Marussia denies “deeply upsetting rumours” over Bianchi crash

2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Marussia has issued a denial of claims made in some media reports of Jules Bianchi’s crash during the Japanese Grand Prix.

The team issued a statement claiming there is evidence to show Bianchi did slow in response to the double waved yellow flags at the scene of Adrian Sutil’s crash, and that they did not encourage him to drive faster through the area.

Marussia said it was “deeply upsetting” to read the reports while Bianchi remains in hospital with serious injuries.

Marussia statement on Bianchi’s crash

During the course of Tuesday 14th October, a number of media reports emerged suggesting:

1. That Jules Bianchi did not slow down under the double waved yellow flags shown after Adrian Sutil had spun off in the wet conditions
2. That the team urged Jules to go faster during the double waved yellow flag period in order to keep Marcus Ericsson behind.

The Marussia F1 Team is shocked and angered by these allegations. At a time when its driver is critically ill in hospital, and the team has made clear that its highest priority is consideration for Jules and his family, it is distressed to have to respond to deeply upsetting rumours and inaccuracies in respect of the circumstances of Jules’ accident. However, given that these allegations are entirely false, the team has no alternative but to address these.

Regarding point 1, Jules did slow down under the double waved yellow flags. That is an irrefutable fact, as proven by the telemetry data, which the team has provided to the FIA. In the FIA press conference which took place in Sochi on Friday 10 October, Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Race Director, confirmed that the team had provided such data, that he himself had examined this data and that Jules did slow.

Regarding point 2, an audio copy of the full radio transmission between Jules and the team, and also a written transcript thereof, were provided to the FIA. It is quite clear from the transmission and the transcript that at no point during the period leading up to Jules’ accident did the team urge Jules to drive faster or make any comments suggesting that he should do so.

The team sincerely hopes that, having clarified these facts, it can now avoid any further distractions to its primary focus at this time, which is providing support for Jules and his family.

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Image © Marussia

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Marussia denies “deeply upsetting rumours” over Bianchi crash”

  1. It is absolutely clear that neither Bianchi, no Marussia broke any rules. Shame on people, who try to blame them. Just like Sutil, Bianchi most probably underestimated the weather conditions and made a mistake but that could happen to anyone.

    Unfortunately there are always conspiracy theories and wild “media” reports when tragic accidents happen and it’s best to respond calmly to them and present facts and evidence that prove the opposite.

    1. I don’t think it’s a matter of blame, but I also don’t think Bianchi made a mistake of judgement. The problem lies far deeper than this. The problem is drivers, all of them, simply don’t respect the meaning of double waved yellows anymore, and they don’t take proper action.

      Double waved yellows mean slow down, be extremely careful, be prepared to take evasive action, even be prepared to stop. That means: don’t go at 120 mph around a bend in the wet. Because if there’s something at the other side of the bend, chances are it’s going to get ugly. Drivers know this. Double waved yellows are used in a lot (all?) of racing series. They don’t suddenly completely change meaning in F1.

      I understand the rule is open for interpretation. There is no strict “you have to go at speed X in situation Y”. I even understand why they do it (“the others don’t drive at 60 mph so surely I am not going to do it either because I will lose time”). But that is the root of the problem.

      Honestly I think better discipline by the drivers could have avoided this. It shouldn’t be necessary to impose a speed limited “safe zone” to solve this issue, drivers should pretty much know what is a safe speed and what not. I even think it’s a bit hypocritical that some have come out and stated that safes zones are a good idea in order to have clarity – clarity was always there, it was just up to good judgement of the drivers, which they are capable of. But they all failed to live up to that. And it had to come to this. Maybe it’s surpising it took this long.

      To conclude: I’m sorry for Bianchi. I hope he pulls through and will one day lead a normal life again.

      1. I personally do not think it works like this. If drivers could so easily estimate the right speed under any conditions, then there would not have been so many fatalities in the history of F1 because a lot of them have happened exactly because of that, driving too fast. That is why so much has been done for safety instead of simply telling drivers to be more careful.

        In my opinion, it only makes sense to have certain speed / time limits in place. As I understand, such limits actually already exist. As AUTOSPORT reported in March, drivers were “told by F1 race director Charlie Whiting that they must now slow down by 0.2 seconds compared to their best sector time for single yellow flags, and 0.5s for double waved yellows.”

        If the FIA has explained the yellow flag rule to drivers by setting certain limits and the drivers have observed them, then there is no reason to say that drivers have ignored the rules.

