if that is what you’re pointing out.

        1. Yes. That is what I was suggesting. The lights would in any case have been much more visible than the flags given the conditions

        2. I thought it was strange too but my impression was from his position he didn’t get a clear view of the crash so was momentarily unaware.

          1. There has been a lot of confusion over the flagging procedures here – I could quote you the FIA rules concerning flags and lights but I don’t want to bore you Nick. There is no point in waving a yellow flag either right at an incident or even a few yards after it. The whole point of flagging is to give good warning to the drivers ahead of an incident. This corner is a high speed left hander that has a commitment point several hundred yards up track. In other words you pick your turn in point to apex the corner and the last thing you see is station 11’s flag station and the lights on the fence as you turn in. Both were waving/flashing yellow. The theory here is to the give the drivers enough warning so that they can slow or alter their line in the corner or really – just to expect the unexpected and be ready. There is no point already turning in and after the apex someone is waving a yellow flag at the scene of an incident. Too late – nothing you can do at over 300kph. The waving of the green is so that there is an imaginary line straight across the track from the green flag / green lights and it is at this point that the driver can resume being flat out and or pass a slower car if there were one in front of him. Without that green the drivers would have to wait (by the rules) until station 13 in order to resume racing. There are also radio calls from the pits to warn drivers and the transponders at each station transmit a flag status to each cockpit for the drivers. As I understand it, each team is allowed to handle that signal differently – either a light or an icon on the steering wheel display. F1 is the only series where the lights are the primary signals and the flags the back up. For passing under yellow disputes – each light has a radio sensor that reports the car positions to race control (they have a moving map display) as they pass it and any arguments if car A passed car B under a yellow are very easy to solve. Where as in the old days it came down to ‘guess work’ if the pass occurred before or after a flagman. The same rules apply to the flashing blue light as opposed to the blue flag. They count three flashing lights for penalties – not three lights and three flags. We used to say that Bernie was going to just do away with us and run with lights and we wondered if it would happen until someone pointed out computers controlling lights can fail. Windows 8 never fails right? (smirk) Better to keep us old timers out there just in case I guess. We are quite affordable. Oh wait – we’re free!

      2. Hi Joe,

        The sector marshall had greens out, then pulled his flag in at the time of impact. His next move was to reinstate the green flag.

        I watched up until 30 seconds after the impact and the green is out. They may subsequently have issued yellows, but the first post-Bianchi impact flag shown was green.

        Regarding the change from yellow to green before Bianchi’s impact though, while there may be an argument of which sector is covered by which flag, but I find it hard to fathom that a tractor directly outside your flag point is not covered by that particular flag point. Surely the yellow flag should have remained until the tractor and Sutil’s car were back behind the barriers.

      3. The marshal at the adjacent post continues waving a green flag for at least 1min 15 sec after the impact before finally displaying a waved yellow with the SC board.

        Not sure of the specific protocol but that’s not exactly prompt.

    1. If it’s the flag post after the scene of an accident, then I’d expect the flag to be green no matter how big or small the crash in the preceding sector is (unless Race Control have called for a change or Safety Car).

    2. The FIA International Sporting Code, which applies to this event requires that a green flag is displayed at the post immediately after the incident, with yellows beforehand. In this instance, the hazard (i.e. the tractor and car) had moved to an area of the run off area preceding the marshals post. As a consequence, a green flag is the correct option. A yellow at this point would only serve to keep cars at a slower speed after they have passed the accident.

      It is perhaps also worth noting that for all FIA events (be it F1, WEC, or whatever), the display and withdrawal of all yellow flags has to be reported to race control immediately. Race control also receives real time updates as to what is being displayed on the light boards. As a consequence of this, if there was anything wrong (which I don’t believe there to be) with the flags being displayed, then steps could have quickly been taken to rectify it.

  6. Joe – given that Sutil’s car was still being removed, is there any reason why the field might have been travelling round at (reasonable) speed?

    I would guess the answer to removing cars would be to send out the safety car.

        1. That is such a crass thing to say. If you don’t like the blog don’t read it.

          Racing drivers know the risks that they take and still continue to drive because that is their passion. There are plenty of instances where a driver has had life threatening crashes but yet they come back because they want to race.

        2. Joe has a point worth considering. With Sutil’s car well off track alongside the barriers. Why would you bring out a safety car for the rest of the track? That’s normally done only when the track or very close to the track is blocked.

          However, given the conditions and the portion of the track (very difficult corner, very wet surface, few cars on wet tires), it’s worth considering whether that instance called for a SC instead of yellows.

          1. I have no doubt that it was considered in Race Control and the decision taken to complete the recovery under caution flags, rather than stopping the race and bringing everything under Safety Car conditions.

            1. Ah, but with 100% of armchair experts here armed with hindsight, surely we’d have to conclude a safety car after Sutil’s crash, with a message to Jules to be careful there, was what’s required? Obviously the FIA should have warned Jules about the crash, cry the expert home analysts!

              1. Bianchi WAS warned about the accident. Do you not see the lights displayed in the photo I published. There were flags as well. To say that he was not warned is just wrong, pure and simple. The incident was nearly over and had been completed in less than two minutes.

                1. Sorry Joe, I think you missed my point; I was being facetious with respect of the number of newly minted safety experts who have come up with implausible scenarios as to how the crash could have been avoided.

        3. Ronny, maybe you should consider the fact that Michael Schumacher had a pretty bad outcome from just skiing? Bad things happen in life, it is not always someone’s or something’s fault. That’s why these things are called accidents.

      1. Perhaps the drivers could be instructed to reduce speed to the safety car delta, without actually deploying the safety car and bunching them up? I know it would be hard to enforce as different drivers would try to get away with different speeds, but it would at least slow the entire field down to a safer speed while maintaining gaps created by the previous racing.

        1. This suggestion is the most pragmatic and empirical solution that I have seen suggested. There is already a target sector time displayed to the drivers, so the drivers could be instructed to drive the sector that has the yellows to the target sector time, with real time feedback on their dashboard. It would reduce the speed to a safe speed (an actual speed, not a vague ‘be prepared to stop’) and would be equally fair to all drivers, leaving the rest of the track at normal operating speeds.

          The target time would only be applicable to drivers that enter the yellow zone, drivers already in the yellow zone can clear through under the existing ‘be prepared to stop’ rules.

          In the future the track could be split into more than 3 sectors to provide more fine grained control and fairer situations with cars entering the yellow zone at different times.

        2. At the Le Mans 24h, they introduced “slow zones” this year, where the cars are limited to 60kph over a certain section of the circuit, and are free to race on the rest of it. Worked quite well I think.

      2. And this is the point, everyone moans when a safety car comes out about spoiling the race, then they say it should be out all the time when something unfortunate like this happens.

        And to comment its Bernies fault as he is greedy is just ludicrous, the rules are applied and administered by the FIA.

      3. The FIA are solely at fault for this incident.

        Post German GP I said on another blog that the FIA need to get tough on those who barely slow at all in yellow flag zones, and double yellows should be more than enough to cover off incidents such as Sutils off in Suzuka or the spin partially on the racing line in Germany.

