Racing is also this…

You will have to excuse me if I quote from the Editorial Column of GP+, but I think that it best encapsulates the racer’s view of what motor racing is all about and what it should and should not be. It was published beneath the headline “Racing is also this…” just a few hours after Bianchi’s accident.

“Of all the Formula 1 racers of the modern generation, Jules Bianchi is the one with perhaps the best understanding of what motorsport can be like,” it says. “He comes from a family that knows only too well about triumph and tragedy. Motor racing is a cruel sport despite the best efforts that are made to try to protect the drivers from all possible dangers. Even with the knowledge and the pain that the family had to endure, Bianchi chose to pursue F1 as his career. He knew what he was doing and we hope that he will be able to one day race again. We have every confidence that the FIA Safety Department will examine the accident in a scientific way and if there are lessons to be learned they will be learned. It is a time for calm consideration. All we can do, all we should do, is wish him and his family the best in these difficult times.”

What is not required at this particular moment is the kind of rampant sensationalism and hysteria that seems that have engulfed the fans and the media, a lot of it based on incorrect assessments of what happened and signals that were misinterpreted. A lot of people are doing a lot of talking and I have seen quotes – misused or not – that I would not expect to see from people who ought to know better. There is no need for any inquiry, independent or otherwise. This all smacks of people trying to take advantage of the circumstances to use the crash as a weapon in political games. What is really required from the sport right now is less clutter and a clear-headed approach to analysing the questions that are being raised about the accident. Science is all about precision and this is what we need. Not waffle.

Adrian Sutil went off on his 41st lap. At the time he was running directly behind Jules Bianchi. A lap lap Bianchi went off at exactly the same place. Sutil went sideways but it seems that Bianchi was going straight, unable to turn the car, presumably because of the wet grass. The fastest men at that point in the race were lapping in 1m54s and 1m55s, which means that the rescue crew had almost completed the job required in the space of two minutes – from the moment Sutil hit the wall until the moment Bianchi hit the rescue truck. That is highly efficient. It was all done under suitable caution lights and flags. Conditions were changing and the track was getting wetter. It was relatively dark because of the clouds that were coming in. However the light signals that the drivers could see were not obscured in any way. There is a reason for everything that was done (before and after the accident). There was no issue with the helicopter. The visibility at the hospital was not by then good enough for the chopper to land. The hospital is close to the track and the ambulance had a police escort and arrived rapidly. It is true that the helicopter did take off at the same time that the ambulance departed, but this was because it was flying elsewhere and had been stood down after the decision to use the ambulance was taken. As far as I can see, everything was done in as logical and correct fashion as possible. There was confusion about the name of the hospital, but these things can get lost in translation and it was swiftly remedied.

The people who are concerned with F1 safety are far more qualified than anyone else to make judgments about the accident – and they are people who say what they think, not what people want them to say. They care about what they do. So we should respect their decisions because who among us is qualified to challenge them? Yes, perhaps those who have been F1 for decades and have seen a lot might attack them if there was something that was obviously a mistake, but that is not the case in this accident.

So all of this other nonsense should be stopped immediately, or exposed as the sensationalism and/or politics that it is. This should not be used as a means of cleaning out the last remnants of the Mosley FIA, nor should it be part of any bigger power politics between the big players. People pushing these agendas should just back off and shut up. And, unpopular though the view may be, motor racing does not – and should not – have to answer to people who know nothing about the subject on which they are spouting forth. I am all for engaging with the F1 fans, but not when one gets into accidents. The real experts are the people running the show and it is arrogant in the extreme for anyone out there on the couches of the world to think that they know better because they saw a green flag being waved and did not understand why.

One needs to look at the accident without emotion and examine every aspect of it: the timing, the flagwork, the electronic flagging systems, the speeds and the attitude of the drivers towards caution signals. Sometimes in life there is no one to blame for something that happens. There are times when there is a need to assign responsibility, but there are also occasions when no-one is to blame. All the officials were doing their utmost to avoid what happened, but it still happened.

175 thoughts on “Racing is also this…

    1. With cars equipped with pit lane limiters, would it not be easy to implement there use on track, rather than deploy the safety car in situations where it was necessary for marshals to retrieve a damaged car or debris from the track ?

      This would ensure that all cars would slow immediately and the race would restart with the minimum of delay with the previous gaps that existed prior to any incident being maintained, rather than lost as happens when a pace car is deployed.

      1. There are dangers inherent in cars being slowed down without the driver expecting it. All too often those who seek to change safety create new hazards while trying to fix old ones. Knee-jerk reactions need to be properly considered. A few days ago people were talking about cages and cockpit canopies. When it emerged that Bianchi had deceleration injuries, it was clear that these would have added to the problem, not helped him. That is what I mean.

        1. Hi Joe,

          I do agree entirely with what you have said and the idea was not intended as a knee jerk reaction along with the ideas of cages or cockpit covers, which in any deceleration case would not be of any assistance, hence the development of the HANS device.

          I just wondered if a half way house existed between a pace car situation and all cars slowing to a set speed on one of the usual three sectors on the circuit, the pit lane limiter is then available as an option to regulate the speed.

          Like everyone else I pray that Jules Bianchi recovers.

          1. Local ‘code 60’ where everyone has to slow to 60 kph have been used in VLN racing for a while with success and were introduced in the World Endurance Championship this year for Le Mans. I see no reason it couldn’t be introduced if, as seems to be the consensus, you can’t trust drivers to treat yellow flag zones appropriately.

  1. Martin Brundle for one has been publicly stating loud and clear for years that the vehicles used to recover cars after an accident are inherently dangerous.

    Why didn’t the powers that be listen and do something about it?


      1. Yes, the “double yellow”. A pair of flags that mean almost nothing.

        I say “almost”, because the FIA does (sometimes) require drivers passing through a double yellow zone to prove they’ve reduced their speed from the previous lap. The problem is that a speed reduction of just a fraction of a kilometer per hour is enough to satisfy the FIA.

        It seems the drivers do regularly ask the FIA how slow do they need to go in yellow flag areas, the FIA never answers. The FIA tells them to “take care” or “drive a safe speed”.

        That’s not an acceptable answer for a Formula One driver. Drivers don’t reach Formula One by “taking care”. They are where they are because they drive as close to the limit as possible, as often as possible. It is not in their nature to slow down unless absolutely required by the rules.

        Since the rules do not require meaningful speed reduction in yellow flag zones, it is ridiculous to expect the type of men driving Formula One cars to slow down. They won’t, not unless those rules change.

        The solution to this issue is obvious. There is no place on an active race course for heavy construction vehicles. If a car needs to be removed, a crane should be available in most runoff areas, if not, call a safety car.

        It’s such a simple solution, one can only wonder why it wasn’t mandated decades ago, just as it has been in every US racing series.

    1. I’m not sure getting rid of the recovery vehicles is always the right solution. But even with fixed cranes you still have the marshals exposed in the danger zone. And while the recovery vehicly was of course very bad for Bianci, it might have saved the life of one of the marshals. Maybe the double waved yellows and the “be prepared to stop” rule should be policed better.

      1. You cannot always use fixed cranes because the base needs to be on solid ground. You cannot always use other methods because of space considerations.

        1. The smaller, truck mounted cranes regularly operate on soft ground.

          There are also all-terrain truck cranes specifically designed for rough and soft ground.

          These cranes would not need the extreme stability required to lift a 50 ton tree or a steel girder. They only need to lift the 700 odd kilograms of an F1 car. Even for these smaller cranes, light weight F1 cars would barely tax their rated loads.

          Monaco is one of the few tracks still using cranes heavily, but other tracks made extensive use of them in the past. If cranes were brought back to wider use, restricting heavy construction vehicles from active race tracks would need not necessitate more frequent safety cars periods.

          These cranes can be rented for a few thousand dollars per day in most parts of the world. A 3-day rental for enough cranes to cover every runoff area of most tracks might cost as little as $100k to $300k. A pittance in the larger scheme of things.

    2. Yes, Brundle has been consistent in his opposition to heavy construction vehicles on active race tracks for most of the past 20 years. He was nearly killed by one.

      Those saying we’re looking at this incident with 2020 hindsight are completely wrong. This wasn’t a rare, special, or a once in a lifetime incident.

      This was an incident that has been widely expected and predicted for a great many years, by any number of people. Year after year, the sport somehow managed to dodge this particular bullet, until now.

      The shame is that the FIA has actually increased the use of these heavy construction vehicles over the past decade. It was quite rare to see one on an active track 15 years ago, today, they’re seen every other race.

      It’s long past time that construction trucks were banned from all active race courses. If anything good can come of this tragedy, perhaps it’s that.

  2. Thank you Joe. This is why I read your blog each day.

    I’ve been appalled at the hype being created by a couple of motorsport websites. It is my view that they are looking for readership and advertising revenue. They are rewriting articles over and over and each one is made to dramatize the reactions of fans and those intimately involved in F1. It is hyping up the accident in order to give it as much traction as possible for their own selfish needs. They make a series of assertions that are based not on fact but on assumptions they have made and these are clearly wrong.

    What we need to remember is that Jules Bianchi is a racer. He loves it and does it because he has chosen to do so. What he wouldn’t want to see is people trying to do what they can to upset the sport he loves.

    1. Sadly I think the MSM want to keep their sensationalism and inaccuracies. It’s unbelievable what certain newspapers publish, to the extent I simply don’t believe any excuse other than willful negligence or worse. I don’t bother to look, unless there’s a specific controversy and I am Interested what factions are at work. But, when I do, I always wonder why Joe doesn’t get a agent to push syndication of some of GP+. I see the only objection is the effect of cross promotion or showing up their own coverage. It wouldn’t harm the magazine to even give away quite a bit. Maybe a link is needed through a sponsor, that might crack some doors open, but I speculate.

      To make politics and bray like demented donkeys over old grudges, using this accident for excuse, is the lowest of the low. I pray for Jules’ return from his ordeal, but I am upset enough by the grandstanding to think that, after a discrete interval, those abusing this young man’s fate for their supposed gain, ought to be barred, permanently, from this sport, for bringing disrepute. And for being utter low life’s…. to show themselves this way (and in so many ways) … I am very short of words, but I don’t want F1 to harbor such amoral scum. It is beyond improper, or possibly even morality, it is inhuman, disrespect towards a life itself, and a insult to the very heart of a sport we know is dangerous enough, without poison viper tongues licking their cracked fetid lips to make a score over one another whilst everyone prays for the body and soul of one in whom we vest the future. Such people don’t care for F1, in my book. Forza Jules. [Unpublishable] the vipers.