        1. “If drivers could so easily estimate the right speed under any conditions, then there would not have been so many fatalities in the history of F1 because a lot of them have happened exactly because of that, driving too fast. ”

          I just had a look at the fatal accidents in F1 dating back to 1970. The vast majority of them is due to car failure of some sort (tyre, suspension most notably), a few are car collisions. 1 or 2 because of overdriving (Villeneuve being a notable one).

          But there’s a big difference between actual racing at the limit, when fast pace is the goal, and racing under double waved yellows, when safety is the primary concern. I’m not saying that they can judge to the exact mph, but ballpark estimations should not be a problem for any of them, and none of them are doing that either.

          About Whiting: please take note that Whiting does not surpass or overrule any written rule or regulation. If he has issued a directive that states going 0.5s slower in a double waved yellow sector, then he holds part of the blame. Because just stating such a limited directy which would hold true for any and all situations, not accounting for rain, track condition, …, is just plain stupid. But in the end, the rules still dictate that one should be able to stop on-track for anything that lies ahead. And drivers have not been following that at all.

          1. Most comprehensive analysis. I agree and like your comparison of driving at max speed during racing and primary concern is safety under yellow flags.The real understanding of this simple statement could have avoided so many accidents.

          2. Thank you for the well-thought response, I enjoyed reading it. However, I still have not changed my opinion.

            I agree that racing at limit is not the same as driving under yellow flags but racing under yellows is not just about safety either. If that was the case, the race control would simply stop the race, instead of trying to slow it down.

            I also agree that the rule book still applies no matter what Whiting says but if a rule is open to different interpretations, then people will interpret it in their own favour. Expecting anything else would be like ruling that “citizens must pay reasonable tax rates” without being more specific and then waiting for billions to come into the government budget.

            What does “be prepared to stop” mean? A driver is always prepared to stop, it is just a matter of reaction time and braking distance. Even if you drive 30 kph, you still need a few metres to stop the car so the FIA could theoretically punish the driver for driving 30 kph under double waved yellows. On the other hand, the driver will say that even though he was driving 350 kph, he was still prepared to stop and he will be right as well.

            I see what you mean but I do not think that anything will ever change if the FIA believes that the rules are already clear enough and no speed limits or time limits are introduced. Drivers’ speeds under yellows will be in the same ballpark like they were in Japan and in >99% of all cases everything will be alright but one day disaster will strike again.

          3. “What does “be prepared to stop” mean? A driver is always prepared to stop, it is just a matter of reaction time and braking distance. Even if you drive 30 kph, you still need a few metres to stop the car so the FIA could theoretically punish the driver for driving 30 kph under double waved yellows.”

            Well, no. When driving at 30km/h you can see anything that comes up ahead and you will be able to stop if necessary.
            Look at it this way: we have speed limits in our countries. But the law (well, at least my law) also states that I should approach dangerous situations with caution and that I should adapt my speed according to the situation. If I am about to take a blind corner (one that I can’t see the exit of), I must drive responsibly, which means I have to take the corner at such a speed that I CAN stop in the eventual case a toddler is walking out on the street just on the exit of this blind corner.

            Applying to double waved yellows, they mean that something serious is up ahead, and that if you can’t see the exit of the corner yet, you should take it at such velocity that you can stop your vehicle if necessary.

            I don’t think there should be any word’s play about the double waved yellows. We and they all know what they mean – that there’s danger on-track. The FIA regulations say, word for word, that “There is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the track”. So a proper action is not just slowing down by 0.5s for a sector, even though Whiting says they won’t be punished if they slow down 0.5s. I mean, what are you going to do if you go through a blind bend and the track is fully obstructed? You’re going to crash and it’s going to hurt.

            This is a case where everyone should have it in him/her to follow the spirit of the rule, because they are endangering others or themselves in case they don’t. This is what has been happening and I find it understandable, but also inacceptable and inexcusable. And I’m not targeting Bianchi individually here – they’re all to blame.

            I know I’m sounding idealistic. But really, this _could_ have been prevented with decent discipline if drivers would follow the rule for what it means instead of taking it by word.

      2. “..drivers.. simply don’t respect the meaning of double waved yellows anymore..”

        I think the “anymore” is redundant.

        1. That might very well be. I was born in ’82, and I have no recollection of driving standards before the end of the eighties. I don’t know whether they have ever been followed.

          1. Yes they were very respectful in this situations…I was born in 86 and grew up watching the ‘new era’ (now old) of F1 with Schumacher, Hill, Villeneuve and Mika. I had to do some research and watch lots of F1 old reviews and complete races to understand what was going on on the 80’s and 70’s. Races were very dangerous in some situations, but drivers followed the rules and track limits very well…something I notice in nowadays is that there’s a rule for everything. Now everyone wants a rule for ‘maximum speed in waved double yellow flags’, like if the flags weren’t enough sign to slow down.

