Bianchi crash investigation calls for major changes to the Safety Car regulations
A series of safety changes, including the introduction of the new Virtual Safety Car (VSC) system, have been recommended following an investigation into Jules Bianchi’s Japanese Grand Prix accident.
The Marussia racer was serious injured when he left the track at Suzuka in the 5 October race and struck a recovery vehicle. He remains in critical condition in a hospital in France as F1 Racing closed for press.
The FIA commissioned a ten-person panel, including Ross Brawn, Emerson Fittipaldi and Alex Wurz, to investigate the accident. The panel’s 396-page report has concluded that a number of key issues contributed to the accident.
Jules Bianchi slid off the track at Turn 7 of the Suzuka circuit, where a recovery crane was removing Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which had gone off the track on the previous lap. The review ruled that Bianchi did not slow down sufficiently to avoid losing control in deteriorating conditions, and then ‘over-controlled’ his oversteering car, which meant he left the track at an earlier point than Sutil. While traversing the run-off area, Bianchi applied both throttle and brake. That should have triggered a FailSafe algorithm, designed to cut the engine, but the rear brake-by-wire system on Bianchi’s Marussia was incompatible with the system.
The report noted that the actions taken following Sutil’s accident were consistent with FIA regulations, and followed 384 incidents in the preceding eight years, and that rescue and medical procedures were followed and contributed to saving Bianchi’s life. It noted that, without the benefit of hindsight, there was no reason why the Safety Car should have been deployed before or after Sutil’s accident, and that it considered it ‘fundamentally wrong’ to make changes to the design of an F1 car or recovery vehicle in order to make an impact between the two survivable. Instead, it was ‘imperative’ to prevent a car ever hitting a recovery crane.
The panel issued seven recommendations to improve safety. The key change is to impose enforced speed limits in yellow flag zones, as well as the adoption of the Virtual Safety Car system which was trialled during the last three races of the 2014 season.