  3. One criticism that is valid is scheduling races so that poor dusk visibility intrudes unless everything goes off like clockwork. Sutil said he crashed because the light was such that he couldn’t tell the wetter parts of the track from the less wet parts of the track. Who knows if we’ll ever find out what Bianchi’s report is.

    This isn’t the only race where too-late-for-sunlight start times are an issue. There is no good reason for scheduling the races like this. Baseball had one guy killed in 1920 because of visibility at dusk. They immediately changed the rules. F1 should do the same. If this means that some races start before the preferred TV time in the UK, so be it. People everywhere else put up with very inconvenient start times, no reason UKians can’t.

    Am not blaming UKians in general… but I am blaming the one UKian who insists on doing this despite a history of people pointing out the problem. All along, I’ve wondered if it will take some tragedy to fix this, if something terrible have to happen first. Well, now we know the answer to that question.

    Next question: now that we’ve had the “something terrible” precondition for changing the start time, will it change? Or will we instead get reactionary steps from the top that ignore this problem.

    1. I’d caution that you think with your head, not your heart.

      If the race started at a different time, and a similar accident happened, you would be happily castigating them for moving the start time.

      Should I go looking for your palpable outrage over the Marshall’s death in Canada a few years back? Or is it simply not there.

      Motorsport is inherently dangerous. Allan Simonsen died at Le Mans just last year. We forget this because of how safe F1 is now, but the sport carries this inherent risk. Wringing your hands in frustration and saying what they ought have done will have precisely no benefit other than to further upset you; what happened, happened, and it not called a “freak accident” for nothing. It’s not like it was a “guaranteed outcome of the racing conditions and start time”.

    2. The modern imaging sensors are too good, they are deceptive. If you want to get a idea, Philip Bloom is a videographer / film maker who blogs, and his review of the Sony A7s model shows Brighton beach (small, b as not the other one) pitch black at night, clear as day, or more realistically evening sunshine. Worth a look just for how striking it all is, and how terrible our broadcasts are, by comparison, if you download some sample footage in original formats. No link, as it’s a heavily sponsored site and you have to shuffle down the correct page, even, quite a bit, but I remain astounded at the technical capability.

      As a UKian, I actually do not like the later scheduling. There was a particular delight in being up in the small hours, for the races, and it left me with the whole day as I wanted. The idea totally ignores the fact that most fans I know do not share the same pleasures with their families, save for the occasional weekend trip to the meet, if it can be afforded. Scheduling the Japanese race during breakfast time just seems to be a way to spoil the enjoyment, as everyone else is getting up, kids want to tune in to their programming at that time. Suzuka at 0400 was a séance and devotion. At 0700hrs, it’s a conflict of washing cooking bathing and waking up.. way to go, Bernie, spoiling a almost religiously observed ritual of the night…

    3. It’s worth noting that Adrian Sutil has crashed so much this year that he is fast running out of excuses. Considering that Adrian had driven maybe 70 laps over the weekend by this point, and he’s probably driven in excess of 500 laps of Suzuka in his life, fading light being a reason for binning the car can definitely be taken with a pinch if salt.

    4. I agree with Saward’s thoughts here. Good blog. However, I feel RShack touches on a few important points, which have also been on my mind. I think it would be a good idea for Bernie to review the date and start time of the Japanese GP. I went to the ’98 race which was held on November 1. Late autumn in central Japan is a lot like early autumn in Europe – the nights and mornings are chilly but under clear skies things warm up nicely for a great day of racing, and there’s little threat of a typhoon so late in the year. Also, the ’98 race started at either 1pm or 2pm. It certainly wasn’t 3pm like it does now. I also went to Suzuka last year and the race was held on October 13, which is the tail-end of Japan’s typhoon season. I recall the race was sandwiched between two storms, which struck only the week before and the week after, which luckily gave us a fine, albeit sweltering, race weekend. The missus and I roasted under that sun, whereas in ’98 the weather was perfect. Last year’s 3pm start also meant that by the time we made our way out of the track after the race, and walked 30 minutes to the train station, it was already dark. In certain parts of the track the drivers had the sun right in their eyes for the latter half of the race, which can’t be good. I think Bernie really needs to reconsider these issues if we want to avoid poor light and cyclonic conditions at Suzuka in future.

      1. Do we want every Grand Prix to be held in 73-degrees and sunny conditions? If so we should go to LA every other week

        1. Not at all. I’m talking about the safety aspects of light and typhoons at Suzuka. Last year’s heat is a moot digression.

        2. There’s rain and then there’s rain. If Bernie wants to schedule races when and where monsoons are likely, that’s up to him. But he should have a workable rescheduling plan in case the expected monsoon shows up. This year’s rescheduling plan was, “Ooops, no time, too bad, we’re off to Russia!”

          Apart from the monsoon, do you think they should be doing 180 mph in failing light? Really? If you want them driving around when it’s too dark to see properly, they should have adequate driving lights. Or you might start the races a couple hours earlier to bypass the problem. What’s not reasonable is to have them race in failing light just so Bernie can get more UK viewers.

          In this case, Bernie arranged to have them driving very very fast in very wet dusk. I can’t believe you approve of this… but judging by your comment, apparently you do. If that’s really so, I’m disappointed.

          1. p.s. If you were at home and driving to the store in your Prius in those conditions, I’d bet you 9 billion dollars you would have had your headlights on… and if your headlights didn’t work, you wouldn’t have driven anywhere.

              1. It’s you blog, you can be stubborn if you want 😉

                p.s. I can’t believe you put up with me sometimes…

          2. Were you there to judge the rain? Perhaps Race Control might have had a better idea. The typhoon did not arrive until at least 12 hours after the race.

            1. Am not saying the race should have been cancelled or postponed. I am saying he should have had a plan. He didn’t.

    5. I agree RShack, and it’s something that I’ve mentioned previously in relation to the Australian GP. Ignoring the Bianchi accident, if the rain-imposed red flag situation at the start had continued for an hour or more, as it did in Canada not so long ago, or if there had been need for major repairs to safety barriers like at Silverstone this season, it would have been impossible to run the race to anything like full distance.

      A significant stoppage early in the race would leave Race Control forced to either kill the race there and then or play chicken with the dusk.

      Given the rules now lock in a 4 hour slot for the entire race duration, it should be the responsibility of those who make the calendar to ensure that the entire 4 hour slot is practicable for racing. By the wonders of The Internet, it’s pretty easy to work out that sunset time at Suzuka would have been around 5:40pm on Sunday (9:40am UK time) or, for those keeping count, less than three hours after the official race start.

      Again, independent of the Bianchi accident I think that the FIA ought to step in (on the grounds of both safety and sporting integrity) to ensure that races can be run to the end in safe lighting.

  4. It is absolutely dreadful what happened to Jules Bianchi and my thoughts and prayers go out to Jules bianchi and family.

    The one thing I have learned from formula 1 sitting at home watching it on the TV is when events such as this occur, formula 1 reacts to understand what happened and what formula 1 can do to improve the safety of the sport. Professor Syd Watkins was heavily involved in the safety of F1 and we owe it to him to continue improving safety in the sport.

    I call upon the FIA GPDA FOM to make further safety improvements to improve the sport wherever the experts in safety think necessary.

  5. unfortunately in todays society there is always someone to blame, its always someone else fault, everybody knows better.

  6. You’ve done it again Joe. A clear, precise and reasoned piece. No sensationalist, headline grabbing rubbish. I wish everyobne who is supposedly into F1 wrote like this.

  7. I totally agree with you on this one Joe.

    As I’m sure most of us have, I looked at the pictures showing the Marussia crashing into the mobile crane and if he had missed the back of the crane he may well have got away with it.

    If he had hit the crane head-on the results might well have been the same or worse as the structural integrity of the survival cell in the car would surely have been compromised due to the speed he appeared to arrive at.

    As with Massa’s accident and injury, this is one of those tragic and rare instances whereby a series of factors combined to produce serious injury. Thankfully, no track workers were injured, although they were very close to the point of impact.

    An enquiry would produce nothing we don’t already know.

    Let’s just hope he does recover, but whether he ever races an F1 car again must be in doubt.

    1. It seems that everyone is to blame except Bianchi, without wishing to be unkind, he is the person that crashed under yellow flags. Sure mistakes were made, but as several drivers have said, you shouldn’t be crashing under the yellow flag. Not comparable to Massa’s accident, he had controlling influence with being hit by a spring dropped by the car ahead.

  8. A pragmatic article that says exactly how things should be. So many ‘experts’ spouting forth – the world is full of know-nothings and somehow the world media gives them oxygen. It is very dispiriting to read most of it.

  9. I totally agree, that while there should be fact collection, as FIA has charged Charlie Whiting (presumably under a SoP), now is not the time to start drawing conclusions and commenting.
    However, as implied by the GPDA, neither is it a time for a knee jerk reaction, so often the result of a FIA process.
    FIA F1 safety may be far more qualified than anyone else to make judgments about the accident, but the results and changes often seem to reactive rather than being analytical and proactive. One wonders how much general safety they attempt to absorb from other industries. Being employed as a safety in high hazard industries for over 30 years, I have learnt/used methods from road, rail, oil & gas, mining and many others to improve safety and performance.
    So my questions for later, is why there using lift tractors in a high hazard zone which have already been involved in fatal accidents (supposedly reviewed), when elsewhere cranes are used behind a barrier?

    1. As an example of the FIA’s extensive research on safety (partly thanks to the funding provided by the Spygate fine) I’m told that the powers-that-be looked at recovery vehicles, in particular the ground clearance on some of them, fairly recently, with the idea of putting skirting round them to reduce the risk of incidents such as this. But it was deemed impossible to achieve due to the very reason the clearance is there in the first place – that the height differs due to the suspension of the vehicles and the fact that the wheels protrude from the vehicle when it turns.

      As for the suggestion that they are all replaced by cranes, unfortunately not all tracks are like Monaco or Singapore, and the extensive run offs on some circuits make it impossible to position cranes in certain places.

      Thus the only alternative to such vehicles is to red flag the race every time a car would need recovering, which would never be acceptable to the paying public.