        If one driver pushes harder in yellow zones, they all have to push harder. Slowing by 0.5s in a yellow zone is a joke. The rules state that yellows mean slow down and be prepared to stop. When was the last time you saw an F1 car prepared to stop under yellows? Never! If the same sort of reduction in speed is expected from all drivers it doesn’t ruin any races.

        Enforce the rules Charlie, that way the likes of Bianchi’s incident are virtually eliminated, dropping it because they’re going so much slower, and thus this whole accident doesn’t happen – or if it does by some freak of nature it’s at a massively reduce speed.

        This years warning about this (as it happens on a semi regular basis) was in Germany. It was ignored, again.

        Motorsport as a whole, not just F1, needs to learn from this.

          1. The argument is that post German GP, and other near miss scenarios in yellow flag zones, that Charlie Whiting should have enforced the requirement of drivers to slow down and be prepared to stop. He failed to do that.

            If the enforcement of ‘be prepared to stop’ and respect of what double waved yellows mean isn’t ramped up then this will happen again and again.

            Sure you can ensure that races are only run in light, dry conditions with no recovery vehicles on track. That would help. But given how damn close we were to seeing an F1 car pile into another on the main straight in Germany that simply cannot be the answer, we need something that puts this issue to bed once and for all.

            That’s where double waved yellows come in. They’re the strongest warning of danger you can give to drivers. Quite simply drivers don’t respect them and don’t slow down enough, because the FIA don’t enforce it.

            This quote from Lewis Hamilton – about driving past a car with waved double yellows before it – it’s an amazingly frank admission that basically top drivers don’t really pay much attention to double waved yellows:

            “I was really concerned for the marshals, really concerned. You come around that corner at serious speed, and then there are marshals standing not far from where you are driving past. For me that is the closest it has been for a long, long time.”

            Prepared to stop? I don’t think so – and that is the nub of this issue, because if in those yellow zones you have recovery vehicles, damaged F1 cars and of course… people. You can decrease the probability of incident in these zones removing one of the three, but you can’t remove all three. Adhere to Yellow flags though and all of a sudden the chances of meeting any of those are massively reduced.

          1. Correct. If one driver pushes on in a yellow zone they all have to. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Certainly the guys at the lower end of the field fighting for drives absolutely have no option but to push as hard as possible in yellow zones. The FIA are the people with the data and the ones who enforce the rules. They should have put a stop to this after Germany – heck on another blog I frequent we even talked of the virtual safety car idea as we could all see the issue with drivers ignoring yellows. If we can see that from our living rooms then why are the FIA so blind to the danger? There is some thought that the safety cars use isn’t always purely for safety.

    1. Yes you can throw out the safety car for every single incident, but safety car’s cause safety cars and other incidents (Hockenheim with Alesi’s violent accident in 2000, Jenson’s accident at Monza in 2000), so it’s not automatically going to neutralise the danger.

      Double waved yellows where you should be prepared to stop immediately is probably the best solution, but racing drivers will always push, so maybe a target speed as there is when driving to catch up to the safety car is the best solution.

  7. Joe, I have watched that video (and it gave me chills) and it seems to me that if the car had not hit the recovery vehicle it could well have gone right through the space between the two barriers at speed and that the impact stopped it where it ended up. Am I right in thinking this or is it just the angle the video was taken from? I think also we can be very thankful that no one else was injured in this accident too. The marshals there were very lucky and that is fortunate, let us hope that Jules is a fortunate one as well.

  8. I wish Jules a full recovery.
    Upon seeing the video I’m wondering if Jules had any amount of control of his trajectory. If so, was he avoiding collision with the course marshall by taking the more difficult line into the diminishing space behind the crane? That would be demonstrative of a compassionate and selfless act. In fact, heroic.

  9. SC should have been out the out the moment the first car crashed .You may try and defend the FIA for obvious reasons but the fact of the matter is that a driver lies in critical state when in reality he should have been preparing for the he next race.FIA is taking some lousy decisions and its the right time to end the monopoly of Charlie Whiting.

    1. What an arrogant and ill informed post. I take it that whenever Charlie retires you’ll put all your wisdom to use and take over from him.

      1. Why is this ill-informed? Sutil’s car was in a v dangerous position and was being recovered by a tractor crane while the conditions were worsening. According to Joe there was up to two minutes that the tractor was out before it was hit. The fact is that Whiting made a bad call. Just as he made a bad call earleir this year in Germany when Sutil’s car was recovered by tractor crane with the race still on. These vehicles should not be on the track when the race is running. End of.

        1. Charlie did not make a bad call. The tractor was very efficient. Sutil’s car was in a caution zone. There is a very clear lesson here in what happens when drivers do not respect danger. It may not be the right moment to say that, but this is a large part of what any inquiry will conclude. However, I do not believe it even warrants an inquiry. That would be pandering to the hysterical people out there.

  10. I saw the video earlier today and wished I hadn’t, but it was my choice to watch.

    May I respectfully suggest that those photos – especially the first one – are hidden and require another click to reach, or that the top of your post highlights that it contains photos of the accident?

    I watched the clip in order to understand how the car and truck impacted (what angle) and I think your explanation is very useful and might have prevented me from seeking the video earlier today, but the photos come without warning and are shocking enough.

    FOM didn’t broadcast the footage for a reason – and I think they got it right.

    1. I saw the video today as well. It wasn’t until I saw the stills you posted that I fully understand the angle of impact. I cannot believe Jules is even alive. But as others have said, if he didn’t hit the recovery vehicle he would have gone into the barriers and/or outside of them.
      Does the rain make the gravel essentially the same as the track surface? It seems so.

  11. That is what I took from the clip. I have been saying for years that F1 does not obey flags. I race sidecars and superkarts. I race in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Iom and Europe. If I saw double waves yellows approaching a 150mhp corner I would brake down to 50 or as experience would tell me there is something dangerous ahead or marshals on the track. There is something else here no one has mentioned. It is a miracle that none of the marshals were killed. There could quite easily have been 5 killed. Jules is very ill and are thoughts are with him but it would appear that he has ignored the flags and nearly killed a few marshals. If he had of hit people. At that speed and got out and walked away this would look very different. No other disciple lets them away with “a lift” for waves yellows. The conditions were bad. He should have been dam near stopped approaching that sector because of the flags. I once drive past a yellow flat out at knock hill at the BSB. The conditions were so bad I couldn’t see te front of the outfit never mind the marshals post. I was called to see hicks and given almighty bollocking. Seems to me there is no soal searching to be some here by F1, the drivers need to obey the flags and they need to be enforced. Something that is also clear is that jules crashed alot harder than sutil, alot. Is it possible he did not see the flag? His team must have told him? I am sure it will all become clear

  12. A question not (that I have seen) asked or answered by any media outlet: Did the corner workers receive instruction/permission to go on track with the tractor to retrieve Sutil’s car, and if so, by whom?

    Here in Aus, marshalls are not allowed to make such calls on their own…at ANY level of motorsport. A direct instruction from Race Control must be given before you are to go on a Live Circuit for any reason. I believe Fire/Medical might have some levels of authority to make judgement calls…but vehicle recovery is strictly upon instruction when safe(ish) to do so.

    A typical crash scenario like that I would expect to go something like this:

    1st car crashes.

    This is reported to race control immediately by marshalls

    Race Control ask about condition of driver.

