FIA names Accident Panel

The FIA has announced the membership of  an Accident Panel to discuss Jules Bianchi’s accident at the Japanese Grand Prix. The group will carry out a full review of the accident to gain a better understanding of what happened, and will propose new measures to reinforce safety at circuits – if they are deemed to be necessary. The work of the group will start this week and the findings will be presented to the FIA World Council in Doha on December 3. The Panle will be headed by Peter Wright, the President of the FIA Safety Commission, and a respected F1 engineer and safety expert. The panel will include former Team Principals Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali, Roger Peart, the President of the Circuits Commission, Gerd Ennser a representative of the FIA Stewards, Emerson Fittipaldi, President of the FIA Drivers’ Commission, Eduardo de Freitas, the Race Director of the World Endurance Championship, Antonio Rigozzi,  a judge at the International Court of Appeal, who has been co-opted by the teams, Gérard Saillant, President of the FIA Institute and President of the Medical Commission and Alexander Wurz, President of the GPDA.

The composition of the panel is not quite as expected with no specific safety experts other than Wright. It had been thought there might be more safety engineers involved, as they are the ones who have done the work on how best safety issues are addressed.  Having said that there are a sufficient number of credible individuals on the panel to ensure that the proceedings will be fair. It is clear that the entire process is largely a public relations operation, as we have never seen such a panel before, despite there being regular accidents at all levels of the sport.

 

44 thoughts on “FIA names Accident Panel

  1. What a waste of time and money. Of course we all feel for Jules Bianchi and his family.
    Surely you don’t need a committee to see that Jules’s car hit the recovery vehicle that was clearing another car. Have a ‘safety’ road for recovery vehicles the other side of the barriers so they are not trackside.
    Job done!!!
    But, no decision until 3rd Decemeber, jobs for the boys, no doubt.

    1. Hm, Peter. But if the recovery vehicle can’t get to the other side of the barrier, it has to be a. massive to reach that. and b. there have to be marshalls guiding it, getting the car attached etc. They will still be as unsafe as now. And what if there is no room for a big crane, or its far away and takes a while to get there?
      Not quite as easy as you mention

    2. Is not the other side of the barrier in Dunlop corner the outside of 130R? Not sure you would want recovery vehicles there…

  2. I concur there is enough independent thinkers on board that you will get a well thought out response. Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali don’t currently have a dog in the hunt, but are recent enough in F1 to ensure a well reasoned conclusion is presented with solutions that will work in current F1.

    1. When I saw Ross B and Stefano D on the list I thought the same – no current dogs in the hunt, and probably nobody’s back to cover. It’s a bit like Richard Feynman on the Challenger enquiry panel – people who won’t take rubbish off of nobody, and won’t hesitate to call out those who prevaricate and obfuscate the truth. This is not to say that all the others on the panel are tainted, but Ross and Stefano stand out, and does perhaps Alex Wurz.

      I just hope some of the others who might still have something to gain from any specific result will be found out and prevented from harming F1.

  3. Agree this is a PR excersise. It is clearly aimed at coming up with (already obvious) recommendations for the future without criticizing anyone important over what happened and most importantly, protecting the F1 brand from any outside criticism. Do these people really not understand why its hard to do a good job of the former without addressing the latter? Of course not, this is all about fending off any suggestion that commercial interests were allowed to trump safety concerns at Suzuka.

    Why is no one among the F1 press asking for an independent investigation? There are so many obvious questions about how the race was handled. Not just questions based on hindsight, but questions that were being asked even before the race began! F1 has been in damage limitation mode ever since the race ended, and the accredited F1 press seem to be playing along obediently as usual.

    1. “Why is no one among the F1 press asking for an independent investigation?”

      Davis its probably because it wont help anyone and most of the F1 press are not idiots. The FIA have some of the best experts in the world in their fields and any lessons that should be learnt will be and improvements will be made in the future, however no one was to blame here and acting all high and mighty as if you could foresee this happening is ridiculous.

      What could an independant investigation uncover that the FIA dont already know?