      It says on the back of the ticket “Motorsport is Dangerous” and unfortunately its an inconvenient truth that we are reminded of occasionally. As Joe says, let’s not play the blame game, and instead wish Jules all the best, and leave the professionals to do their investigative work

      1. Cranes used to be used at far more tracks than they are today. All-terrain truck cranes of the type frequently seen at smaller construction sites could operate at most of the run off areas of most of the tracks.

        What is so wrong with calling a safety car to remove a disabled car? The top US racing series have been calling safety cars to remove disabled vehicles for decades. They do not allow heavy construction vehicles to share active race tracks with race cars.

        As you point out, the ground clearance of heavy construction vehicles makes them a deadly combination for low Formula cars. The drivers helmet can be the first part of a car to hit the construction vehicle.

        Heavy construction vehicles and Formula One cars are fatally incompatible with one another. Since the danger construction vehicles present cannot be fixed, their use on active race courses must be banned.

  10. I work in a fairly high risk industry. When anything goes wrong the unqualified pour out of the woodwork to ‘investigate’ with their biases and misconceptions. It does nothing but bring negative emotion to bear. Months later a report will, in most cases, say “Everything was managed properly” but the damage is already done. The slurs have been cast and stresses injected into the system. The innocent are famous and the accusers melt away.

  11. Joe, dare it be said that this was an accident, a set of circumstances that couldn’t be predicted? As any motorsport fan or participant knows, it is a dangerous pastime, even with the extensive safety procedures that are put in place these days. As terrible as the events are, they happened. I certainly don’t believe that there is blame here. We should focus on being hopeful that a talented young driver can recover from what must be terrible injuries.

  12. Why was a tractor in the run off area of a difficult part of a circuit and in very bad weather conditions? It shouldn’t have been there. Someone made a mistake. There should at least be an enquiry into what happened, and someone from outside the sport should make a decision. To say it shouldn’t even be investigated is beyond my comprehension. The silence from the FIA is deafening. What I see is all F1 people, you, Joe Saward, included, trying to make excuses for something that shouldn’t have happened. In my opinion this acciddent should be judged in a court of law, as it clearly was a case of negligence from the race directors. I hope it happens one day. I am amazed F1 does not want to learn from this, as it did in the past. It’ll happen again if nothing is done.

    1. I disagree on two counts.

      1. The tractor SHOULD have been there – this is how cars are removed and Joe clearly outlines the reason that cars are removed as quickly as possible. The tractor was doing this successfully. There MAY, perhaps, be other ways of doing this which are either more expensive or less immediately practical which, therefore, take work and investment to put in place. But there may not be. Either way, the tractor being there was completely normal and something that is done many, many times a season – in my opinion, no mistake was made in sending it to move Sutil’s car.

      2. I don’t know why you think that Joe is saying that F1 should not (or does not want to) learn from this. In fact, he says the exact opposite: “What is really required from the sport right now is less clutter and a clear-headed approach to analysing the questions that are being raised about the accident. Science is all about precision and this is what we need.” He says that the sport should analyse, clearly and scientifically, what happened. What he is saying should NOT happen is uninformed, unscientific, emotional, reactive judgment.

      I think he’s right.

    2. I’m glad Joe appears to have resisted the temptation to reply to your post. He’s probably busy “making up more excuses” as you put it. Rather than answer “Piffle” which was my original response, I thought I should help you understand the answer(s) to your questions, although I believe the answers have already been printed in this and other parts of the blog.

      Joe has explained – patiently – why the tractor was there and why someone did not make a mistake. You may choose to ignore this and keep asking the question, which is easy to do, or you may choose to listen to the reasons Joe has given.

      “It shouldn’t have been there” – oh please… so a car goes off the track and is sitting in front of the barrier – what is YOUR failsafe solution, which will guarantee that no-one will ever get hurt? I’m sure we’d all like to hear it. Not just one which will apply in this case, but in any potential accident case. Please don’t say “leaving the car there” because that is a pretty dangerous thing to do as well.

      “To say it shouldn’t even be investigated is beyond my comprehension” – it is being investigated. The FIA investigates every accident where there is an injury, scientifically. That’s how they’ve been able to improve safety over the past 20 or more years. That’s why cars carry data recorders, so impacts, etc can be measured.

      The FIA has also issued statements, but what they don’t do is speculate. They have not yet had all the facts. When they have them they will weight them up and then you may hear from them.

      If you want to prevent motor-racing accidents (by the way, you should look up the term “accident” in a dictionary) then the best way is to stop cars racing.

      Negligence from the race directors? Really? Start preparing your evidence and sue them then, because clearly they know nothing about race procedures, safety, or anything else for that matter. Real evidence, based on real facts – ALL the facts.

      The fact is, this is not something on a public road, this is a dangerous sport – a fact which it is easy to forget until something terrible happens like this. But everyone taking part knows and understands the risk.

      Motor Racing is Dangerous. That’s not a cop-out, it’s a fact. If a car is in a dangerous position, and the marshals are waving yellow flags, the message is clear to the drivers and they all have a choice.

      I have raced a little in the past, in the early 1980s when it was more dangerous than it is now. No-one ever forced me to get in the car – and I knew I could easily be hurt or worse. I’ve seen people hurt in crashes, both fellow competitors, and before that, when I was a spectator.

      I’ve also stood at marshals’ posts and seen how properly trained the marshals are for every possible eventuality. By the very nature of what they do, they have to be reactive, because they are not driving the cars or operating the weather, so they have no control on what goes on on the track, until it goes pear-shaped OFF the track.

      Oh, and I’ve also stood in the timekeeper’s box and seen how closely the officials monitor everything in the race, and how sometimes it is difficult to make a judgement call in marginal weather conditions. I’ve listened as the chief timekeeper has reported his observations to the FIA; there’s a mountain of data flying about all the time.

      Let’s wait until all the facts are known. If it’s still beyond your comprehension then maybe that court case you are demanding will help.

        1. Releasing a 2 tonne tractor on the outside of a fast corner in wet conditions and poor visibility without a safety car?

          1. You forgot to say for two minutes, with plenty of warning to a all concerned. At least argue with all the facts if you are going to argue.

            1. Until a full enquiry has taken place then everything written here is just speculation so why post an opinion anyway. There are to many unknowns to be an arm chair expert. As they say, those who can, do, and those who can’t write about it….

            2. So, because there was ‘plenty of warning’ are you suggesting that Bianchi should’ve seen it or his responsibility to avoid running into the 2 tonne tractor on the outside of the wet corner? That’s what it sounds like.

              What’s wrong with only allowing recovery vehicles to enter a track under SC conditions like A Prost suggested?

              1. It should not be necessary to bring out a safety car for a two-minute incident with caution conditions.

                1. Joe – do you think it would have been more feasible to bring the safety car out if the current rules about lapped cars etc were not in play, meaning that it may only have been out for a few laps? Surely it must take longer when it requires the field to bunch up, then lapped cars to go past and then catch the field up at the back?

                  I am sure I remember in days gone by when the safety car was only out for three or four laps.

                  Not that I’m saying the safety car should have been out, as you say, they had time, double-waved yellows were being used and these cranes have been used at hundreds of races in the past.

                  The main thing is that Jules has a chance – if this had happened 20-years ago, I doubt he would even have that. I hope that chance becomes true.

              2. Yes that’s what they’re saying and yes it was his responsibility – as per the rules that apply (and are provided) to those who hold a race licence.

                No doubt there is incredible pressure on drivers to ignore those reponsibilities and this needs to be recognised and dealt with better.. by everyone involved.

    3. Sincere thanks, Joe. And totally right.

      @trody- your views are repugnant. Not you, your views. I am a trauma physician, sports specialist, and I also race (autos). But I am alas not omnipotent, which may be good for you, trody.

    4. No chain of causation so no crime committed. And negligence generally means someone did nothing. If they just left Sutil there, and Bianchi hit his car, despite the resources, then maybe you could argue negligence. You probably want to research recklessness as a course of criminal conduct. You might argue that the FIA were reckless to the dangers of having the vehicle on track. But that would be a stretch considering it’s a recognised and widely adopted method across all Motorsport, And that it’s deployed with safety in mind.

      With regard to f1 learning from thus, I hope they do. I hope F1 race organisers can devise a method of neutralising parts of the them rack without the need for a safety car which is a cumbersome solution. Either full course yellow or speed limited zones would be my ideas, just to add the extra level of safety when Marshall’s who can work extremely quickly are doing there job. Without the need for a long, protracted safety car period.

    5. “Why was a tractor in the run off area of a difficult part of a circuit and in very bad weather conditions?”

      Well I thought that was obvious, to retrieve Sutil’s car. The weather conditions whilst not great were far from very bad, as demonstrated by many drivers opting for inters over full wets.

      “It shouldn’t have been there. Someone made a mistake.”

      How else can they quickly clear a car? What if Bianchi hit one or more of the marshals instead, it was under double waved yellows, drivers should be exercising more care and not just for their own safety.

      “There should at least be an enquiry into what happened, and someone from outside the sport should make a decision.”

      No, lessons can be learnt from the incident but an enquiry is not necessary and especially not from someone outside the sport who has no clue as to how the sport operates.

      “In my opinion this acciddent should be judged in a court of law, as it clearly was a case of negligence from the race directors. I hope it happens one day.”

      I can’t see where they were negligent, they followed the same procedures they always have. If the procedures were negligent we would see a lot more of this type of accident. Unless your Taki Inoue it’s very rare for a driver to collide with a course vehicle.

      “I am amazed F1 does not want to learn from this, as it did in the past. It’ll happen again if nothing is done.”

      I’m sure F1 will look into their procedures and if possible find a practical way to make it safer as evidenced by the steps they’ve taken in the past after serious incidents eg: raised cockpit sides, wheel tethers and adding the Zylon strip to helmet visors to name a few.

      One thing that did surprise me is that there is no speed limit under yellows, all these years of watching F1 I just assumed drivers were required to drive at or below a specific speed. Perhaps that could be part of the solution drivers having to drive below a certain speed through yellow flagged sections.

    6. Entirely agree.

      There is no place for heavy construction vehicles on active race tracks, ever. If any good comes of this tragedy, perhaps it will be an end to these deadly monstrosities on active race courses.