    Marshalls report Sutil is exiting and then when safe behind barrier.

    Race Control should ask is car in dangerous position.

    *This next bit is down to training an experience*
    Marshalls should ask themselves “how easily did the car crash into that location?” If answer was ‘easily’ (i.e. it could happen again to another car in current circumstances) then report as unsafe, and wait for race to be controlled before going to get the car.

    The weather and conditions, as well as the trajectory of Sutil’s accident, should have led to Race Control being told the car was not safe to retrieve, and then the SC deployed before the tractor went onto the circuit. This may not have stopped Bianchi’s accident, but he would have hit tyres/wall, rather than a (very unfortunately shaped and height) tractor.

    The rules and operating procedures might be different in Japan, but I think the FIA needs to formalise rules like CAMS have in Australia (or at least how they used to be when I was doing it not too long ago).

    Had a car pulled off to the inside of the circuit on purpose, where no car is likely to ‘natually’ have an accident, then fine, go get it while the race is going…but that was not the case here and it should not have happened.

    Sorry this go so long.

    1. I have no doubt that they were being directed by the Clerk of the Course, under the direction of Race Control

      1. I left a longer post below but agree entirely – a car that has aquaplaned off the track in rapidly deteriorating conditions should be expected to be followed by another, whether or not yellow flags are shown – see Brazil 2003 for a similar situation where luckily no-one was injured.
        The marshalls need to stay behind the barrier as soon as they are happy that the crashed driver (Sutil in this case) is okay and getting out of his car, unless and until a safety car is called.
        Brundle mentioned in commentary (and not for the first time, as one nearly killed him at the same Suzuka corner 20 years ago) just before Bianchi crashed that these recovery trucks have no place on a racetrack without the safety car in place – especially not on the outside of a corner where a car just aquaplaned off the track.

    2. Japan has a strong motorsport tradition, especially on track, and a culture long on rules, hierarchy and procedure and low on judgement calls and initiative taking. I’m sure the marshalls followed correct procedure.

    3. Roo: The recovery people are on another channel and under another dispatcher and cannot act on their own. The corner com calls in flag status, car number and car position. You wait for reply. They may ask if the driver is in or out or they may not as they are looking at TV images anyway. From that point on there is very little communication between the station com and race control. It’s usually one way only at this point – commands or you responding to direct questions. They do not like suggestions and they will tell you pretty quickly if they want a safety response or not. The medical car have their own dispatchers and a call for medical crews from the station is the only call that gets their attention above all others. I’ve never self dispatched marshals without asking. I know one corner captain who did. He wasn’t invited back. The rules for response are totally different in F1 then local racing, WEC/Tudor, Indy Car or any other series. Personally, I would like to see a form of code 60 rules in place for F1. The transponders around the track record speeds through each station and there would be very little need for a safety car. Charlie has the ability to talk to all drivers over the radio net although I believe he prefers not to. I know the Indy Car race Director has done an all driver broadcast on the radio net a few times (chastising them for race re-start issues) so there are several solutions to the way F1 currently handles how they control their racing.

  13. It seems like lots of blaming is going on, but the conditions of the race seemed no worse than others, and the procedures seemed to be up to par as well. Obviously, improvements need to come from this accident and my opinion is while I don’t think a blanket change to bringing the safety car out to remove stranded cars is the answer, I think there needs to be careful consideration to doing it in wet conditions. Especially on the outside of fast corners such as this. What are the current guidelines, if it’s off track then no safety car (just guessing)? Maybe there is a need to assess track conditions and accident location and use the safety car a bit more often, obviously there needs to be a balance between safety and the racing, we don’t want to see safety cars for every stranded car. Also obvious from the video is the marshals were very lucky. Hoping for a full recovery for Jules.

  14. Thoughts go out to Jules and his family.

    Lots of questions but one that occurs to me: why not adapt these support vehicles? I’ve wondered this since 94 with the Brundle incident. Would it take much to add some kind of energy disapating skirt to the vehicle, eliminating that critical point at the lower part of the rescue vehicle?

    1. That had occurred to me as well. Even something like a cage of Armco around the tractor down to ground level would lhelp absorb some of the energy and would let the car’s suspension or lower crash structures be the first point of impact, rather than something higher up shearing the roll hoop off.

  15. It was extremely wet, we have not seen the start of the accident, why are we assuming Jules was not showing caution? Ericsson had earlier slid behind the safety car.

    1. His last known speed was 213 km/u, hardly any slower than previous laps in the green. You can find footage of the F1 app online with the tracker and it shows him accelerating through the corner. That is not heeding to the danger and if there was a car on track, he would have slammed right into it. But he wasn’t the only one, all drivers go as fast as they can get away with past caution zones.

      This accident is a cumulation of 20+ years ignoring of the (double) yellow flag, hell even Alonso earned a podium with it in Brazil 2003.

      Luckily he hit the truck or we could have had 2 dead marshalls to mourn over. They had no chance to evade the out of control car and were in danger of being crushed by the barrier or the tumbling Sauber.

    2. Adam, I don’t think you can compare the two incidents. Ericsson spins accelerating out of a bend, losing traction at relative low speed. Bianchi is travelling at far higher speed and seems to have lost the car during turn 7 which is an uphill left turn where any pitch change to the car will be difficult to catch. Could be that Bianchi lifted suddenly or more probably lost traction on a wetter part of track on his worn tyres and was just a passenger thereafter.
      We can only assume what the conditions were like from what the different teams were doing, unless you of course were there? But some drivers had changed to inters at about the same time, which seems to indicate conditions were still drivable – although part of the very essence of racing is taking risk and near the end of a race like this one there would certainly be opportunities to gain valuable places if you were prepared to take risk. Maybe that is what Bianchi was well aware of too.
      Nevertheless, this was a horrendous impact and quite chilling in the extreme so to me the consequence far outweighs the cause. On the first still that Joe has posted it seems that the driver has really tucked his head in because you can hardly see the helmet just prior to the impact… Or is that just me hoping?

  16. I think most observers would assert that a tractor within the circuit confines is not the safest way to remove a stricken car. Especially with the drivers disregard for double waved yellow flags.
    There are really only 2 options I can see; one is to enforce Le Mans type slow zones between the accident Marshall zones and restrict the cars to the pit lane speed.
    The other option is more complex alternative is to use complex decision analysis programs to evaluate which areas of a circuit are safety critical and place extractor cranes out with the barriers. Wet conditions would preclude more equipment but the accuracy of 5 day weather forecast would allow forward planning.
    I don’t buy into the complacent attitude of a freak accident. That would imply that there are no further measures that would ameliorate the affects of such an event. A freak accident would apply to an event with a 1 in 10 to the 6 probability.

    1. The definition of a “freak accident” depends on your context, there is no absolute definition of the term. Further, a “1 in 10 to the 6 probability” is meaningless if you don’t know what it’s 10^6 of.

      For the record, by some very estimative maths you can get to about 1 double-off incident in 1,000,000 car-laps, if you take a stab at counting every lap completed in F1 (testing, practice, quali, racing) since the Brundle incident 20 years ago.