      1. I couldn’t foresee this exact result, but like many people, I could easily guess that the race might well end under darkness and heavy rain. Also, it didn’t take any special insight to think that another car might go off at the same place as Sutil, so a safety car seemed prudent.

        It seems odd to me to preempt the investigation by saying “no one was to blame here”. It the investigation is genuine then shouldn’t we wait before making such sweeping statements?

        You can’t improve things for the future without being honest about identifying the faults and weaknesses that were there in the past. It may be that no individual made any overt mistakes, it may be that they did. Those are things for the investigation to determine.

        It’s not about blaming someone, but if you’re going to have an investigation, then you should begin it with an open mind and without prejudice against going wherever the evidence takes you.

        I agree with Joe that the whole thing looks like a PR exercise. The whole of F1 seems to be in damage limitation mode. That goes for the press as much as the FIA.

        1. No. We are protecting the sport from people with opinions and no expertise. It is different. If we felt that someone was to blame then we would be screaming from the rooftops. The only journalists writing this stuff and numpties with no clue.

          1. Joe, do you think there should have been more former drivers in the panel…people with more recent experience, apart from Alex Wurz? Or is it that they are all occupied in other racing championships or activities and would not have time to contribute to the panel’s investigation meaningfully?

            1. Wurz is a very good guy and is there representing the current generation. Emerson is a very good person too and he represents all drivers at all levels.

          2. I am saying no one should jump to conclusions one way or the other.

            Yes, there are some unhinged folks claiming to know exactly what wrong and who is to blame. They have elaborate theories drawn out that remind me of 9-11 truthers. That is wrong.

            On the other hand, you have a lot of people within the sport and the F1 press claiming to know for certain that “no mistakes were made” and “no one is to blame”. That is also wrong.

            If we really know one way or the other then an investigation is a total waste of time and money.

            1. Why is it wrong to say to no mistakes were made. The usual procedures were followed and these were deemed to be the best idea. If they want to change that, that is fine but it does not mean that anything was done wrong.

              1. Mistakes might lie in what was considered “the best ideas”… it’s entirely plausible to say that mistakes were made that do not reside with any particular person… ID’ing mistakes is not the same thing as hanging somebody…

                1. “ID’ing mistakes is not the same thing as hanging somebody…”

                  Exactly. The “no mistakes” position that so many F1 insiders are taking is absurd and unnecessary. And it’s probably having the exact opposite of the intended effect.

                  1. If you don’t understand it and you think its all a giant cover-up, you just don’t get the racing mentality.

                    1. Nowhere did I claim it’s a “giant cover up”. I actually agree with your post that the review is probably a PR exercise more than anything else.

                      I am talking about the self-censorship and undue deference given to the FIA by the accredited press. Your “no mistakes” claim is at best premature. That there are idiots with conspiracy theories out there is no excuse.

                      This whole thing has put a spotlight on how F1 journalism exists inside an airtight bubble which is rarely pierced by any real criticism. There are no ombudsmen or professional media critics that you see in other sports or politics. Any dissent or differing opinion is met with hostility.

                      This environment, is the result of networking and the comfort of soft consensus trumping honest conversation and healthy debate. It has nothing to do with “racing mentality”.

              2. This is exactly the defensive posture I am talking about. It’s wrong for exactly the same reason as saying “mistakes were definitely made” would be wrong (although in my opinion that would be a much safer bet). You are preempting the investigation. You cannot possibly know with absolute certainty that no contributing mistakes were made over the weekend.

                Sure, we know that “the usual procedures were followed”. So what? Other mistakes that could have contributed to the accident may or may not have been made. It may have been a “mistake” to stick to the scheduled start time for the race for example. It may have been a “mistake” not to bring out a safety car immediately after Sutil crashed. A real investigation would look into all those things.