      1. They are the most practical means of removing cars. You complain about them but you do not come up with a better solution that does not disrupt the races

  13. When I read your editorial, yesterday, i thought that it summed things up perfectly. Unfortunately, F1 lives and dies by existing in the media bubble of which you are part, so it is important that you continue to help to correct those things which are clearly misunderstood in this feeding frenzy.

    My bigger concern is that all would now be quiet had Jules slipped safely into the run-off, but taken out and seriously injured a voluteer marshal on the way. These are the real heros who must be protected.

    I belive that the FIA acted reasonably given the onset of typhoon conditions, 20 or so cars had passed the waved yellows without a problem before the 2nd crash.

    The FIA’s biggest failing was in not providing a well-reasoned explanation of events to the press within a couple of hours of the end of the race. This could have been achieved by analysing and comparing data from the Marussia and the car it was following and publishing the exact chronology of events.

    It is impossible to turn the media on and off at will, the worst scenario is leaving a media vacuum. Yet Todt belatedly asking Charlie to produce a report now he is in Sotchi seems far too late to stop this rampant speculation, so we now know for certain that it will go on-and-on during the forthcoming weekend.

  14. Fact is the marshalls were working in the runoff area of a fast corner, i.e in front of the tyre barriers. That should ALWAYS lead to a safety car. Sure, yellow flags can be used to warn the drivers, but as we’ve seen they are no guarantee that someone will not go off at that spot. I wonder what sort of discussion we’d be having had Bianchi hit a marshall rather than the recovery vehicle.

    In my opinion, this was the second time this season race control chose to handle a situation without the safety car when it should have been used (the first time was when Adrian Sutil’s car spun and stalled on-track at the German GP). The first time they got away with it, the second time they didn’t.

      1. If the truck is recovering a car away from the racing line on a dry track then the double waved yellows probably suffice.

        However in this case the first car aquaplaned off in deteriorating conditions. No-one and no vehicle should be in the same area as that car unless under SC conditions – it’s too dangerous for marshalls and the tractor is too dangerous for other racing cars – it MUST be expected that another car will follow the first off the track.

        Brundle has mentioned the recovery tractors numerous times, after he had almost the same accident as Bianchi at the same corner 20 years ago. The result that day was a broken leg for a marshall, both that accident and this could have been a whole lot worse.

        Thoughts and prayers with Jules, family and team.

    1. Nah, you don’t need a safety car for getting Sutil’s car out of the way… the crane guys did fine, and the flag guys did right… however, I can see asking if they might increase how much slowness double-yellows demand…

      Am not sure what that is now… anybody know?

      1. As an experienced marshal I can answere your yellow flag question, the yellow flag means Danger, slow down and be prepared to stop, and no overtaking.
        In my experience over the years many drivers adhere to this very well, but there are unfortunately some that don’t, they get reported and the Clerk of the course will deal with them as he or she sees fit at the time.
        I hope this helps.

        1. Thanks for that.

          What’s your opinion about whether the existing rule’s requirements on drivers’ behavior is sufficient? Ditto for the enforcement of it.

            1. Well, it sounds fine to say personal responsibility still exists… but let’s not allow that to be a red herring that has us ignoring the matter of professional responsibility.

              For any sport, the professional responsibility for establishing and enforcing the rules belongs to that sport’s regulatory body, which in this case is the FIA, not the drivers. To somehow turn this around and claim that drivers are supposed to enforce the rules in a way that the FIA won’t do is absurd. It is the regulatory body that has chosen to permit drivers to respond to a double-yellow with little more than a small lift. That’s not the drivers’ fault, that’s the FIA’s fault.

              Why anybody thinks Perez did anything wrong by pointing out this simple fact is beyond me. Apparently, he’s annoyed the members of a club that has some very odd ideas about what the responsibilities of a sport’s regulatory body really are.

      2. How about requiring each driver to acknowledge the double yellows, distinctly over the radio, by saying “slowing down now”, just to make sure they really do know, and are not fully locked into the zone mentally for chasing? I always wonder if a more “upper consciousness” appreciation is required, because of the way the mind processes everything so fast, but a accident scene is not part of the usual high priority programming.

        1. That… or maybe “ah-ooo-gah” horns sounding loudly in his ears… or maybe a rule that says he’s black flagged if he doesn’t slow down enough, first offense, no warnings… or maybe something else.

          ‘More than one way to skin a cat. Carrier planes crash on take-off because the immense catapult thrust confuses the human body about where “up” and “down” are… so an aviator will promptly splash his plane because diving down feels like he’s just leveling off… it doesn’t matter what the gauges say if you think “up” is not where it really is… this is a real problem… expensive too. Well, it turns out that putting vibrating panels in his suit’s back and shoulders helps him know where up really is… it gets through in ways that reading gauges doesn’t… so, some sort of bodily cue might help here too… some kind of physical stimuli from where he doesn’t normally expect it… it can get in at a lower level than thought-based signals…

    2. As a race marshal (approximately 500 meetings, in about half a dozen countries covering everything from F1 to Citroen 2CV racing), I disagree that all incidents requiring race marshals track side should lead to a race automatically being neutralised. The fact is that a significant number of incidents can be dealt with quickly and safely without requiring the race to be disrupted.

      As for how much ‘slowness’ double waved yellows requires, I believe that the only stipulation in the International Sporting Code is that cars slow down ‘significantly’. I don’t believe significantly is defined.

      1. Thanks for that.

        What’s your personal opinion about whether any changes should be made re: what double-yellows require?

  15. The latest news that Bianchi suffered a severe diffuse axonal head injury will surely put the lie to the idea being floated that a cockpit cover of some kind would have made a difference. I’m not saying that cockpit covers are a bad idea, and may be in F1’s future, it’s just that it would not have made a difference in this particular unfortunate case.

    1. In this case a cockpit cover would not have helped at all, except perhaps to have created even more deceleration because it would have been something else that would have been ripped off the car.

      1. You are correct in saying that a cockpit cover would not have helped in this incident. But I also note that you haven’t responded to anyone questioning why cranes and tractors that are allowed on the circuit are NOT crash safe! With so much effort going into providing big run-off areas and proper energy-absorbing crash barriers, It makes NO sense to allow recovery vehicles onto the circuit that are provide no crash absorption whatsoever. Bianchi’s injuries were caused by a collision with a vehicle that has not been designed to be on a racing track. The crazy thing is that It wouldn’t take much to make such vehicles “crash safe”, and that’s the main lesson to be learnt from this. Brundle warned about this 20 years ago and nothing has been done. It’s about time the FIA finally did something about this. And while they’re there, maybe they should also look into whether a “Code 60” type of system would be better, faster to trigger and more effective than a Safety Car.

        I agree that the vast majority of people are not well enough qualified to comment on safety, but please do tell me what is wrong with any of my suggestions.

          1. I agree with Karting Dad in the way that a circuit is only as safe as its weakest link. And in this case, the crane was certainly the weakest point in terms of safety. So the question “How do you make such a vehicle crash safe?” is ironically enough the right question.. But it is a question the FIA should have asked themselves already long time ago. And in this day and age of technological achievements and continuing develoments, there is no way this would not be possible one way or the other. If you would ask a child this question then he would probably answer in 5 seconds just to put tyre barriers around the crane. Sounds silly ? Maybe, maybe not. But if a child can come up with such an answer, then the experts might come up with much more, and they had 20 years time nota bene !
            The FIA has already done a lot regarding safety, agreed, but this is a loose end which should be fixed, and perhaps should have been fixed already. It’s not up to us to put the blame to someone but stating that everything went according to procedure and the accident couldn’t have been prevented anyway and it’s all down to bad luck is not right either.
            It should at least be acknowledged, and not only by the FIA, that something was wrong in this situation.

      2. It seems increasingly to be the case that everything that should have worked, absolutely did work, for the preservation of the pilot. If the braying and unholy abhorrence of politicking were not so loud, even at this stage, one might be more positive, for a enormous amount of design and forethought has at least given us a man, alive, to minster to medically, not a corpse. May his recovery be blessed.

      3. Quite true.

        A cockpit cover seems unlikely to have done any good. It is simply not adequate to prevent the damage from collisions of this sort.

  16. Spot on Mr. Saward.
    As an F1 fan I need to be honest with myself as to why I enjoy it so much. Watching immensely talented drivers pushing to the outer limits without exceeding them, lap after lap, is truly amazing. The teams pushing the limits of technology as well as race control walking that very fine line of ensuring a show on the limits and safety are no easy task. Kudos to them all for minimizing the frequency of the tragedies that can occur. Sadly, on this day, several things went horribly awry. The risks are not alien to those involved in any form of racing and yet they participate with passion and commitment. I thank them all for the immense enjoyment they provide me.
    My fervent wish is for Jules Bianchi’s recovery and strength to all the family and people involved.
    Forza Jules.

  17. This is racing & its cruel!!, We should have a safety car for every “accident” & it should go out as soon as the track’s cleared of any suitable danger. There are a lot of things Charlie got right for Japan, All we can do now is accept the learnings & hope for the best for Jules.

      1. If I remember correctly, the top line of this blog, is a partial quote from Mario Andretti, made in the aftermath of the tragic events at Monza 1978, when Ronnie Peterson lost his life.
        Some things in life cannot be changed, and motorsports will always carry inherent danger in their activity.
        I see Charlie Whiting is to do a report on the incident, for the FIA, and that is right and proper in the circumstances, there is no reason why some investigation should not take place, and possibly, some answers to apply to future races, will be found. There is also no cause for knee jerk reactions or witch hunts.
        However, your article is not only well thought out and written, but is the only logical way to view the matter. As you say, and correctly too, sometimes accidents happen and sometimes there is no one to blame. Life is not black & white, there is a lot of grey involved, and when things like this occur, it is usually the grey that predominates.
        All said, it is still abhorrently grim, and just heart breaking for any enthusiast to see.There are no mere words that can encapsulate the matter, nor make it easier to accept.

  18. Well said Joe, nice to have some clear-eyed and informed commentary essentially pointing out just how misty-eyed and ignorant most of us are.

  19. Here here. A damn fine piece, explained far more eloquently that I ever could, I shall link to it whenever non-racing friends of mine share their ‘opinions’. Thank you Joe.