      Ultimately it’s a question of whether the probability of an incident is worth the costs of eliminating it. Direct costs would include things like buying cranes for every corner (though even with a crane at the corner, we’d probably be talking about a near miss between Bianchi’s car and a marshall putting straps on Sutil’s car) while indirect costs would be the loss of sporting integrity & spectacle if Whiting had to send out the safety car every time a car went off (which we’d probably all be moaning about as being boring).

      The extra costs in safety equipment or lost sponsorship revenue would ultimately be passed on to the fans in some form (congratulations, your collective contributions to the F1 pot has probably saved hundreds of racers over the past 50 years) which leaves the question – how much would you pay for Jules Bianchi to not find himself in intensive care today? What’s more complicated though is, how much are you happy to have *already* paid so that an unknown driver hasn’t died during your time watching F1? Putting a price on the accidents that never happened is incredibly tricky.

      If anyone thinks it’s pretty distasteful talking about the cost of reducing risks while a man lies in a critical state in hospital (and it is, to be fair to you), I’m afraid to tell you that you’re not cut out for safety engineering.

  17. Do you think, having seen the video that another factor was the fact that Bianchi appears to also miss the end of the barrier due to the the marshal station? He appears to hit the JCB then carry on up the escape road (for want of a better description).

    I just hope that all will eventually be well with Jules

  18. Someone shoved the video under my nose yesterday evening. While it does explain a lot, it is truely horrific. The speed Bianchi is moving at suggests he didn’t slow over the run off. Odd that he also went straight. I’d have thought if he aquaplaned, the car would have spun and been at an angle. But as this happened at the same spot with Brundle (albeit 20 years ago) it proves lightening does strike twice. What’s the answer? Too early to say after seeing that. There are a number of factors to consider. However, my thoughts are still with Jules as he fights to recover.

  19. The discussion about using cranes or not is rather pointless to me. A car has crashed and has to be removed as fast as possible. Those marshalls did a great job to get the Sauber out of the tyre wall in less than three minutes.

    The accident is freakish in any way, but yes, it did happen. And we’re very lucky not to have more of these incidents.

    I’ve never understood the use of a safety car really. It takes a long time before they are queued up behind the pace car, thus allowing the competitors to race past the crash scene to catch up. And when a safety car is used, it’s mostly because there are marshalls and equipment in a dangerous place. So you leave them out in the open, and every time you get a chance of an accident like the one with Jules.

    Wouldn’t it be an idea to get the cars to run at pit limiter speed once they are in a yellow zone? And once they are past the green flag, they are free to race again. The speed comes down, and no need to wait like forever to get the safety car period installed properly.

    1. Tom in some parts of the track coming down to pit limit speed would be a reducing of over 200kph. Cars braking that hard to make a line on the track ( that’s what race drivers would do) is also a big risk. What to do in these situation is a difficult balencing act.

      1. xyz, cars break hard for certain corners, it does not seem to be a problematical safety issue in those cases! If every driver is aware there is another temporary thing to break hard for, is there a significant difference?

        I support the idea of working towards a pit-lane speed limiter rule, and/or add a second such limit and limiters, established between clearly indicated track divisions in such situations.

        In many (not all) cases it would also be a suitable substitute for a safety car, which I’d also greatly prefer (even more so against the pitiful suggestion of mid-race standing starts, good grief).

  20. If Race Control can disable DRS, could they not also manage cars’ speeds through an accident sector?

    & perhaps indicate to drivers to run at Safety Car speeds through that area, while there’s marshals & recovery vehicles on the track?

    If the sport did that, then it’s probably irrelevant whether it’s raining or not.

  21. The upsetting thing about this whole thing is that it seems like so much an avoidable catastrophe.

    The circuits, both old and new, are so intricately planned and almost every eventuality is managed through the placement of run offs, barriers and other safety equipment.

    The cars have had their safety improved over many years of painful trial and error, each design iteration introducing new features – some subtle, some revolutionary.

    F1 is a study in risk management. While it somewhat boggles my mind that you can run around at 300km/h pulling 3Gs around corners, with your delicates seperated from tarmac and concrete by just a few inches of kevlar and carbon fibre, it’s a fact that F1 has shown you can make it so safe that us plebs watching take safety for granted. The level of driver protection is insanely comprehensive, and thankfully much of it trickles down into lower levels of motorsport.

    AND THEN someone puts a ****ing tractor by the side of the track, and in almost the precise place where a driver has moments ago careered off out of control. The moment this foreign object is introduced to the circuit, and the race is not fully neutralized with a safety car, you are throwing all safety precautions out of the damn window. Marshalls/recovery vehicles on the track should mean a safety car at the least in my opinion.

    You can argue that it’s better for the race to continue, but this is a step too far for me. There’s an odd love/hate relationship with safety cars in F1 – not used when there’s a clear danger to drivers and marshalls (there were several examples this season before this weekend), but on the other hand you have awful pointless safety car laps because the FIA can’t trust the “extreme wets” that Pirelli supplies or there’s the stupid unlapping process. There’s something wrong here, and honestly hope it is fixed after learning the lessons of this weekend.

    1. The tractors are part of the successful risk management that F1 has excelled at in the last 20 years. Crashed cars have to be removed because otherwise there is a risk of them acting as launch pads for other cars. The primary aim in safety is to keep cars out of the crowds. Thus removing the stopped cars is essential. The fastest cost-effective way to do it is the tractors. These are used when there are cautions. Drivers have to take responsibility and respect cautions. A lot of racing people feel very strongly that safety cars should be kept to a minimum because they influence the racing and so there is a compromise. If the drivers do not respect cautions what can you do? There are different opinions but no-one wants to see races dominated by safety cars.

      1. There’s not a lot that can be done differently. The incident with Sutil was clearly being handled correctly and efficiently by the Marshalls. The only thing one could do would be to have the SC out for each incident, and then there could still be problems with the field catching it up, or change the cars so that they are less likely to aquaplane in bad conditions. Either way, people need to get a bit of a grip on this. Accidents will happen, nothing can prevent them happening in motorsport. They won’t stop happening unless people stop having racing, rallying, drag events, hillclimbs etc etc. In our modern age, it is not something people can understand as they seem to think that real life is like the movies, where the star crashes spectacularly, and instead of breaking his neck, or at least an arm or leg, he is able to extract himself from the wreckage, and chase the bad guy on foot. Even in war, there is this strange idea that one can bomb people with “smart” missiles that will only hit the bad people!
        Jules Bianchi has a very, very unlucky accident. It is tragic that he is in such a bad way, however, he is alive. Not many years ago, he would not have survived such an accident. I hope, like everyone else, that he gains a full recovery. However, I really don’t see much that the FIA can do to improve the recovery of cars in a race. It’s not a video game, it’s real life and life sometimes hurts, it needs to be viewed against that backdrop.

        1. Or the teams and drivers could change to full wets – of course this means track position… Bottom line for me is that the whole thing is a calculated risk that the drivers have to continually evaluate. Sensibly minimise the impact of mistakes of course, but you can’t take that decision making away from them except in extreme situations when all others courses exhausted – where would that end?

      2. I’m not arguing that stranded cars shouldn’t be removed, by tractor or hand, just that it’s too much of a risk for all concerned. We all know drivers will push it when it comes to yellow flags (not that I’m implying Jules did so) – I’d also argue a green flag directly *after* an accident is dangerous as drivers are likely to speed up as they approach the green flag instead of after it.