        2. Drivers can’t afford to slow relative to any of the others, the net result of that imperative being that they’ll all go as fast as they can within whatever firm restriction is in place – the lesser of apparent traction last time they went through or 0.5s per sector in this case.
          Clearly a speed limiter (perhaps adjustable from race control) would remove relative imbalance and get rid of the injustices and boring delays imposed by the Safety car shuffle.

          Having said that Safety cars are boring, on the same day as the year’s most banal F1 race, easily the best motor race of 2014 had 10 Safety cars and an hour long red flag.

          1. Which race was that?

  2. I hadn’t seen the reports Marussia refers to until I saw their statement. The story appears to have originated in Sport Bild and was then repeated by several others including ThisIsF1, AutoWeek, WorldCarFans and PaddockTalk.

    1. @KeithCollantine Sport Bild’s article also contains analysis of Bianchi’s sector times on laps 40 and 41. But the fact that he slightly improved his times in sectors 2 and 3 on the 41st lap, compared to the previous lap, obviously does not indicate that he ignored the yellow flags on the 42nd lap. Seriously, it’s amateur journalism, to put it mildly.

  3. What an awful thing for Marussia to have to respond to.

    It is the nature of incidents like these that people will look to some kind of explanation for what happened, to make sense of it in their own minds. Explanations like this one have the added comfort factor of suggesting that the cirumstances were unique, that it was a freak occurrence, that nothing could have been done differently by anyone else to prevent the incident from happening.

    As I have made clear previously, I disagree. But this is not the place for those comments.

  4. At the end of the day, it is immaterial assigning blame, as no penalty can be assessed that is worse than what anyone is going through (also Marussia and Bianchi are blameless). The fact that Bianchi was not able to stop is also immaterial, in that he cannot and should not be judged retroactively to a higher standard than other drivers on the track that day. It is far more important to get the exact details of the incident and analyse them such that mitigating policies can be implemented. If Bianchi slowed, then I’d be interested in knowing where he actually began to lose control to determine if the yellow flag sector for that corner needs to be expanded further up the track. Also, perhaps a full-course caution should be the new standard of double-waved yellows (no overtaking, driving to a delta for the whole track — the “virtual safety car” so that everyone immediately has to slow down all around the track and nobody gains an advantage anywhere until the track is safe for racing (no vehicles or marshals on the track).

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    15th October 2014, 9:15

    Unacceptable, and contradictory to Whiting’s own view of the incident (he said Jules backed off). Webber was so right when he cited the F1 media circus and the “s*ahem*t journalists who write s*ahem*t magazines” as a reason for needing to “escape” the F1 paddock. And don’t think it is merely the mainstream media and mainstream sports reporting subject F1 to terrible standards of journalism. In 2012 the BBC’s Andew Benson published a story on the BBC Sport website entitled “Vettel to Join Ferrari in 2014” and only recently seemed to be under impression the paddock rumours of Alonso’s alleged cancellation of his Ferrari contract were a reasonably basis to confirm his exit from Ferrari. Sport Bild also appears guilty in this situation, with utterly amateur inferences made by improvements in sector times.

    The media is invariably too heavy-handed in situations where the story is not developing at the speed they would like, but the fact that F1Fanatic has only published official press releases has hardly handicapped its coverage relative to other media. This insult to a team going through an unimaginably difficult time is the scourge of the media, but unfortunately it is the inescapable byproduct of a global, commercial sporting spectacle.

    1. the fact remains that until the data is published speculatiion will continue. i have seen on you tube a video trace of the GPS tracking of bianchi’s car and it gives the impression that he in fact accelerated in the yellow flag zone from approx 140kph up to in excess of 200kph immediately prior to the incident. now i may be reading this icorrectly but until i see the actual traces held by the FIA/marussia then i will remain a sceptic.

      1. Your post is sad, not scientific or factual and serves no purpose other than furthering hurtful speculation and misinformation. Your prediction that speculation will continue is a self fulfilling prophecy by your own hand. Why are you in such a hurry to come to the conclusion you have arrived at?

        Here in the state of California accident investigations can take months. No doubt the FIA intend to be as thorough as the highway patrol. In the meantime ways to keep F1 cars away from heavy tractors and marshals are being planned, tested and hopefully implemented. That is the danger, at any speed or in any conditions.