  20. Having considered the video and now the type of injury sustained I suggest that the recovery vehicle may not be causal in the injury but actually it was the head on contact with the barrier immediately after due to the very sudden deceleration. I have watched many times and suggest that the speed the car was going when its side pod went under the recovery vehicles was dissipated to some extent and therefore it hit the barrier at a lesser speed than it would have done.
    The G figures and belt loadings will tell the story but maybe the outcome would have been much worse if it went into the barrier directly?

    1. In this documentary I was watching, last week, about American Football helmets, some could reduce the effect of a impact, very similar indeed from my recollection, to this injury we are worried about, by as much as fifty percent. Materials can redistribute deceleration forces considerably. In the same way Armco and tire walls, so I think there is argument for impact skirts on all non racing vehicles. A tractor is a radically different story, as a blocker, than any car, a saloon car would have had crumple zones to benefit the oncoming impacting vehicle. Let’s at least look at this. Nothing is cheap, when you include proper research and design development, but even crude approximations of impact skirts could be beneficial immediately. This is why I am upset by the inability of the FIA to deflect blame whilst being open to safety improvements. There was a better way to respond, it took me only minutes to think how it could have been worded. We don’t need blame. But we certainly do not need a authority thinking changing anything for the better is a U turn.

  21. “Even with the knowledge and the pain that the family had to endure, Bianchi chose to pursue F1 as his career. He knew what he was doing and we hope that he will be able to one day race again.”

    Very eloquently put. Bianchi chose to pursue his dreams/passion. I hope he gets well soon and someday gets a chance again to pursue them.

  22. My prayers to Jules and family.
    “In this case a cockpit cover would not have helped at all, except perhaps to have created even more deceleration because it would have been something else that would have been ripped off the car.”

    Joe I have always heard (mostly from Indycar announcers) that the more parts the car sheds the better it is as this is where the energy is dissipated.
    Is your comment meaning with the cover it would have been a better scenario for Bianchi or worse.
    Sorry for my misunderstanding and as always you are the only one to go to logical commentary on events.

    1. One can only speculate as the cockpit covers have not been tried but deceleration can be affected by anything providing resistance to a force

      1. Cockpit covers would be very hard to design, I believe, to be altogether a better solution. Fragmentation. Jamming the cockpit shut. Steering of connected fiberglass, which is very sharp and easily broken. Possible vertical translation of the forces, consider now the car is more acutely being wedged into the ground. Those are just the immediate concerns that would occupy my thoughts, and suggest to me it is a major undertaking to design a safer cockpit, with a cover, if it is even possible to do so. I am already thinking that explosive bolts for emergency release would have to be part of the design, to meet the five seconds self extraction rule. It would be a mountain of detail such as mounting points, the exact shaping of the cover…

        If, however, if and only if, there was a strong and genuinely safer design for a F1 car, that had a cockpit cover, I would never be against it. I would say, then, that it should function as a heads up display, also. At the same time I would want downward visibility for the four corners to be addressed. I would do that with video link to the HUD, down in the lower strip of the cockpit, to give a all round view. Never will I have a objection to safety, and absolutely I think, maybe promoted by the radio ban, we need to embrace more technology, even those some will argue are driver aides. Being able to see the car limits, is the driver aide I think we actually must implement. I can’t think how many avoidable minor accidents would be averted, and I think any argument that it reduces skill is bunk, we’d see no closer racing, I mean by that too close, or reckless, than we do already, but a heck of a lot more clean passes.

        1. Shearing not stripping, second line, first oars, above. Sorry.

          To make the autotypobloopercorrect worth the pixels, can anyone tell what material is the latest or ideal for cockpit cover / car window design? Is there much advancement?

          Also, could the cockpit cover not sit on a sled, against pneumatic pistons, to absorb the forward impact and slow those forces as they translate, by some kind of “cantilever” or translation.. I am thinking like how mire advanced rifle stocks manage recoil forces.

          Is my thinking so silly? That one could then genuinely scrub a lot of the forces when the stopping object is at that level? I really do cursorily like the idea of shock absorber pistons and fluids, that can compress and control the deceleration. Could this be significant?

          I think I just became a proponent for at the very least a plan to be put in place, to look at this possibility pronto.

          I am also wondering how much of the entire cover of the car can be designed, like those football helmets I was watching being tested, to absorb and deflect impact forces away from the body zones of the car. Obviously that would require mire complex manufacture, because I believe the fiberglass is not specially formed and baked to do anything like this, and it might be terribly tricky to get this to work, but has it even been considered?

          Yes, I would be very happy, to see cockpits covered, and maybe even strange body shapes, if we can do any if the above. Maybe then, though now is not quite the time, but maybe then we can allow these cars to run without such constant regulation of power. Customer cars would probably become, then, a necessity. To which I say, bring it on. I only care for the racing, and I don’t care so much for the racing, if we can choose to avoid hurting drivers in accidents, and do not. I think so much is due a overhaul of thinking, and even with the state of technology if now, I do not really feel there is that much technology deployed. Indeed, tremendous resources are expended, by F1 teams, but it is piddling, in real terms, in technology and automotive research.

          1. Looking at the horrific video JoJ, it would seem likely that a cockpit cover might slow things enough for the CAT loader to have landed on top of the Marussia. That wouldn’t help things at all. By the way, the model of loader, would probably weigh in the region of 6000-7000kgs if memory serves me correctly. This is a heavy weight, and to move this as the Marussia did, would indicate a pretty massive force. That in turn fully explains the extent of injury to poor Jules. One has to understand that there are limits to the amount of damage that the human body can withstand, before there are dire results. I reckon it is extremely unlikely that there is anything that could have been done to ensure that Jules could have just got out of the car and walked away. We have all got too used to seeing incredible accidents, such as Webber’s in Spain where the RB lifted off vertically, and crashed spectacularly with Mark walking away unscathed. Sometimes, maybe most times these days, this happens. But there will always be times when the driver, or marshals or spectators, are not so lucky. We live in an insulated world, full of rather stupid Health & Safety restrictions. We think we can send soldiers and other military to war, and no one considers that death, and dreadful injuries, follow such actions. We all need to take a step back, and just accept that this was something that happened from a horrible combination of different things, any one of which, if slightly altered in timing, would have meant that Jules would have finished the race and been on his way to Sochi now. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, and worse, someday some other racer or rally driver or fan or marshal will also get injured or die….it has been thus since motorsport began, and unless we just want to watch video games of racing, with no human participants, we will just have to all accept this fact. It’s sad, but there is no way round it.

    2. “Joe I have always heard (mostly from Indycar announcers) that the more parts the car sheds the better it is as this is where the energy is dissipated.”

      It’s not so good when the part being shed is surrounding the drivers head and neck though.

  23. Another recent racing event which drew an astonishing amount of similar reactionary malarky from the misinformed masses – Tony Steward hitting Kevin Ward, a young racer who walked out onto the track to confront Tony after a spin, in a night time race, wearing a black fire suit and helmet…while the race under yellow flag.

    While the circumstances here are different there is still no end to the commentary of that incident even after a Grand Jury investigation to determine any ‘criminal’ negligence on Stewart’s part didn’t press charges. One of the main themes in their decision not to press charges for the on-track death of Ward? That simply entering a hot track to compete raises the odds of significant injury or death so much that certain parts of criminal law can be suspended (essentially). It was a legal finding that racers accept these risks with full knowledge of those risks and proceed anyway. Those findings didn’t sway the hundreds of thousands of folks who BELIEVE wholeheartedly that Tony Stewart intentionally ran over his young competitor.

    The rest of the rabble tried to lay the fault on the operators of the small dirt track where the accident happened, lol. Everybody was instantly an expert because they say the shakey cell phone video that was shot from several hundred feet away. It will remain a perfect example of what has happened to our society due to the internet. We’ve all always had an opinion, but we’ve made it so easy for anyone to throw it up for all to see. Just like I am here. Part and parcel of the whole affair, I’m afraid. Just ignore it all Joe and keep doing the hard work of real reporting on these issues.

  24. I think the current problem with the safety car are is that it’s often been used to “spice up the show” (or at least it’s open to that accusation due to the inconsistency in applying the rules).

    In theory double waved yellows by the letter of the law should be enough to deal with most incidents where there aren’t marshals or debris on the track itself – the drivers should slow down and be prepared to stop. In reality, drivers are racers and will always try to gain an edge, and the rule is always open to interpretation. The delta sector times are a crude way of enforcing a go slow, but the LeMans style pitlane speed limiter for the section of track would be much more effective, and stop drivers from trying to gain an edge in a dangerous zone. More importantly it’s much more sporting and doesn’t neutralize a race, so in theory no driver should benefit from it.

    When there are marshals on the track itself, that requires a gap in traffic to allow them time to safely work, that should be what the safety car is for. In this situation, the current delta sector time rules actually work against safety in my view, as it takes longer for cars to catch up with the queue, and can lead to situations like in Canada a couple of years ago when a marshal slipped over whilst cars were approaching (although fortunately in this case it ended up just looking rather comical rather than a serious incident)

  25. All you say is correct. And yet…

    There are certain corners and certain tracks where it is considered safer to use a crane than a recovery vehicle for removing crashed case. It was not inconceivable that that corner, with its short run-off area, would one day see a repeat of Martin Brundle’s nearly identical accident in (?)1994.

    Further, if you were to suggest leaving exposed somewhere in a runoff area an angled, non-deformable object made of solid metal or concrete (which is what the counter-weight on a JCB is made of) at helmet height, even for two minutes, people would think you were mad. And yet this is what Bianchi hit.

    Finally, it’s not uncommon for multiple cars to suddenly go off at the same corner when rain suddenly increases. I recall it happening at Silverstone in 2008.

    For all the above, and the approaching darkness, I think a safety car should have been deployed as soon as Sutil went off.

  26. Good call by Joe, but there is a worrying factor at work here and that is how inconsistent F1 decisions are. I think this is something that needs to be addressed more than ever. We have seen Whiting bring out the safety car one week for a crisp packet on the track and the next leave a car stranded lap after lap.

    We need officials to be more consistent, and if they cannot take the decision process away from them. Sunday just reinforces this.

    When one of those JCB things is needed in a wet race, slow the cars down via the delta already decided. This could be done via GPS sensors in the JCB’s and warning on the driver’s dashboards, no need for human input and frailty.

  27. “Sometimes in life there is no one to blame for something that happens.”

    Completely agree. It seems inherent in human nature, however, to seek a reason (or assign blame) for things. At times like this, it’s best, in my opinion, to follow the course you’re advocating and not sensationalize things.