        And I don’t get this fear that a safety car will “influence” a race. Of course it will. So will mechnical glitches, rain, oil on the track, pit stop mistakes and all sorts of other variables that are totally outside of the control of the driver, so what’s the problem? In this search for ways to “improve” the “show” we’ve overlooked the fact we have a tool that randomly closes up the pack and introduces an interesting and slightly random strategic element. Yes safety car periods last too long currently, but that’s easily fixed.

        I’m not saying it’s a safety cure all (and I am NOT asking for “competition yellows”) but I just don’t understand the current thinking behind its use generally, and I certainly think the decision making in this specific case was wrong.

      3. I don’t remember any fatalities at Silvertone in ’75; or Fuji in ’76 no safety measures at all except for catch fencing

      1. Would cow catcher type bars between wheels and around the rear to prevent the car going under the tractor have helped? I guess there might be a G force Problem but the Crash structures are tested against a solid wall.

      2. The issue is the height differential between and F1 car and a tractor. JB went under the rear of the machine. Perhaps FOM should commission JCB or CAT to produce some modified machines with some crash structures around the lower section of the vehicles, these can be a permantent F1 recovery fleet isn the same way that the Mercedes safety cars are.

  22. From what I’ve seen this was just a terrible accident caused by either a failure on Bianchi’s car or just plain bad luck.

    I’m sure people who are much more clever and have much more information than I will look at it and make the appropriate changes to the way these situations are managed.

    To blame the track marshals or Charlie is frankly ridiculous even with the benefit of hindsight.

  23. Looking at the pictures, the Marussia hit the counter weight on the rear of the truck. The car was travelling at a surprisingly high speed given the double waved yellows (or in this case lights). Perhaps Bianchi saw the waved green flags? I am sure there have been cases in the past (Vettel in Brazil’s title decider, a couple of years ago) where on board footage showed an overtake in a yellow zone but the driver was exonerated by a waved green at the same part of the track.. A sudden acceleration on cold tyres and a river running across the track at Dunlop would make an accident highly likely.

  24. I hear people calling for no vehicle on a live track but in different circumstances, if say a driver was trapped under a car or some tyres then fast intervention could be a life saver. So F1 needs to take stock and considers all scenarios before any knee jerk reactions.

    I would have thought that modern technology could introduce a speed limit in the sectors before and after an incident to coincide with the yellow flag areas. This would be similar to the system introduced at Le Mans this year to avoid length safety car periods but to allow a safe zone for safety crews to deal with any incident.

    Clearly consideration should also be given for a minimum distance of yellow after an incident – say 50m – so if the marshalls post is closer than that then the sector after an incident remains under yellow

  25. A detail nobody is mentioning is why was Bianchi on Intermediate tires? The rain was getting worse at a rapid rate, its the onus on himself and the team to come in for the proper tires for the conditions. I know that is simplifying things a bit but still, he shouldnt of been on the track with inters.

  26. As with many aviation accidents, it seems that in the case the cause and effect were a combination of many small elements that when brought together make for a lie threatening accident.

    – Track conditions (visibility and surface water)
    – Tyre choice (inters with 20 laps on them already) . Marussia was I think the only team not to have changed tyres since lap 25.You could also see that at the time teams were doubting between changing to fresh inters and full wets.
    – Car setup (Marussia oficial tweet about rear oversteer before the accident)
    – Obeyance of yellow flags by the driver (oficial telemetry can shed a light on this)
    – driver´s concentration level e.g.distraction by team radio, fatigue (unknown)
    – posible mechanical failure prior to off (unknown)
    – angle and speed of the contact with the crane
    – trajectory of the car
    – speed of impact (car left track at +-200kph – impact speed unknown)
    – position of the crane
    – position of the corner workers
    – track status (flagging – yellow, double yellow, Green before and after Sutil´s car)
    – time crane was over the crash barrier (+- 2 mins)
    – decision to deploy S.C. (+- 45 secs after impact)
    – time taken by medics to arrive on scene
    – time taken to evacuate patient and transfer to medical centre/hospital

    A small alteration in just one of these elements could have made the accident much worse or less serious.

    If the race had been brought forward, the heavy rain that delayed the start might have been at the tail end of the race.
    Conditions were not bad enough to warrant cancelling the race with wet tyres available – were the correct tyres being used at the time though?
    Should the SC/red flag have been brought out earlier to ensure a safer removal of Sutil´s car or to allow everyone to change tyres? In hindsight I would say yes,but how many other races have been won or lost by tyre strategy – removing this element is further standardisation of racing. We have seen crashes/accidents under SC before (see Ericsson on 1st lap of same race) so it is no guarantee either.
    Could an alternative method of removing the car have been used effectivey? (e.g cherry picker with extending boom)
    Is there a way of protecting the track marshals (in this case one guy could have easily been hit by the car and the other crushed by the crane). i feel this area is the most important to address as these guys are underprotected and their job is unpredictable (retrieving objects and cars from random positions on and off track). More track workers have died or been injured than drivers or spectators since 1994 and not much seems to have improved to protect them in comparison.
    Perhaps there should be a rule that if a marshal or rescue vehicle is authorised/instructed to cross a barrier the SC is automatically deployed In F1 this really only happens on street circuits or very occasionally so I don´t see it affecting the racing that much.

    I don´t want to see any more random guys dressed (however well trained and experienced they may be) in dayglo with brooms or picking up carbon fibre while cars are going by at racing speed – it is a recipe for disaster.

  27. Looking at the video over and over again it seems that the tractor moved considerable in the back upon impact also due to the counter weight of Sutil’s car which was suspended in the air in that moment. Makes me think that if Sutil’s car was not suspended at that moment by the tractor, the impact would have been even more brutal than what we currently know.

  28. In Dubai 24h they use the code 60 system where all cars have to drive at 60kph with no safety car.

    The advantage is that the effect is instantaneous and everyone maintains station – you don´t need to wait for the safety car to come out, catch the leader and meanwhile have other cars racing round to catch up with the bunch.

    The disadvantage is that drivers do not necessarily respect the speed limit all the time (there they only have to obey an average lap time at 60kph not in each sector) so they may speed through some areas and there have been cases of cars colliding due to different interpretations of the rule.

    In F1 perhaps what could be done is to use the pitlane speed limiter and take and average sector time to punish infractions. It may even be possible to engage the limiter electronically from race control like with DRS as drivers by nature always want to try to gain an advantage even by going 1kph quicker than their rivals.

