Bianchi Tragedy

Lessons F1 must learn

F1 Racing - - FRONT PAGE -

For­mula 1 bosses are de­ter­mined to keep work­ing to re­duce the sport’s dan­gers in the wake of the death of Jules Bianchi, while ac­cept­ing that it can never be com­pletely safe.

A se­ries of changes have been in­tro­duced fol­low­ing Bianchi’s ac­ci­dent dur­ing last Oc­to­ber’s Ja­panese Grand Prix, in which he suf­fered se­vere head in­juries when he col­lided with a trac­tor ve­hi­cle that was re­cov­er­ing another car. Bianchi died in hos­pi­tal in Nice on 17 July, hav­ing never re­gained con­scious­ness fol­low­ing the crash. BAL­ANC­ING SAFETY WITH SPEED The Grand Prix Driv­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a state­ment say­ing: “It is at times like this that we are bru­tally re­minded of how dan­ger­ous rac­ing still re­mains. De­spite con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments, we, the grand prix driv­ers, owe it to the rac­ing com­mu­nity, to the lost ones and to Jules, his fam­ily and friends, to never re­lent in im­prov­ing safety.”

F1 com­mer­cial boss Bernie Ec­cle­stone, mean­while, vowed that: “We must not let this ever hap­pen again.”

How­ever, there is a wide­spread ac­cep­tance through­out F1 that some level of risk is an in­her­ent part of the sport’s ap­peal, both to its au­di­ence and its par­tic­i­pants.

Lead­ing fig­ures within the sport plan to make the cars five or six sec­onds a lap faster in 2017, which can be done with­out com­pro­mis­ing safety. This is be­cause it would merely bring the cars back to the speeds at which they were run­ning ten or so years ago, when safety mea­sures were less ad­vanced than they are now.

F1 race di­rec­tor Char­lie Whit­ing used the crash be­tween Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Pérez and Wil­liams’s Felipe Massa in last year’s Cana­dian Grand Prix to il­lus­trate these con­tra­dic­tions when speak­ing at the FIA Sport Con­fer­ence in Mexico in the week be­fore Bianchi’s death.

Whit­ing said: “En­ter­ing the last lap they had a big ac­ci­dent, tyre bar­ri­ers went ev­ery­where and the cars were very badly dam­aged, but the driv­ers emerged un­scathed and I think that’s what ev­ery­one comes to see.

“We need to make sure there is that el­e­ment of dan­ger but that no one gets hurt; that’s re­ally our func­tion.” SAFETY STEPS TAKEN Sev­eral steps to in­crease safety have al­ready been taken fol­low­ing Bianchi’s ac­ci­dent. The cock­pit area of the cars has been strength­ened with the ad­di­tion of strips of a com­pos­ite ma­te­rial called Zy­lon, and, to avoid the risk of cars hit­ting heavy re­cov­ery ve­hi­cles, the Vir­tual Safety Car sys­tem (VSC) was in­tro­duced.

Of­fi­cials have de­cided that the VSC is the best com­pro­mise for sit­u­a­tions such as the Bianchi ac­ci­dent, where a car has gone off but can be re­cov­ered rel­a­tively quickly. The other op­tion

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