    That being said, I do think the FIA should analyze the situation thoroughly and make any corrections, if any, that need to be made. Maybe there is nothing to change, maybe there is. Either way, let the experts go through the process and do what is needed. And, do it transparently.

  28. This post made in error on the above thread but intended here.;

    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 thoughts are with his family and Marussia who, as a team, have suffered so much already.

    Also, why leave this open for comment when you are so against the internet ‘speculation’. Maybe it is far wiser to close comments here under these circumstances?

  29. I don’t agree that there should be so strong a pushback on inquiries after this accident. Avoid urgent reactions, certainly, but I’d hate to see this dismissed as a freak accident and forgotten. It’s not an isolated incident: it’s the second major head trauma in two years from F1 drivers crashing into obstacles at head height.

    The spring that hit Massa could be called a freak accident. Surtees’s fatal accident wasn’t one – wheels are a known danger – but it’s one that we’ve tried to mitigate to the best of our ability. A similar attempt to mitigate head-height obstacles should be considered. Not at any cost, but it’s entirely possible that the costs wouldn’t be prohibitive nor harmful to the show (which, as opposition to certain safety measures show, is the #1 priority).

  30. Round of applause, Joe. Nice to get the voice of sanity into this debate.

    I have the horrible feeling, though, that this will be like 1994 and the court of public opinion and the media will take over, regardless of the facts. And I won’t be surprised at all if in 2015 we see mandatory safety cars in the event of any accident, no racing in low light levels; and no racing if it’s wet. At which point I think the spirit of Formula One will be extinguished. Hope I’m wrong, but ….

  31. Well Said Joe, in contrast to so much of the usual media rubbish over the past three days.

    Yes we all know it’s a dangerous sport, that is part of the attraction. It doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from accidents to keep making progress on safety at the same time as maintaining the show.

  32. “…and examine every aspect of it” – also: why there are structures present on active racetracks that F1 cars are not designed to hit and line up perfectly with the height of a driver’s head.

  33. Joe,

    Totally agree with your assessment. I’m getting annoyed at hearing all these so called experts in trashy publications say X, Y and Z should be done. They haven’t a clue. Charlie Whiting along with various others have saved tens of lives in the past two decades and I hate ill informed people having a go. If you have to have a safety car for every abandoned car or enclosed cockpit you may as well do away with the sport. Who knows maybe something could have been done better but sadly that’s life. Everyone has made a mistake (apart from tabloid writers presumably) so let’s see if anything can be learned and pray Bianchi recovers.

  34. Joe, absolutely fantastic piece. The tone is spot on, and this is why you are the first voice I turn to in F1.

    On Sunday, rather than watching the GP, I was marshalling at a Classic race meeting at Castle Combe. It was a beautiful and peaceful day, with only one incident of any kind at Tower corner where I was posted. A Formula Junior broke down and pulled off just at the edge of the track. Three colleagues and I hopped off the bank and pushed it a bit further round the corner and tucked it in to the barrier to a place of greater safety. Did we expose ourselves to danger for 45 seconds, yes. We knew what we were doing, double waved yellow flags were displayed to warn the drivers and we kept an eye on the approaching traffic. This happens thousands of times the world over. It’s terribly sad that Jules Bianchi suffered such terrible injuries, but those comments about having a marshal trackside must mean a safety car, fundamentally don’t understand racing or marshalling.

  35. If one looks at the Michael Schumachre near-miss at Interlagos 2003, and at the Liuzzi near-miss at Nurburgring 2007, and the Brundle crash at Suzuka 1994, one would conclude that tractors shoudn’t be allowed to work in the runoff area before the race is neutralized with a safety car.

  36. It is clear from the data that almost all of the cars were going too fast under the d y flags, risking themselves and the marshalls. Its clear that without other controls flags are insufficient in the wet. I think a safety car is OTT but they could automatically limit the speed like in the pit lane but remotely from race control. Bianchi was primarily responsible for going so fast on worn intermediates, but more can be done. The trucks do need fitting with bars to prevent the under run that meant the helmet was the first solid structure to hit the body of the tractor.

    1. There were safety lights as well. Do’t get fixated by flags. There were lights trackside and I believe that the cars also have them. The teams are also warning drivers of incidents ahead so there is not a question that Bianchi knew about the crash before he arrived

  37. This may sound harsh in the circumstances, but if you want to avoid danger, it is best not to drive around corners at 150 mph with a load of explosive fluids next to you. F1 has always been dangerous, but thank god it’s a lot less dangerous than the crazy days of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. I haven’t seen the video, but from your description and photos, it seems that had Jules been 6 inches left or right, the crash would have been the usual miracle of huge G forces, and drivers walking away. If there’s one thing that would have made a difference, I’d say that if the area around the track had been wet tarmac instead of wet grass, both steering an braking would have been effective. A very sad event, with very small margins, and we all have Jules and his family in our thoughts. He was doing what he loves, and we hope he’s okay.

  38. What is this blog post actually saying? Stop questioning the FIA, they know what they are doing and you don’t….

    I mean no disrespect here, but I disagree entirely. The rules are outdated, the FIA are to blame for this for not taking action earlier, and they should be ashamed. It should not be the driver’s decision to figure out how fast they can go through a yellow flag section. That is just absurd, and is a legacy of the days when there was no pit to car communications and flags were the only way of communicating with the driver until they get back to their pit board on the start-finish straight.

    The FIA, long ago, should have come up with a clear, concise set of rules consisting of speed limits through caution periods, or a more predictable use of the safety car, and consistent penalties for those that break these rules.

    I think the FIA should be questioned, and pushed, as to how they allowed this to happen. The viewers, however uneducated, should not be expected to “shut up” when they see someone almost die, and “The real experts are the people running the show” clearly know what they are doing when we wall watched cars in the German Grand Prix fly by marshals in the middle of the track at racing speed. Yeah, keep doing what you are doing guys.

    I love F1, it is the pinnacle of motorsport, but the FIA sure know how to make it a shameful sport to follow.

    For example – the code 60 is a really great, sensible way of reducing risk in yellow flag areas, and we have the tech to observe and regulate it. But the FIA will never, ever adopt this. Why? Because they didn’t think of it first.

    1. I am saying that very people with any experience in these matters have said that things were done wrong. Most have said it was done right. There is nothing wrong with asking questions but if you think that these questions have not already been asked and answered years ago is just wrong. The FIA safety people are serious, thorough and unobtrusive.

  39. SAFER barriers, HANS devices, safety cells, tecpro barriers, dropping Spa and Hockenhein long courses, fire extinguishers on board, marshals being told to stay behind fences, armco subject to inspection, tarmac runoffs, on board signalling, le mans slow zones – all were born, decided upon, adopted or invented after accidents, many with a fair amount of public opinion behind them.

    You can’t just say ‘its just one of those things’ if fans don’t buy it. Drivers and fans burning to death under litres of fuel used to be ‘one of those things’ but the weight of opinion led to positive change. ‘Its always been this way’ is a blinkered view and does a disservice to those trying to constructively suggest improvements. If half as much effort had been spent designing a purpose built F1 recover truck with built in impact protection as went into designing blown diffusers or the HANS device we may have had a different outcome. We may still, if that now happens.

  40. I’m sorry but I don’t need to be an expert in anything, to conclude that sending out people(!!) and trucks to the outside of a quick corner in the wet where a car has already gone off (high risk of it being an aquaplanning spot), without bringing out the safety car, is a bad idea.

    I immediately thought it was odd the SC wasn’t out, and so did thousands of viewers across the world. In the minute before Bianchi’s crash. It would already be dangerous in the dry, and it would be dangerous in a slower corner with much larger runoff, nevermind in that corner in those particular conditions.

    It’s particularly baffling when you remember that the people who take these decisions, are the same so pro-safety lot that push for massive asphalted car park runoff areas in all tracks around the world; and that forbid racing under any conditions that warrant anything more than the intermediate tyre, despite most drivers begging for it on the radio. Yet they’re happy to send people out on foot into the potential path of cars out of control.

    Double yellows might be written in the regulations as “drivers must be prepared to stop”, but ultimately since drivers don’t have to do anything to avoid a penalty, besides barely lifting off to ensure they don’t hit a sector best, it’s laughably unenforceable. It doesn’t work at all as a deterrent, and drivers will do what they’re paid to do, which is to exploit the maximum laptime they can in all circumstances. Yellow flags and double yellows for these cases, are a total failure at protecting track workers safety, and in this particular case the drivers safety.

    Ultimately the ideal solution for everyone’s safety would probably be to mandate slow zones like Le Mans do these days, but under the current regulations it’s obvious a safety car would’ve been the correct option.

    I don’t want to run a witchburn, I’m well aware race control has an extremely difficult, stressing job, in which decisions must be made in split seconds. I’m sure they meant well. I’m aware people are afraid of potential legal procedures hence refrain from saying anything that might imply blame. But it pisses me off that almost nobody in the media is saying the bleeding obvious that needs to be said.

    And if nobody alerts to the problem and nothing’s done, sooner or later beyond the huge sadness of a badly injured driver on a hospital bed, we might as well have a few marshalls in a cemetery somewhere.

    1. Yes, actually you do need to be an expert. Then you know what the options are and you don’t talk rubbish

      1. Why does this post warrant this reply, Joe? It increasingly looks like you are defending the indefensible. It looks a perfectly reasonable suggestion to me. A tractor was sent out to rescue a car on the outside of a 140mph corner in worsening conditions under waved yellows. Where a driver had almost lost his life by hitting a recovery vehicle in identical circumstances 20 years before. As you say, It was there for nearly 2 minutes. And no safety car was called during that period. Many sensiible and informed observers are saying the same thing (Gerhard Berger on Radio 5 for example). Saying effectively ‘You are idiots and you don’t ubderstand’ doesn’t wash.

        1. Judge as you wish. I don’t really mind what you call me. I can get over it. This is what I believe is correct and it’s fine if you don’t agree but if your view is based on no knowledge bar the Internet or watching TV, do you not think it is wildly arrogant to think you know more than the FIA experts?