  29. The race could have been started earlier yes, but many drivers (apart from Massa) said the conditions were not THAT bad at the time. They were worsening yes, hence drivers like Button coming in for the full wets. But lets not forget when the SC was thrown many drivers came in and changed tyres and STILL put inters on. So the conditions were still “raceable” in my opinion and no blame should fall on Charlie for that. However, what has always been clear is the danger of a car submarining under a recovery vehicle. This isn’t a new thing, it shouldn’t be a shock that a car could hit one of these in a way that would cause potentially fatal consequences if it went underneath. In some places cranes could be used just as they do in Monaco. However in places where there are higher speeds and large run offs this isn’t always possible. So…. why not make sure that submarining is never an issue by making metal barriers on these diggers, anti-submarine devices like you see on lorries on roads? Sure if Bianchi had hit something hard and metal at the back he would have still had a bad accident, he might well have had 2 broken legs, but he would be tweeting from a hospital bed saying how he can’t wait to be back. There is always the capacity for the “unknown freak accident”, but this was clearly always a danger. I have seen the footage…he arrived faster and straighter than I expected given the conditions and the flags. Let’s not rule out the possibility of a technical failure.
    Finally, I am praying he pulls through and with much more positive outcomes than we have received in recent times with Michael Schumacher. As a Grand Prix driver you know the risks of racing, wheel to wheel contact, pushing too hard, battling with other cars etc. but to go under a tractor in a gravel trap in my opinion is NOT one of the risks that any driver should EVER face. #ForzaJules

  30. Maybe it’s worth considering the option of using a full course yellow like NASCAR etc. for situations where there’s a severe accident (or tractors on the circuit). Especially when conditions are poor but you don’t want to compromise the race with a safety car.
    With heavy rain, going from racing speeds to a suitable speed for waved yellows is enough in itself to destabilise a car and cause a spin, so having everyone slow down carefully might be better.

  31. I wonder if there is any way to add some sort of crash protection to these
    cranes? Crudely speaking a ‘guardrail’ running around the wheels and lower structure. But that could only have a limited effect of course.

  32. I certainly won’t be watching this but thanks for the images which does help explain the damage seen. I guess FOM have footage which in the interest of decency and taste they did not show? Perhaps that can help with any investigation that might occur?

      1. The FOM producers obviously saw everything (the cameras in that sector as well as Bianchi’s on-board camera) but they were admirably careful to not show anything — the only camera angle they used of the incident during the race was from the other side of the Sauber, with Bianchi’s car not visible at all, and the most direct image I can remember was a shot of an extremely worried Graeme Lowden leaving the Marussia pit wall after the message that the race would not resume after the red flag.

        1. FOM now has a pull-back policy with all major accidents until they know the driver is safe. I believe that there is also a slight (2-3 second) time delay on broadcasting, just in case. This is all very sensible because killing people live on TV is no longer acceptable, which I agree with. The only thing I would say is that sometimes trained eyes can work out what is going on and thus hysteria can be kept to a minimum in the Media Centre.

          1. If you want to see the complete opposite of this sensible policy, watch champ car racing. When Dan Wheldon had his awful accident, the sheer number of slow motion replays they showed was disgusting. It was completely unnecessary.

  33. I’ve seen the video of this – pretty unavoidable as I opened Facebook this morning and it automatically played someone’s posting of it – and it’s one of the most horrific accidents I’ve ever seen and I don’t want to view it again. It’s a wonder he even survived as he appears to have hit his head on the underside of the vehicle at full speed.

    All thoughts and prayers with Bianchi

  34. Good explanation of the flag situation Joe, which so many seem to misunderstand. Some people seem to advocate having a Yellow in the sector after an accident as well as the sector it’s in but this would (IMO) be a bad move as it creates uncertainty for the drivers as to whether they’ve already passed the accident or not – i.e. whether there’s a second accident / object around the corner to be avoided as well. With uncertainty comes risk of creating a new accident if two drivers interpret the flags differently and go at very different speeds.

    The current protocol (green just after the danger zone is over) is entirely correct and your explanation is bang on.

    Fingers crossed that Jules makes a recovery. Having seen the video I’m amazed he’s got any chance at all, must have been a glancing hit to his head as a full-on impact to his head would surely have been fatal.

  35. The crash was extremely tragic though even if the tractor was not there the impact of the car into the barriers would have been extreme. There’s lots of talk about recovery vehicles, movable barriers to protect recovery vehicles etc. I’d just like to add my tuppence worth in a solution. During a similar track accident the FIA/Race Director should have the ability to automatically engage the current pit lane limiter fitted to cars in the accident sector, or complete circuit. This could be done under various methods, Driver engages, team engages, or automatic engagement through FIA signal. The cars already display the lights on the rear to indicate the systems engaged.

  36. Copies of the fan-shot footage are already being pulled on Youtube after a Formula One Management copyright claim. Joe, does FOM have any jurisdiction on fan-shot material at races? I’m presuming it’s FOM being overzealous in protecting Bianchi.

    1. If you buy a ticket you accept that not to publish your footage (I believe). Personally I think they are rather short-sighted because they fail to understand the power of viral advertising but they are like that. If it does not pay beforehand they don’t want to know. It’s a very old-fashioned view but you cannot argue with the numbers.

  37. The commentary I was viewing didn’t pick up exactly what had happened until after the race had been stopped, which is understandable. This added confusion and uncertainty. I found myself struggling to comprehend the events leading up to the crash, but still had an uneasy sense that we may have lost Bianchi. I haven’t felt the same emotions since Imola 20 years ago. We pray and hope that he will fight through this and recover. Thank you for the measured comments Joe. #ForzaJules

  38. Just looking at the pic…was he heading for the gap in the barrier? I hate to sound distasteful but wasn’t he heading for a horrendous accident no matter what?

  39. Agree with Saward. Good piece. And I think it’s a bit steep for people to start apportioning blame at this point, especially to Bianchi. Sutil made it clear he aquaplaned and that Bianchi did the same. He probably tried to slow down but couldn’t, he was just a passenger. Regardless, there needs to be an inquiry into the accident to see what went wrong and to make improvements. Wishing Jules a full recovery.

  40. I know that hindsight is 20:20 – but when I was watching the race unfold, I watched the tractor come our for Sutil’s car and I was genuinely surprised at the time that they did not send out the safety car as well.

    We have seen in the past that race cars do not fair well when hitting these vehicles. Its one thing letting them out in front of the barriers when the track is dry, but I’ve always been concerned in the wet – where it is fairly common for following cars to have the same accident as the first car (even with yellows out) – and gravel doesn’t work so well in the wet either.

    1. We were watching the same thing and were wondering why it was taking so long to get the tractor out of the way. What we did not know was that the tractor was not moving because Bianchi had hit it. We knew from lap-charting (yes, we still do that) that Bianchi had gone but we did not know where until we figured out he was behind the tractor.

  41. In the video its clear to see that it could have been fatal for the three marshals. One seemed to bounch off the barrier, and was saved from being sqashed between the tractor and barrier by the grace of God.

  42. Hi Joe

    With regards to double waved yellows what is considered “slowing down”? Using the timing app I have done some quick analysis of the sector times of the lap before the yellows (lap 42) and the lap after (lap 43). It is a little trickier as where the accident occurred is the cut off for sector 1 and 2. It appears that Hulk was one the first drivers through and I have used his Bottas, Massa and Perez’s times.

    Lap S1 S2 Total
    Hulk. 42 43.06 50.53 1.55.70
    43. 43.89 50.90 1.56.86

    Bot. 42 41.99 50.24 1.54.10
    43 43.39 50.49 1.55.91

    Mas 42 42.94 50.52 1.55.31
    43 42.87 50.86 1.55.61

    Per 42 43.00 50.44 1.54.93
    43. 43.54 51.30 1.56.58

    While this is very basic and conditions were changing quickly (although I would have thought it would make them slower on the next lap as getting worse) but I thought double waved yellows meaning extreme danger be prepared to stop in wet conditions and getting darker would result in slower sector times than the above. Massa who was very outspoken went quicker in s1 under double yellows than the lap before.