      2. Can I have the link to the video? I assume it is FIA sponsored, since there is no other official source of that type of information. However that would be strange since the incident is under investigation and therein the release of any official data, telemetry or video would be a gross infringement of protocol and a prosecutable offence bearing in mind Jules injuries. Also, why is the word of the experienced Whiting not enough for you; why would he lie to the media? Your feigned skepticism in the hope of generating an interesting post is both pathetic and immature and not worthy of this forum.

  6. Cod journalism as usual but one thing does stand out. This question of whether Jules slowed or slowed enough has been the elephant in the room since the terrible incident.

    Many people will still latch onto the sensationalist story because it has soap opera levels of detail.

    If the FIA or Marussia hadn’t withheld most of the important details of the incident then there wouldn’t be anything for people to speculate about. If that fan video hadn’t been circulated after the event then it would be even worse.

    For such a public spectacle it is imperative that as much factual information is released as soon as is practical and respectful. Withholding just fans the flames of speculation and misinformation.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      15th October 2014, 10:27

      @psynrg, I don’t think the slowing down is the elephant.
      – a terrible accident has happened;
      – double waved yellow did not work;
      – FIA is responsible to make sure it does not happen again.
      Its better to focus on solving this than blaming, and learn from any mistakes made.

      1. @coldfly
        By that logic anyone who gets hurt in a crash on the roads wouldn’t be subject to a police investigation or prosecution.

        Just because Jules has suffered terrible injuries is no reason to absolve him of any responsibility, it may be very difficult for the team and his family but that’s no reason for the incident not to be investigated and blame assigned where appropriate.

        I don’t want to pass judgement on this incident as I don’t have all the information available or the experience to make such a judgement but if the investigation finds that Jules is in some way responible I would hope they make this known, regardless of his medical condition.

        Emotion shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the facts, especially if those facts are going to be used to make changes to safety standards and procedures.

        1. am i the only person who thinks nothing else is relevent apart from there should not have been a 20 tonne tractor on a live circuit? Even with a saftey car that tractor being hit at 30 mph could cause awful head injuries.
          Why not have two tractors, one for recovery and one that has a 20 ft long armco with techpro built on the side that can protect the marshals etc?

          1. I think you are.

      2. So, how do you reconcile: “I don’t think the slowing down is the elephant.” with “double waved yellow did not work”?

  7. Like most people who saw the Japanese GP I realised that something very serious had occured because there were no pictures, and having seen the fan video – I understand why. However, there is always speculation, and the now seemingly inevitable conspiracy theories. A statement setting out what ‘they believed’ occurred very soon after the event would have helped followed by an updated report once things were clearer. In due course I am sure there will be a very detailed analysis.

    I am saddened by the thought that a future star may well still lose his life.

    Drivers have failed to properly respect double waved yellows in F1 and most classes of racing that I have watched. I understand that they do not want to lose time to others, they may not consider there own safety just the race, but it does show a complete disregard for the safety of others, especially the marshalls almost all of whom do their work for the love of motorsport. The time is right for some thing radical and/or some very serious penalties.
    That does not help

    1. I don;t think the unavailability of FOM footage is on purpose. FOM didn’t have a camera aimed to that part of track. Apparently it even took Charlie Whiting a while to get a camera pointed at the scene for confirmation that something actually had occured.

    2. @andy-price, you are absolutely right, an accident like this one, with or without a tractor involved could have resulted in the death or maiming of one or several marshalls and the driver completely uninjured, in those circumstances would we completely absolve the driver of all and any blame, I don’t think so.

  8. Of course Jules slowed down. Of course it is an irrefutable fact. Cause you know, the rain WAS getting heavier. Does Marussia take us to be idiots or what?

    Nobody is saying they implored Jules to speed up. What people are merely saying is that Jules did not slow down enough for a double waved yellow.

  9. @andy.price
    COTD right there! Its pretty crap that Marussia need to respond to things like this at the moment!

    I read an article today, like most of you would, and Jules Dad made a comment that was so upsetting yet courageous “We know the next phone call could be from the hospital saying Jules is dead!” This comment really dropped me to be honest- they have hope but know he is still in a bad way!!

    Lets leave the finger pointing for a while just yet maybe!

  10. Jules did slow down according to the team but he was still going too fast in that corner for the double waving flags.