          1. It’s the experts that didn’t put the safety car out when a car was being recovered on the outside of a 140mph corner by a tractor in worsening conditions, while much of the field was on worn inters. Drivers won’t slowdown unless they have to, other than recording a slightly slower sector time to avoid a penalty, as has been observed already, So If you’ll allow, I have to say I disagree with the experts judgement on this one. I could see the safety car should have been out just by watching on TV so not sure why Charlie didn’t come to same conclusion. These vehicles should not be allowed on circuit while the race is active. You previously said the primary purpose of recovering stationary cars is to stop cars being ‘launched’ into the crowd. There are no spectators at this point of the circuit. The equation for me pretty simple. Should a recovery tractor have been in that position with the race still active? For me the answer is no. And why Charlie being asked by the FIA to conduct an investigation? An investigation in which his own actions surely have to come under scrutiny?

          2. Why would you be doing 140mph through the corner when there’s waved double yellows? You’d be going at a suitable speed to match the fact you’re aware you need to slow drastically and be prepared to stop. This would be significantly slower than 140mph. I’ve not seen anyone put up a suitable alternative yet to the truck, and as has rightly been pointed out, not to move Sutil’s car would have been negligent.

            I wonder whether before a race the FIA should dictate average sector times. Where waved yellows are displayed, any driver passing through that sector quicker than, say, at least 125% of the average sector time gets a drive through. For double waved yellows any driver passing through quicker than 150% gets a drive through. The average time could be displayed on the dash, the same as the delta time in a safety car period. No excuses for a ‘quick lift’ then. Drivers would have to slow significantly. Problem solved?

            1. Drivers will do whatever they can to gain an advantage. That’s what they’re
              bred to do. We see drivers penalised for going too fast under yellows time and again. This idea that Bianchi is somehow partly culpable is ludicrous. Also, it is not possible that the massive strides made in safety since Senna has perhaps contributed to a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude among some of the current generation? Also, who knows at this stage what Bianchi saw before he went off or whether he was warned by his team that there were waved yellows there. Remember the accident happened at the end of a long and arduous race, in poor visibility, and at the end of a long and demanding sequence of corners. Maybe you’d back yourself to spot waved yellows in those circumstances. I’m not so sure I would. It would also be interesting to take a poll amongst the drivers to ask them whether they would rather hit another stationary car or a recovery tractor? I know which result my money would be on. If a car is in a dangerous position (i.e the outside of a quick corner with limited run-off),and requires removal a tractor crane, this should only be done under safety car . For me this is the crux of the matter.

        2. If you look at any thing in isolation you can form an opinion which looks sensible, but is actually really bad. Sometimes the best solution overall may in particular instances have a really bad result. It doesn’t mean it’s not the best solution. And that’s where experts are able to look beyond the obvious to be able to consider all the factors which need to be taken into account.
          I think the blog post below from Gary Hartstein, the former F1 doctor, highlights this.

          I think Joe’s point is not that things should not be questioned, but that it should be questioned and considered by people who are able to look beyond the “obvious”. Anything else leads to a lot of hot air, and potentially even more dangerous situations.

      2. I’ll just answer with Sergio Perez’s own take on the press conference today, which I feel is spot on (copied from the BBC website):

        “In the future when there is a tractor coming up to pick up the car, we need a safety car, no matter what the conditions,” he said.

        “There is always a risk, even if it is dry, because you expose the marshals and a lot of people. You can have people running out of brakes.”

        Perez also felt that double waved yellow caution flags were not enough to ensure the racing cars were slowing down sufficiently.

        “Those situations are very difficult,” he said. “You expect the tractor to come quickly but in my opinion yellow flags were not enough to clear up the accident because of the situation on the track at that moment.”

        He said that drivers slowed down as little as possible even for double yellow flags.

        “You know you have to show a lift of the throttle to the FIA,” Perez said.

        “But if we are honest we know we want to lift as little as possible and go as fast as possible.

        “It is something that in those conditions probably doesn’t work.”

        I suppose he’s another idiot talking rubbish then. As are Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger and Jacques Villeneuve.

        1. I have not said that Alain, Gerhard or Jacques is an idiot. You are being selective. Why don’t you quote all the drivers who spoke today, not just the one who said what you wanted to hear? Is that balanced? No, it is not. The majority of people in F1 don’t agree and I heard more than a few this evening saying that Perez was an idiot because of what he said. I don’t think any of this helps to address the current situation which needs to be handled quietly and in a calm environment. Those who seek to put the issue into the spotlight and not doing it because what happened was wrong, but rather because they have axes to grind, or because they are just not very clever and don’t understand what they are doing. The people that I have the least time for are the instant experts on their couches at home who really have no idea what they are talking about, have no understanding of the work that has gone into safety, no clue about the discussions that there have been on all these subjects and who think that they have the right to attack good people who really know what they are doing and have been doing it very well for many many years. If you want the definition of arrogance it is these people. They are downside of social media. You may believe that everyone should have a voice, but it does not mean everyone is an expert. It gives every extremist, every muppet and every fool a voice that they have not earned.

          1. Here’s the part I don’t know:

            Did Perez say anything that isn’t true? Are people mad at him because he’s going off half-cocked… or because he’s telling the simple truth?

            The argument that others in the sport don’t like it is weak… as Sir Jackie’s experience from decades ago will attest.

            1. Did you read the Hartstein piece? Do so. It is very clear why people are mad at him. He’s perfectly entitled to an opinion, but it shows such ignorance of what goes on behind the scenes.

              1. I was asking about Perez saying that double-yellows aren’t enough because drivers respond by lifting as little as possible.

                I disagree with his view that a safety car is required, but it does seem only sensible to say the current rule re: double-yellows isn’t enough if the letter of the rule permits drivers to effectively violate the spirit and purpose of the rule.

                I (perhaps incorrectly) assumed that people aren’t furious with him because he favors a safety car, but rather because he said that double-yellows don’t work because drivers do the bare minimum to satisfy the letter of the rule while disregarding the spirit and purpose of the rule. In effect, he’s saying drivers don’t do the right thing. That sounds like something that is both (a) quite plausible and (b ) likely to get others angry at him.

                The question is whether or not what he said about that is true, not whether others are mad at him for saying it. Do you think there is no merit in what he said?

                1. BTW, yes, I had read the Harstein piece. I respect the man and think he was shafted. But in that piece he seemed to ignore the point that Perez was making about what drivers-plural do. Instead, he changed the subject as if all that matters is what Perez as a single driver does. That was sophistry, not a useful response.

                  If it is true that drivers-plural respond to double yellows by lifting as little as possible while ignoring the purpose of the rule, then that’s what needs to be addressed. Calling Perez a hypocrite does nothing to address it. Rather, it just coarsens the discussion to no one’s benefit.

          2. I’m well aware as a mere TV watcher I don’t exactly have the decades of experience that people working in the area have. What confuses me is that these people are only attacking the timing of the argument and the person doing the argument, and ignoring the content of the argument itself, which is where their expertise should come into.

            I’ve just read Harstein’s heated response to Perez. It is outside the field of safety but rather a question of ethics/morals. Again, it attacks the carrier of the argument not the content: is it ethical/legitimate from Perez to ask for the rules to protect himself, and then take unnecessary risks outside of the spirit of the rule? It probably isn’t.

            That doesn’t make him incorrect – history has told us again and again competitors will take unnecessary risks and put lifes at stake, if they’re adrenaline-filled and put against the timing clock. Rally drivers in the 80s driving at the limit with massive crowds spectating by the road. Constructors in the 70s putting fuel tanks next to the driver with zero protection for maximum speed gain. You cannot rely on competitors to not take risks. Like Perez said, it doesn’t work. You need a set of regulations that FORCE them to be protected from themselves. And quite frankly whilst this time it was a driver that got injured, I’m more concerned with the unprotected marshall’s safety than their own…

            I’ll grant you that it’s a lot easier to be having this debate in hindsight than in the minute between Sutil and Bianchi’s crashes. I still think it looked immediately predictably dangerous though.

            It is arrogant to sit on the couch and think we know more than Whiting or Harstein. It isn’t arrogant to care about the people putting this show for us, and questioning the circumstances that caused one of them to get hurt.

  41. Jules Bianchi crash was very unfortunate. I applaud the high standard of safety F1 has achieved in the last several decades. I like many still wake for the lost talents of yesterday.

    We however need to realize despite all the safety measure there will come a time where a combination of many factors will lead to a tragedy. A weak point ultimately get’s exposed over time.

    I am confident the FIA inquiry will be thorough and will yield recommended changes.

    In closing, I wish for the recovery of Jules Bianchi.

  42. Why can we not have a annual think tank report on safety concerns?

    With the GPDA and others able to obtain investigations and reports to debate the theory and test the realities as far as can be tested.

    I am sure that, buried in the corridors at la place de la Concorde, there is some fonctionnaire humming away at ongoing safety review, in a fashion or other, but I say we must instigate a “state of the union” level of address, on a regular and highly public platform. Everything sent out to all media, junkets arranged to ensure coverage. Overall, there is such a strong safety message to be told, there is a opportunity going begging for the best sides of what actually sets F1 so much apart from every other – far more statistically – dangerous motorsport. The track record of F1 safety is incredibly good… but when you are that good, oh how easy it is to let yourself down, or, worse, become convinced of one’s innate superiority.

    I do not mean, by any of this, any positive spin. I am deeply affected by Bianchi’s accident, and emotionally very affected, even as a couch bound fan, if I criticize anything, I criticize the leadership style, or absence thereof, which I believe is abandoning F1, when we should present upright and proud everything we do have, so much of which truly does confirm all the claims to be the pinnacle of motorsport. But, as any propagandist or marketer, or human blessed with a modicum of common sense, knows, you have to keep telling it.

  43. P.s.and forgive me this addendum, but if my thoughts on safety and tech development did result in cars superficially looking a bit more like Le Mans prototypes, firstly, they would not ever really look that similar, second, LMP is not a genuine threat to F1, F1 is only in danger of forgetting how to forge ahead.

  44. Typo report…

    You wrote: “A lap lap Bianchi went off at exactly the same place. ”

    I guess you mean “A lap later”.

  45. Double waved yellows signify danger ahead, proceed with caution, for a backmarker it can be seen as an opportunity to regain lost time, so it is a call by the driver how much caution should be applied, whilst I don’t blame Jules he was obviously going quicker than the prevailing conditions and his skill level allowed, it was unfortunate miscalculation with terrible consequences but nonetheless an accident.