                Perhaps when you say “no mistakes were made” you are using an extremely narrow definition of the word mistake. Perhaps you are just talking about a limited set of things like whether they followed “the usual procedures” regarding safety cars, cranes and yellow flags. Fine. They probably did. That does not mean “no mistakes were made”. The “usual procedures” do not speak to every conceivable combination of events that can unfold over a race weekend. The FIA have staff using their judgement to make difficult decisions at every race, as you surely know. If it was simply a matter of following written procedures then we wouldn’t need all those highly paid specialists. There are also differences of opinion at every race, and instances where different interests are in conflict. Often this is the interest of safety vs. the interest of F1 the business. None of this should be news to anyone familiar with F1.

                And to say that a mistake was made, is not to find a scapegoat and blame someone for what happened. Likely there were a whole bunch of contributing factors, some unavoidable, some that could have been mitigated. I would be very surprised if any one person was mostly responsible for the accident.

                You are taking an extreme position.. that no one made any mistakes, before the panel even begins it’s work. I wonder why.

              3. And to be really clear here. I am not saying that “anything was done wrong”. I am saying I don’t know one way or the other. That’s the only reasonable position to take at this stage. An F1 race is a pretty complicated undertaking. No one person has a perfect point of view to judge every single event, coincidence or decision that led up to the crash. That’s why they are having a panel of experts review what happened. Is this so hard to understand?

          3. An independent investigation tasked to responsible non-hypester experts would achieve the desired result without concerns for “the club” protecting itself…

            Surely there are knowledgeable people from without who are highly trustworthy, beyond reproach, etc., etc.

        2. @Craig

          “What could an independant investigation uncover that the FIA dont already know?”

          The advantages of an independent investigation are the same as they always are..

          Organizations tend to do a poor job of objectively criticizing their own actions or protocols. It’s a fairly basic conflict of interest. If you really want to learn lessons from what happened then an independent investigation is more likely to achieve that.

          Because of this, independent investigations are the norm in most spheres of life where an organization might have reason to avoid public self criticism.

  4. Well….Todt clearly feels that FIA must be seen to be doing something, as it’s reputation for taking timely and significant action has, in recent years, been severely dented. The trouble is, as Brundle demonstrated in his very timely piece on F1 safety, there are so many conflicting arguments on this subject.

    And one of the most powerful arguments is that the constant proximity to disaster which F1 drivers more or less accept as part of their day job, is what makes the sport so gripping and relentless for the vast majority of fans.
    Take away all the risk and you’d wreck the spectacle.

    So getting the balance absolutely right is going to be damn difficult.

  5. I think that there is a lot of depth and expertise across the 10 man panel…what we forget is that they can invite experts to give opinions on certain aspects of F1 safety…..I would not expect these people alone to come up with answers…I would back up my thesis/report with hard facts and evidence….I would be interested to see their findings in due course

  6. Enough very experienced and sensible people on this panel to ensure that it is handled as well as possible. My concern is that the push will be to implement an electronic standard to limit the drivers’ speeds, or some other complicated system, which will work well enough in Formula 1 but not deal with the key issue of drivers slowing down properly for double waved yellow flags. A racing driver cannot be “prepared to stop” and aquaplaning at the same time – they are mutually exclusive. The comments made by M. Todt at Sochi suggested that none of the drivers slowed adequately, and some slowed a lot less than Bianchi did but were lucky enough not to fly off the road.

    This is something which needs to be dealt with across the entire motorsport spectrum, as fancy electronic systems are not much use to club-level Formula Vee and so on.

    F1 needs to set an example to all motorsport, and make it very clear to drivers that excessive speed under double waved yellows will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Driver standards in all areas need to be prioritised, and a good place to start would be a permanent F1 driver steward (like Derek Warwick) to pull them into line when they stray over the white lines, move around under braking or fail to slow down under yellows.