  43. Long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks Joe for an extremely well thought out and informative blog. This post is more than up to your usual high standards – it is a shame that the rest of the media commenting on this subject cannot follow and use an accident to further their wild speculation.

    As someone with an interest in aviation, we know from that industry that it is important to investigate serious accidents and to learn what we can from them, as it now appears has been requested of Charlie by Jean Todt.

    After Sutil’s car aquaplaned off the track in deteriorating conditions, it follows that other cars may also do the same, even at the reduced speeds under yellow flags. There was a similar situation in Brazil a few years ago when several cars departed the black stuff in quick succession and had the marshalls running for cover.

    Martin Brundle has mentioned continuously in commentary the dangers of these type of recovery vehicles being used to move stricken F1 cars – they are the wrong size, shape and weight. He had almost the same accident as Bianchi 20 years ago and nothing has changed in the meantime, while another driver has now ended up in the hospital. The FIA and circuits spend considerable amounts of time and money ensuring the safety of tracks, only to let a 10 ton tractor *with the lower body at the height of a F1 driver’s helmet* drive to the scene of the previous car’s accident, while the race is allowed to continue.

    My personal view is that with a car aquaplaning off the track in deteriorating conditions, a safety car should have been called before allowing marshalls and trucks to move in front of the tyres and barriers, once they confirmed that Sutil was uninjured and extricating himself from the car. They should have expected another car to follow, yellow flags or not, in the poor visibility and increasing rain. Other options such as computer controlled “Slow Zones” or the “Code 60” that seems to work well in sportscars could and should be considered for the future, but the safety of drivers and especially marshalls has to be the top priority.

    Thanks again Joe for the best F1 blog out there, I really should subscribe to GP+ one day!

    Good luck and best wishes to Jules and family for his swift recovery, millions of fans are thinking of you right now.

  44. The thing that really stands out to me is how dark it is on the circuit.

    Another thing – if it weren’t for the helmet changes that were implemented in both 2009 and again after Barrichello’s suspension embedded itself in Massa’s face…Bianchi would probably be dead.

  45. It looks to me that the waving of the green flag was correct as it was after the incident, as already comprehensively discussed. I do wonder though if the position of this Flag Marshall was not quite appropriate as it would seem he could be seen by drivers entering the bend, and the nature of racing drivers being what they are – always looking ahead and preparing for the next sequence – a “green to go” flag seen could have been acted on instinctively a bit too soon by Jules and he put his foot down a touch early?
    I don’t know if it was single or double waved yellows coming into the accident sector, but I’m thinking it could be worth having a “double-yellow” speed button, in a similar way to the “pit lane” speed button, that will restrict the cars speed under double yellows sections, with a penalty if exceeded/not used? That will help equalise different drivers interpretation of a suitable speed as the tendency will always be to push the speed under yellows to avoid losing out.
    Double-yellow max speed could be set by the individual race track, just like the pit lane is.

  46. I’ve worked on those things and you won’t believe how solid they are.

    I notice with a sinking feeling the access panel to the engine bay is springing open presenting a solid metal edge, and it immediately put me in mind of Maria De Villota.

  47. Hello Joe, a sad issue indeed is what we all are now commenting. I want to take the opportunity to ask about something that’s hovering in my mind about the helicopter…I remember a suspended race where Button won, that If I’m not wrong, one of the many of the reasons for red flagging it was that the helicopter couln’t fly because of the bad weather….I think that it shouldn’t matter if the pilots decide to race with the bad weather, or if the track managers don’t want to start the race earlier to avoid the weather, it doesnt matter if anything IF the helicopter cannot take off due to weather…Let alone the flags and lights warning system, and that the flagmen are doing their job, those days of Ayrton being the only pilot against racing under certain conditions…and that the majority decides that the race is a go are far over….If the pilot of the helicopter had a hamburguer and suffers food poisoning, and if theres nobody else that con fly the helicopter….the race needs to be cancelled…….in this case, the public, the ticket buyers are secondary…..I dont think they are happy at this moment.

  48. There is an inherent problem with running the cars slowly, they are not designed for going slowly, particularly the tyres and the brakes. So while having a full course yellow with a low speed limit could work, you would end up with a lot of cars on very cold tyres and brakes, with the first couple of corners being a real handful… Hamilton was asking for the first SC to go faster as he couldn’t keep the heat in his brakes and tyres so this is a very real problem.

    A limit past the scene of a double yellow seems to be a sensible compromise, you make the area as safe as you can (you still have workers working next to a ‘motorway’) but you at least allow the cars to maintain their operating temperatures as far as is possible.

    As to the green flag, as others have said if you are in a yellow zone you have to obey to the green flag as their could be two accidents, if you have an extra yellow for safety then drivers will get used to this ‘safe’ yellow and will act accordingly, causing problems when their are two accidents close to each other.

    Cranes are great, but you still need a worker to hook them up, and with the very large run offs at some tracks they may not be able to reach to a broken down car.

  49. From what I have seen – particularly one ‘still’ photograph, his helmet looked entirely unscathed. I would think it more likely that Jules injury was caused by the sudden deceleration – he seemed to go from VERY high speed to stop in just a few meters. The level of G force must have been staggering. How the brain injury was sustained however does not matter. What does matter is that he is now being cared for in one of the most advanced neuro facilities around. It says on the back of every ticket that motor racing is dangerous. As a previous poster has commented, the number of risk assessments etc to make every corner of every lap as safe as possible must be huge – bet no-one did a risk assessment in relation to a car going under a tractor – but, here’s the thing. If such a risk assessment were to have been carried out, how likely a risk do you think it would have been? You could I guess reduce risk still further by not having tracks that go round corners – that would have reduced so many of the risk factors in this case, but even going fast in a straight line carries risk – just ask Richard Hammond (again, if I remember correctly his helmet was also intact, and it was the deceleration G that injured his brain).

    1. Re: risk, just a aside, it was noted above that freak accidents might be in the range of one in ten to the power of six. However, for many complex systems, freak events are much more frequent, and Black Swan, is the totem for much of that study, after Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book of the same title. Actually, his much earlier work, Dynamic Hedging, I think is more instructional, if you can think outside the practical financial applications.

  50. Several commenters suggest something akin to race control enforced speed limiting.

    Are there any obvious pitfalls to this, apart from tire temperature and grip issues, and can those be mitigated?

    I think a hold station speed limit would be greatly preferable to safety cars for many situations.

    One possible problem poses: how to slow down to enforced speed when two or more cars are very close, and how then to manage the restart / release? Any others?

    Re: tractors. Are there not smaller, lighter, tractors available? F1 cars do not weigh much, and the tractors used always strike me as a bit on the heavy side. I absolutely agree with who suggested some kind of skirts on any trackside vehicle, should be considered.

    What I don’t like about this, is the divided lines. There’s no cost to the FIA to say that they are open to possible improvements for safety, because that is a statement of policy in itself, not a admission of liability. One needs to diffuse all manner of emotions and reactions, at times like this. Absolute statements, I think, ought to be avoided.