    1. So double-yellows are just alerts which inform the driver but require no particular behavior on the part of the driver?

      I had assumed double-yellows require X-amount of slower. They should.

      1. That is correct. Under yellow flags, the FIA only requires that drivers reduce their speed from the previous lap. A speed reduction of just a fraction of a KM per hour is enough to satisfy this requirement.

        In pre-race meetings where the drivers ask how slowly they need to go in the various flagged zones, the FIA refuses to provide an answer. They tell the drivers to “drive a safe speed”.

        This might be a fine recommendation for an average commuter, but it’s a terrible direction to give a Formula One driver. It is not in the nature of a Formula One driver to slow down. They’ve only reached their position by driving to the limits. If the rules say that limit is a fraction of a KM per hour slower, they will satisfy that rule to the letter.

        Anyone saying that double yellow flags should have been enough warning is ignoring the nature of F1 drivers, and the fact that the FIA’s fence sitting has made double yellow flags almost entirely meaningless.

    2. No, it’s not obvious. We don’t know exactly what happened, so we can’t judge whether things are obvious or not. Perhaps Bianchi aquaplaned right before the double yellows and was not in control of his car when he entered that sector. But it’s all speculation at this point, and we’ll have to place trust in the FIA (and I don’t think that’ll be an issue when it comes to safety) that a proper investigation is done, and the appropriate lessons are learned.

  46. My thoughts on this: 1) Bianchi’s a racer and was too fast going through a dangerous sector with double yellow flags (which means prepare to stop). Drivers observing the caution area and adequately reducing their speeds is one of the main difficulties to be considered going forward as they can gain seconds by going a tad faster than the driver ahead. 2) The run off area didn’t do much to slow him down. According to reports, he went through the sector at 230 kph and hit the truck at 203 kph. Effective slowing down in all conditions is a must and should also be considered going forward. 3) Hitting the truck was an awful result of the combination of the two items above plus car recovery measures that “were always there”. I doubt we will again see trucks in the track without the safety car deployed. 4) It was going to be a big hit anyway, head on into the barrier and Bianchi could have suffered the same brain injury if he missed the truck and hit the barrier instead.

  47. I have a simple question – everyone knew rain storm (or a typhoon) was coming. So was there any other reason (besides commercial) for not preponing the race? If a car has aqua-planed off track at a turn, there’s a good chance it might happen to another car at the same turn (anyone remember Nurburgring 2007). And what if Bianchi’s car had hit some marshals? If it had, I am sure they wouldn’t need to be in a hospital right now.
    Safety procedures need to looked into by experts but I don’t believe this was a freak accident (Like Massa’s in 2009).

  48. Folks, reading some of these replies it appears many of you think that because you have had a thought/idea, which has not been satisfied immediately by a statement from the FIA, Charlie Whiting, or any other race official, no-one is doing anything about this accident, no-one will bother to investigate, and no-one involved in motor racing has any idea what they’re doing.

    Please bear in mind that most of those involved in the decision making had to leave Japan, head to Sochi, and get everything set up in Sochi, as well as compiling their official reports into the incident and sending them to the FIA (not to this forum – shock!) for review & consideration.

    Please also consider that actually these people have a very clear idea what they’re about; some of them have had key roles in the evolution of the current safety rules, and most of them are extremely experienced in what they do.

    They are people who understand that they are in the “risk management” business – that is, the management of known risks. In an inherently dangerous sport such as motor racing there are well known risks; sometimes these can be minimised, but the only way to eliminate all risk is to ban the sport. Then people can go downhill skiing, or horse riding, or jumping off mountains with a parachute instead…

    The FIA meets regularly to discuss safety, however they don’t invite us all along because they don’t have the space. Whatever questions you may have will have already been asked, by many other people. If we’re patient, there’s every chance that we will be privy to the conclusions from this awful accident, but not right now, this minute, on this forum, and not based on a few videos taken from awkward angles and without any other data apart from images on your TV screen.

  49. Perhaps this incident will make drivers at ALL levels of competition go back to their blue / yellow book and take a good, hard, long look at the regulations appertaining to waved yellow flags. In particular, THEIR response. It means “great danger, slow down, be prepared to stop”, NOT “make sure you don’t set your fastest sector time…”.

    1. Having seen the video , the velocity and the fact the car was going straight, I think the above is the biggest change that needs to be made.

      Given how fast it was going at time of impact I don’t believe that the car had slowed sufficiently to stop on track as required.

      Also, given the speed , I think if he hadn’t hit the tractor, he’d have hit something else at that speed and suffered the same or worse injuries.

      The problem with the mainstream media saying this is it points the blame at the poor guy in hospital and that won’t go down very well with the pitchfork and torch mob.

  50. How far from the accident was the double-waved yellow being shown? Perhaps for a double-waved, they can extend the zone to the next marshal post along the track, giving the driver more time to slow down. Also, how is double-waved shown on the driver steering wheel? Is it the same as a yellow, or does the light flash?

    Of course I’m not saying Jules was going too fast in a double-waved zone, perhaps it is just a suggestion to give drivers more time to slow. I do wonder if he braked, locked up and aquaplaned off.

    Should the tractor have been there? The marshals had time to move the car, and how often have they had to do it? Plenty of times. Is there a need to change things? I don’t know, As Joe said I’m not sure how they can.

    One thing is certain though, there is a talented racing driver who had a long career ahead of him laying in ICU of a Japanese hospital fighting for a life. I hope and pray he can recover from this.

  51. I have a simple question: Does race control have the ability to go over all drivers & teams radios to deliver a directive to slow down at Turn xx for a yellow flag, double yellow etc? Or is it up to the driver’s to notice the flags/lights and slow down on their own or their team to let them know of an off on track as soon as possible?

    1. Joe (and probably others) will know far better than I… but I think Charlie Whiting can talk on the radio to whoever he wants to talk to whenever he likes…

  52. I essentially agree with all the sentiments of the article.

    I do however have some questions.

    Is there a general issue with drivers slowing adequately for safety flags?
    If so can race control take control of the ecu in flagged sectors and slow cars as they do in safety car conditions?
    Perhaps this is possible but there are other (safety) complications with doing so?

    This is an unfortunate and indeed sad accident; other than thinking about why F1 seems happy to persist with running races late afternoon during monsoon season might we learn something operational?

  53. Before putting the blame on anyone, we should focus on what and especially why things went wrong. A good investigation may even waive all parties from penalties. This will allow them to speak up freely so we can avoid similar crashes in the future.

    I am certain that F1 can learn lessons from this accident. The main cause seems to be the Bianchi’s initial high speed and his failure to slow down and control the car.

    From the amateur picture currently available its clear that Bianchi is on asphalt (probably a run off area) and not in the gravel trap where Sutil got stuck.

    Downshifting + aerodynamic drag alone should decelerate the car more then what we saw happening here. What was the state of his tires and brakes? Did his engine remain at full power? In general the replacement of gravel with asphalt is enhancing safety in dry conditions as the driver remains in control. But in the wet??? This all requires a more detailed investigation which only can be performed on site in Suzuka by experts. And to do this good and in a scientific way this may take months before conclusions can be reached.

    The technology is there to electronically limit the speed of all cars in certain parts of the track. It should be possible to set up a system that controls speed for all drivers equaly in a circuit sector. Not a big fan of safety cars after Briatore used one to cheat with.

    Lets not forget that in this incident the highest risk for serious injury / worse was for the marshals working on Sutil’s vehicle. We also need to give them a safe work space.

  54. As an armchair ‘expert’, for what it is worth, my opinion is that the F1 safety procedures are generally amazing, which is why these incidents are so unusual.

    The only thing that needs addressing is to no longer accept that under double waved yellows a few tenths off the sector time is an acceptable ‘lift’. In the sector past an accident, when marshalls, drivers and safety vehicles are in play, the competition needs to be negated and the car must travel at a ‘safe’ speed for the conditions. How this is best done is, to me, the main focus of the discussion and any subsequent rule changes.

  55. Quote: “The people who are concerned with F1 safety are far more qualified than anyone else to make judgments about the accident – and they are people who say what they think, not what people want them to say. They care about what they do. So we should respect their decisions because who among us is qualified to challenge them?”

    Arrogance much? People concerned with F1 safety were around in 1994 and before that too. It took a PR disaster in the form of Senna’s death for these “people” to get off their asses and *actually* improve safety in the sport.

    Yes, they might have done everything right on Sunday. The sport still lost a promising young driver for good. He has a 10% chance of ever coming out of his coma and nil chance at leading normal life even after that.

    I think putting aside the arrogance is the first step. A review of the situation on Sunday is the second.

    1. Arrogance? So what are you: a couch-sitter with the arrogance to think that his opinion is worth something or a qualified safety engineers with 20 years of experience? Your third paragraph answers the question.

  56. As a Track Marshal it’s not the first time that I have to face dangerous situations, where the drivers or riders seem to don’t have respect for the flags. No point to blame anyone now.
    The important is to learn with the situation.
    At the beginning of this season FIA and MSA acted on the drivers behaviour, concerning respect for track limits, it’s time now to act on the respect for flags. They are there for a reason!

  57. Based on the input from those who know more than I do, here’s what I wonder:

    Should the meaning of a double-yellow change from “danger ahead, be prepared to stop” to “danger ahead; marshals, track workers and medical personnel may be at high personal risk”… with penalties appropriate to the latter part…

  58. Two questions:
    1) Do we have reports on Bianchi’s helmet? We all agree that it would be a big crash even if the truck wasn’t there. From the pictures, I couldn’t spot damage in the helmet so I believe this information is important to determine if the tractor played any part in his injury. What difference does it make? By removing the tractor from the analysis all we have left is a) the condition of the track (adequately draining the track is a must); b) the speed of the car / respect to double yellows; c) the efficiency of the runoff area to slow him down; d) the safety of the car and e) the safety of the specific spot of the barrier he hit. I think that by determining if his head hit the tractor or not the investigators will be able to remove the “freak tag” of this accident and evolve into much more constructive discussions to improve safety.
    2) Would it be very difficult to install sensors in each flag post that, under yellow or red, would trigger a power cut to the car going by? Like a pit rev limiter activated by the sensor when in yellow or red. The next flag post, with green flag, would deactivate the limiter. I’m not a fan of anything taking the control out of the drivers but for their own safety and the safety of the marshals in the track, I believe this should also be considered.

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