    1. Due diligence is what is required and what will be considered by the panel and they won’t be rushed into making a decision. At the end of the day there will be improvements…there will be several options that will be considered…chewing the fat over what we do know will not achieve anything other than ifs and buts….I have great confidence in F1 to deliver solutions which are controlled and measured so that this accident will never be repeated….Feak accidents do happen it is in our hearts minds and soul to improve the sport….I will wait to see what the panel will have to day and I am sure that BRA will chair the panel…it is in trusted and sensible hands

  7. The elephant in the room, at least for me, is that Whiting was likely put between a rock and a hard place in Suzuka. There was safety on the one hand, and the commercial incentives to begin the race at the scheduled time and get the required number of laps completed within the window on the other.
    The big lesson to be learnt here +may+ be that Whiting and his staff should be completely insulated from any commercial considerations and should be making these decisions primarily with safety in mind.
    Of course, safety can never be the exclusive concern; if it was then we would never go racing. But that’s not an excuse to sweep everything under the carpet and absolve everyone of any blame before any kind of investigation even takes place.
    Consider the contributing factors in the accident…
    • It was dark
    • There was standing water on the track
    • There was a crane parked off the track in a place where another car had just aquaplaned off
    • Despite all the above, no safety car was called for
    That an unsafe, heavily compromised situation like this arose in the first place was somewhat predictable (and much of it +was+ predicted in the days before the race based on the weather forecasts and race timing). It does not rely in hindsight, as F1’s apologists are all implying.
    I agree that the conspiracy theories emanating from some corners of the internet are annoying and unhelpful. But at the same time, the overly defensive tone of the sport and those who make their living from it (the F1 press included) has been really unhelpful and utterly non conducive to learning any kind of lessons from what happened.
    BTW.. I should have made it clear I am talking about the English speaking press primarily. It seems that in Italy, they have been less afraid to ask the obvious questions, and less inclined toward self-censorship.

  8. There is an incident at Turn 4. Race Control implements a mandatory 50mph maximum for all cars between turns 2 and 6.

    There, problem solved. I didn’t need a week of FIA funded skiing/meetings/dinner in Gstaad to achieve that. Although if they’d like to me invite me…

  9. Well, the FIA has to do 2 things:
    1. Address the issue;
    2. Be seen as addressing the issue.

    This is #2… which doesn’t mean they’re not doing #1.

  10. I am very shocked that you see this an a PR operation. The panel seems to be all very reputable people that would not allow themselves to be used for this purpose.
    IMO I think the FIA has done a spectacular job on safety over the last 20+ years and I believe their finding will be to just in force existing rules more stringently. With this panel, we know there will be no knee jerk reaction.

        1. “everyone is a safety expert”

          There are many examples of people who don’t know what happened to Bianchi let alone what was supposed to happen but, undeterred, they jump to conclusions and pick an internet herd to follow. Without common sense, you can’t be a safety expert. At least there are no obvious numpties on the panel.

      1. “but are they safety experts?”

        Do they need to be? I’m glad it’s not safety-heavy because I don’t think the existing safety rules and regulations need alteration (specifically related to Bianchi’s crash). However, this panel has some major experience of (dodgy) driver behaviours!

        My initial reaction is that it’s a heavy weight, serious and impartial choice.

  11. No Charlie Whiting on the panel. Is that because, in some way (direct or indirect) he is one of the subjects of the inquiry?

  12. Bit harsh on Roger Peart that you don’t deem him to be a safety expert despite being head of the Circuits Commission (which has a sole focus on making motor racing circuits safer). Let alone his role on the FIA’s Open Cockpit Safety Group.

    Yes he’s been President of the Canadian ASN too, but don’t discount the guy’s credentials for this particular role – he is more than a mere FIA Crony.

    1. We still have issues where he ‘forced’ us to put the flags at Mosport’s corner 9. No amount of common sense seemed to work. He came in with a predetermined idea and the circuit, marshals and rescue people were told their input wasn’t needed. Same thing happens in Montreal. He’s part of the old boys school and a JT supporter/lover. That’s all you need to know. So the comments were not a ‘bit harsh’…

  13. Interesting to see Eduardo de Freitas there – he gets a lot of praise for his firm but fair stewardship of the WEC and presumably can advise on the alternative full course and local double waved yellow procedures already used in that series. I wonder if he is being earmarked as an eventual successor to Charlie Whiting at some stage?

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