    I’ve heard no mention of the HANS device. If the absence of mention of neck injury is correctly understood as no such type of injury, or no severe neck injury, that is a very truly good thing. I hope, if this has been a benefit, someone reminds the commentators of the fact.

    I could care less for the racing for now, may Jules recover swiftly.

    And may something be considered about the constant Marshall risks. This was shocking enough, I didn’t think what might have happened, until much later.

    This likely silly idea just popped into my head… if a car is unable to turn, going high speed in a straight line, out of control, is it safer to scrub speed by inducing a roll, e.g. by having a kind of earth brake, literally a drop anchor? No, I’m not saying anything like that’s a solution, but I wonder if this has been considered, in what situations it might offer help.

    1. As pointed out on the previous Bianchi accident piece : another problem with dropping speed is that in severe wet weather you slash downforce and may make aquaplaning more likely rather than less. Consequences would be reduced, but accidents may be more likely.

  51. The still shows just how close the sport was to a fatality , a few metres different and it would have been an instant fatality.

    Given how well the tractors usually cope I think that there must be mileage in “cladding” the vehicles using some sort of deformanble product such as “safer barriers” they work on oval circuits. I really dont see it being that hard.

    Bets wishes Jules

  52. A fundamental issue in my opinion is light conditions in the Asia races where Bernie/CVC are trying to run the races at Europe friendly times. In Australia we have drivers complaining of visibility constraints from the setting sun. In Japan we clearly had poor light conditions given the weather and fading light given the late start (3pm local time) and the initial red flag. Running the races from a late local start time has the potential to cause issues if there are any delays (race stoppage, etc) during the race. If the FIA wanted to be even more serious over safety it would mandate a local start based on local time zone, not a one based on trying to catch a wider net over European viewers.

  53. Hi Joe, I’m sure someone above must have commented on the gathering darkness, combined with rain, that may have contributed to the accident? Not to mention so late in the race all drivers must suffer some fatigue and consequent delayed or over reactions?

    Regardless of conditions (and without condemnation) doesn’t this come down to driver error? Over driving the car in excess of what conditions allow?

    Granted, all drivers seek the outer edge of the envelope, but surely, especially late in the race, the envelope has to contract as opposed to expanding given the conditions.

    Hoping All turns out well for Jules and his family.

  54. Isn’t the rule in F1 that there should be no on track action if the chopper can’t go up? Bianchi had to be driven to the hospital in an ambulance because the rescue copter couldn’t travel due to the poor weather, this is clearly not acceptable (even if the Hospital is only 20 minutes ways)
    I would be very concerned if the pilot knew he wouldn’t be able to get up and off to the hospital and this wasn’t fed back to race control and/or the race proceeded anyway. If the chopper can’t take off the race should have been red flagged or run behind the safety car until such time as it could. This definitely needs looking into and clarifying for future races. I accept it was a very fluid situation on Sunday with fluctuating conditions, but the last spat of rain and mist along with fading light came a few laps before Sutils accident. F1 needs to stop its aversion to cancelling races,the obsession with TV audiences and money needs to come 2nd to driver safety.

  55. One of the very first things they drum into you at Race School is that they don’t show flags for the fun of it.

    If they show a static yellow, then something bad lies ahead. If they wave that yellow, something VERY bad lies ahead.

    In either case, drivers are required to slow down – and slow down a lot if the yellow is waving. The idea is that you could stop safely if, when you get to the scene of the accident, there’s a track obstruction.

    Looking at the video of Bianchi’s car rocketing across the grass and then lifting the recovery vehicle, he was clearly going a hell of a speed. It’s difficult to know accurately, without access to more detailed speed info, but my guess is that he was nowhere near being able to slow down or stop once he got to the scene of the Sutil incident. That is ignoring the reason for the yellow flag.

    So for my $0.02, it’s a typical driver mistake – he isn’t the first, and won’t be the last, to ignore a yellow flag, or not react to it appropriately by slowing down enough.

    It’s obviously tragic that he was so severely injured, but Race Control and the Flaggers seem to me to have got it right – wave yellows before the incident and show a green after the accident scene so normal racing can resume.

    The recovery crew were also faultless – they were quickly onto Sutil’s car and had it in the air and were already taking it off track, so neither a Safety Car nor red flag was necessary. In fact, I’d guess they were no more than 10-15 seconds away from clearing it off track completely at which point Race Control would have pulled in the waved yellow had not Bianchi arrived at too fast a speed.

  56. It seriously saddens me to see so many people placing blame here. It was a terrible accident in a very high risk sport.

    The rules of cause and effect are in place here. There are so many “what ifs” that really make it nothing more than an accident.

    As I understand, going slower will significantly reduce the downforce (apparently downforce squares with speed). So even if he had slowed, perhaps the chnnces of aquaplaning would have been higher. Of course the impact would be less and lower speed, but how much less?

    Didnt a car spin under safety car conditions in that race?!?

    Anyway, the point is, dont hate and blame. Accidents happen. Lets learn from it and continue to improve the sport that we clearly all love!

  57. Aside from the title referencing Mario Andretti’s reaction to the death of Ronnie Peterson, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments you have expressed.

    My only wish is that Jules can make a full and proper recovery from this sad episode and continue where he left off. My wishes are with his family and Marussia, who as a team, have suffered so much already.

  58. Is there any case for using a speed limiter? The cars have a pit lane speed limiter which with all of the technology in the cars could surely be activated when there is real danger. It isn’t an ideal solution but there is always a problem relaying on drivers to slow down, it is in their interests to slow down as little as possible, if they slow too much at a flag they get caught by the car behind. I race in karting and when there is a yellow if you do slow right down you just get swamped so there is always an incentive to go at 90% with you hand raised to acknowledge the accident. Doing this can give you an advantage over those who slow right down.

    I believe they do this in the TT after an incident where a bike where a bike went past an accident at 140mph and almost hit marshals. The rider said this was a 200mph stretch of road so he had slowed, but I don’t think a bike coming at 140mph towards you would seem slow.

    Perhaps introducing this limiter when there is a big accident or a crane out in a dangerous place to slow the cars immediately, this would be quicker than a safety car and perhaps less intrusive to the race as it can be deactivated as soon as the accident is cleared and non of the drivers lose time to other drivers who don’t slow as much. It wouldn’t be perfect (they would struggle to keep temperatures in brakes and tyres) but surely something to think about?

    I’ve always been a bit uneasy with the cranes around when cars are traveling at speed. The track layout is designed to take impacts with run offs, barriers, escape roads and tyres, but a 4 tonne truck just doesn’t fit with this.

    Have a look on youtube for 2007 German GP, multiple cars were going off at the same corner and piling up (slowed by the gravel), Martin Brundle comments on the marshals being out there saying he wouldn’t go anywhere near it as more cars will be coming in. The truck comes out and a few seconds later you see a Torro Rosso flying backwards in mid air, almost hitting the safety car and just tapping (fortunately) the truck. After that I’ve always thought this was a weak link in the safety and I think we have been fortunate something like this hasn’t happened before. If you think about it the cranes are always out in the area where a car has just gone off, so a place with a high probability of having another car go off in the same way.

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