A dark day for For­mula 1

An­thony Rowl­in­son / 11.14

F1 Racing - - FRONT PAGE -

As F1 Rac­ing closed for press, Jules Bianchi was in an in­ten­sive care unit of the Mie Gen­eral Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Yokkaichi, fol­low­ing surgery for a se­ri­ous head in­jury. His par­ents had flown over to be at his bed­side. His team, Marus­sia, asked for pa­tience and un­der­stand­ing, as they, too, awaited news of his con­di­tion.

The mood of gloom and ‘not know­ing’ were bit­terly rem­i­nis­cent of the hours and days that fol­lowed Michael Schu­macher’s ski­ing ac­ci­dent ear­lier this year.

Both re­minded us of the fragility of ex­is­tence and of the of­ten dire con­se­quences of head in­juries. Schu­macher’s had seemed in­nocu­ous, yet swiftly be­came life-threat­en­ing; Bianchi’s ap­peared im­me­di­ately grave and proved, sadly, to be so.

The ini­tial re­ac­tion within the sport was one of sto­ical pro­fes­sion­al­ism, yet the at­mos­phere in the post-race Suzuka pad­dock had been ex­pe­ri­enced only by the more se­nior mem­bers present: shock, laced with sad­ness and a numb con­fu­sion.

Ques­tions, then, were im­me­di­ate: what, ex­actly, had hap­pened to Bianchi? Should the race have been started ear­lier? Should it have been started at all? Should the red flag have been shown for Adrian Su­til’s ac­ci­dent? Had light con­di­tions be­come too low for the race to con­tinue? They were typ­i­cal of the des­per­ate reach­ing for knowl­edge that oc­curs when in­tel­li­gent be­ings are taken out of their com­fort zone by cir­cum­stances beyond their con­trol. We don’t yet have an­swers and it will be some time be­fore a clearer pic­ture emerges.

As a mag­a­zine that takes its name from the sport, we hope Bianchi’s ac­ci­dent does not bring calls for knee­jerk changes to F1. Yes, mo­tor rac­ing is dan­ger­ous and rac­ing in low light at a soggy Suzuka is about as sketchy as F1 gets in its risk-re­duced mod­ern guise. But we’ve wit­nessed some mas­sive ac­ci­dents in re­cent sea­sons (Robert Ku­bica, Canada 2007; Se­rio Pérez, Monaco 2011; Felipe Massa and Pérez again in Canada this year) and, on each oc­ca­sion, driv­ers have es­caped with lit­tle more than stiff­ness and con­cus­sion. And we should re­joice in that, with­out for an in­stant be­ing com­pla­cent about the wel­fare of our he­roes.Why shouldn’t they re­tire from the fray into a long and pros­per­ous dotage, hav­ing en­ter­tained us roy­ally in their pomp? Who wouldn’t, now, love to be bump­ing into Gilles, Ron­nie, Tom, Lorenzo and Jochen on a Sun­day morn­ing pad­dock stroll? But one day, we knew, the mu­sic would stop and it is Bianchi’s grave mis­for­tune to have suf­fered so cru­elly when the rac­ing gods took away their bless­ing for a split-sec­ond.

The muted podium cel­e­bra­tions we wit­nessed in Ja­pan were not forced or fake. The common bond among rac­ing driv­ers is that they alone know the true ex­tent of the dan­gers they face. They alone get the ‘dream job’ high; but they alone put them­selves in the line of fire. So when one of their num­ber goes down, they know – it doesn’t have to be spo­ken, it never is – that it could have been them. Those of us beyond the cock­pit per­haps for­get this. Those who race, never do.

#Forza­Jules. With all our hearts we wish you God­speed.


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