F1 launches Bianchi crash investigation
Accident panel to look into ways of making F1 safer in aftermath of Suzuka incident
The FIA has set up a special ‘accident panel’ following Jules Bianchi’s crash at the Japanese Grand Prix, to “gain a better understanding of what happened and propose new measures to reinforce safety at circuits”.
Marussia racer Bianchi was left with severe head injuries after his car went off the road at the fast Dunlop curve and collided with a recovery vehicle that had been deployed to retrieve the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, which had crashed on the previous lap.
Bianchi suffered a diffuse axonal injury in the accident. As F1 Racing closed for press, he remained in a critical but stable condition in hospital in Japan.
The FIA’s accident panel is formed of former team bosses Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali, two-time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, drivers’ representative Alexander Wurz, and surgeon Professor Gérard Saillant, the president of the FIA medical commission, among others. The group will be led by Peter Wright, the president of the FIA safety commission and former technical director of the original Team Lotus.
Although current safety procedures were followed correctly after Bianchi’s accident, the panel will investigate whether these procedures now need updating. They will also look at whether specific changes need to be made to the design of cars, circuits or even tyres to reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again. These are the key areas upon which the panel is likely to concentrate: THE RECOVERY VEHICLE The focus has inevitably fallen on the presence of the tractor on the track and there is now widespread acceptance that it is not safe for cars to continue at close to racing speeds, even with waved double yellow flags, with such vehicles on the track side of the barriers.
This is a point Martin Brundle has been making for the past 20 years, ever since he narrowly avoided hitting a crane after losing control at another wet race in Suzuka in 1994.
Race director Charlie Whiting is, however, of the belief that recovery vehicles are still needed. F1 is reluctant to follow the practice used in US racing, in which a Safety Car period is introduced whenever a car goes off the track. SPEED CONTROL Steps have already been taken on this front. Teams want to remove control of the speed of the cars away from the drivers in yellow-flag situations. This would slow them down to a preset speed to stop them losing control and would ensure no driver was disadvantaged.
This is harder than it sounds due to the varied and complex systems on the cars, but an early