  11. A basic detail seems lost in this to and fro about whether he slowed down: It was pouring rain. Even in a road car with deeply grooved all-season tires, you can possibly hydroplane off the road at (U.S.) highway speeds. Bianchi could have well gone off had he slowed to a relative crawl, and once on that wet grass whatever speed he had was for keeps. He could have hit the wrong stream/puddle the wrong way. Recall races like Brazil or Nurburgring in the past where multiple drivers could see with their own two eyes a parking lot cars in the run-off, but still slid right into it—it’s incredibly difficult to judge this situation and the slowest speed can put you off. Bianchi slowed down. Whether he slowed enough, according to practice or the conditions, seems like a pointless discussion. This kind of thing just happens in the rain. The correct focus is on how you prevent this obvious, well-known inadvertance from resulting in a driver hitting a tractor/ambulance/medical car.

    1. @dmw – Completely agree. There was more water coming across the track 1 lap later when Bianchi came to that point after Sutil had gone off and a slower speed could still lead to aquaplaning.

      The problem is the tractor and solving that is job one.

      The rush to publish rubbish “journalism” that led Marussia to respond has absolutely nothing to do with the truth or solutions. They don’t care a whit about who they hurt, they only care about profiteering from a tragedy.

  12. The murky epicentre of this story seems to be the failure of drivers to slow down sufficiently for double yellow flags and the willingness of Whiting/FIA to water down their own regulations to the point where a small (let’s be honest: tiny) reduction in speed is deemed sufficient even in extremely hazardous conditions. The teams presumably liaise between the drivers and FIA before or during races to ensure FIA are happy with the *token* reductions being made. Because that’s what they are: tokenism. And it’s worth stressing, however uncomfortable this may be, that the regulations are not just there for the drivers, but also – indeed primarily in this case – for the stewards risking their lives on track. Which is why to some extent everyone is to blame: the drivers, the teams, and FIA especially for understanding the dangers but failing to ensure any meaningful application of their regulations. Much the opposite: they signal that the speed reductions are just a gesture.

  13. About the fact that some people have been saying that flag discipline deteriorating in recent times, I would like to say that the number of lappers behaving outrageously despite being shown blue flags has definitely dwindled.

  14. I don’t know why the media are looking to blame Jules or the team, the real culprit is the regulations that allow very high speeds to be maintained during a double yellow flag situation.
    In fact as is mentioned above, Charlie gave the drivers a certain amount of sector time to slow down which may work on a dry track but in the wet is completely inadequate, so if anyone is to blame is the FIA and specifically Mr Whiting for coming up with a number that is far from the spirit of the rules.

  15. Hugh Messenger
    15th October 2014, 17:55

    It seems very simple to me. The safety car should be deployed before any recovery vehicle is allowed out. Period. End of story.

    1. Exactly. Sigh, FIA Charlie is covering up at all cost else he’ll lose his job. Someone’s gotta take the rap.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        16th October 2014, 10:24

        @johnbt – This is something that should have been looked at by F1 as a whole (including drivers, teams, race organisers and the FIA) if they all felt it was a huge issue. No use in complaining about it and blaming each other once someone has got hurt.

        Cars have been recovered without safety cars for years. The hazard has always been there but everyone seemed to accept that. It’s not suddenly one person’s fault just because someone has got hurt.

        If people had called for safety cars in these situations but Charlie had refused, it’d be his fault but the “safety-car-every-time-a-car-is-recovered” camp have certainly been very quiet up until now!

  16. petebaldwin (@)
    15th October 2014, 20:20

    Thing is, people want to understand what happened. I appreciate that little has been disclosed from Marussia or the FIA but it’s rare these days for things to be left unclear.

    When things have been left unresolved (think 911 or the plane that was shot down over Ukraine), rumours start to take over and gossip becomes “fact.” Because very little information has been released so far, some will take that to mean that there is something to hide.

    Why haven’t the FIA released data? Because it looks bad on them that they didn’t take any action? Did Marussia want Bianchi to slow right down to a walking pace whilst the rest flew around unpunished? Of course they didn’t but I doubt they specifically said anything about it.

    Unfortunately, whilst information is kept away from people, the conspiracy theory brigade are in their element.

  17. under double waveds you should be be prarped to stop ,drivers no longer adhear to this ,godspeed jules get well soon

  18. Slow down by 0.2 sec for single yellow and 0.5 for double yellows. Might as well not have yellow flags, it’s really ridiculous honestly.

    Maybe it should be 80 or 100 kph for single yellow and 60 or 80 kph for two yellows. Not only keep drivers safe but marshals safety just as important, they are there for us to clear up as fast as possible so we fans can enjoy the races so they must be protected even more.

  19. If they want to have less hazards recovering cars that have fallen off the track, why don’t they have a lane inside the tyre wall for the tractor to be in whilst recovering the damaged car, therefore minimising vehicles in the collision path of ‘racing cars’ ? Just a thought !

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