Bianchi crane shouldn’t have been there – Ecclestone

F1 Fanatic Round-up

Posted on

| Written by

In the round-up: Bernie Ecclestone says the vehicle Jules Bianchi hit in his fatal accident at Suzuka last year should not have been where it was.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

F1 will always be dangerous, says Ecclestone (Reuters)

"The tractor should never have been there."

F1 must 'never relent in improving safety' (BBC)

Graeme Lowdon: "We always knew it was something that could happen, but it's still a shock."

Montezemolo: Bianchi was Ferrari’s future (F1i)

"He belonged to the Ferrari family and we had chosen him for the future and after our collaboration with Raikkonen."

Race to get money out of ailing Lotus Formula One after court order (Daily Express)

"The Lotus Formula One team has been ordered by the courts to clear nearly £600,000 of debts, after failing to pay 27 bills, one of which was for just £97."

You are never safe in a racing car: Narain Karthikeyan on Jules Bianchi (The Times of India)

"Karthikeyan got the sad news minutes before qualifying at Fuji. Does a tragedy like this affect a racer's mind? 'Not really. We all have to be mentally very strong.'"


Comment of the day

Ford-Cosowrth DFV designer Keith Duckworth was the subject of yesterday’s book review:

It’s strange that almost everyone knows who Colin Chapman is, yet few people would have any idea who Keith Duckworth is, even amongst motorsport fans he’s relatively unknown.

Back in the 90’s a friend of mine got his hands on an old DFV with multiple previous owners, after several months of searching for parts, making a few others and a great deal of effort he got it into nearly new condition and put it into a hill-climber he’d built. The power, response and drive-ability of that 20+ year old engine was unbelievable, and compared to a modern racing engine it was a very simple and easy to work on.

It’s amazing to think that such a small team were able to design what effectively became the foundation of all modern engines, and the engine of choice in F1 for over a decade until the introduction of turbo engines.

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to K, Steve and Arijitmaniac!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is via the contact form or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

Keke Rosberg became the first F1 driver to lap at an average speed of more than 160mph on this day 30 years ago:

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

60 comments on “Bianchi crane shouldn’t have been there – Ecclestone”

  1. Bernie has always had 20/20 hindsight.

    1. @hohum Heh, true. But at least he has said it.. what did we get from the FIA? A hand-washing exercise..

    2. If so then he still should have seen that it was Bianchi who shouldn’t have been there, but the crane had to be there.

    3. Not to be too fawning of him, but Bernie has been single-handedly responsible for many of the safety improvements around F1 and by extension many other facets of motorsport. His motivations for doing so have been somewhat divided (from the personal tragedy of Jochen Rindt to the monetary rewards from improving “the show”), but nonetheless all directed at improving driver safety. Take the hiring of Dr. Sid Watkins as one of many examples.

      As for Bianchi’s sad accident, maybe the crane shouldn’t have been there, but that’s no guarantee that something much worse – including smashing into the Sauber, Sutil and/or into multiple Suzuka track workers – wouldn’t have happened. Incidents of that kind are an unfortunate fact of all motorsport, not just F1.

      1. I think that Max Mosley and Jean Todt have most responsibility for the safety improvements, not Bernie. The FIA is in charge of safety; Bernie is in charge of the commercial aspects of the sport.

        1. If it hadn’t been for the tireless efforts put in by the likes of Sir Jackie Stewart and others on behalf of driver safety, Ecclestone and Moseley would just ignored the problems and recited “motor racing is dangerous”.

      2. Bernie’s decision to hire Sid Watkins as race doctor was the best decision he’s ever made, considering how many lives have been saved thanks to him.

  2. OmarR-Pepper - Vettel 40 victories!!! (@)
    20th July 2015, 0:18

    Even if he is right, that doesn’t change the sad facts. Most of the times, accidents are for humans neglecting or downplaying a dangerous situation. But it’s not time to start pointing fingers. There was already an official investigation that started just after the accident. Now it’s time to not bother Jules’ family with needless “what ifs”.

  3. Yes Ecclestone, act as if the time of the start couldn’t have been moved to avoid that weather…

    1. @joao-pedro-cq I recall Martin Brundle saying during the live broadcast that the weather was worse earlier in the day so changing the start time to earlier on wouldn’t have meant better conditions.

      1. @RogerA Martin Brundle said only a few minutes before the start of the race that he understood that they didn’t want disrupt all the people attending the race but the race should have been started 4 hours earlier when the weather was better in comparison.

        Whether the decision to not move the race to an earlier time slot resulting in the closing stages of the race being in those conditions with the light levels such as they were actually played a role in the accident I don’t know, I’m not sure if the FIA has made comment on this? However it’s not their decision when a race starts, they can only say it’s either safe or not safe to race at the time they are given, The promoters who were Honda in this case made the call not to move the race timing.

        People depending on their position tend to want somebody to blame, but really you can’t blame any one person or decision for this tragic accident, Lessons have to be learnt, Jules paid the ultimate price for his mistake, now hopefully the FIA, Promoters, Teams and even the drivers who can actually make changes don’t disgrace his honour by learning nothing.

        1. The conclusions of the FIA investigation mentioned that it (the time) was not a factor @woodyd91, @joao-pedro-cq, but they did advice to start some of the races that end in low daylight earlier …

          I am sure that there were many mistakes made in the buildup to the race and during the race (see changes made). But the tractor being there, hauling Sutil’s car off track right at that moment is not one of them.

        2. On the U.S. broadcast Will Buxton when on at some length during his pre-race commentary about how the race organizers’ decision not to move the start time up was creating a dangerous situation for the drivers. I recall him stating that the rationale of ‘doing it for the fans’ was rubbish because the Japanese fans all arrived at 8 am anyway.

        3. Michael Woodward made the most sane, balanced statement of the sad gaccident that befell Jules Bianchi.
          I raced in the 60’s & 70’s when a lot of my mates were killed, I was married with 2 young children, I asked myself frequently when I was flat out down the straight, when you had time to think. ” What am I doing here” my wife eventually succeeded in making me give up. I could have been a world champion, but if I had continued I could also be dead now, & not a Great Grandfather. We each make our own decisions, is the risk worth it for the momentary glory.

    2. Exactly my sentiments @joao-pedro-cq. It wasn’t all Jules fault.

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        20th July 2015, 9:33

        @fletch, and even the excess speed of car #17 under double waved yellow was something I hold FIA/race director responsible for.

        The rules are clear, at least on paper: “drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop”. But the race director and FIA never enforced this rule in a way that it was intended (and would have saved a life in this case). If the race director condones drivers to just marginally lift under double yellow, then he cannot suddenly blame the driver when it goes terribly wrong. And also the FIA is to blame: they could see for years that cars did hardly reduce speed under double waved yellow and the only thing they do is tinker with allowed radio messages, change the points systems, or ban stuff like FRIC suspension.

        Yes, car #17 was driving too fast under the given circumstances, but it isn’t the guy behind who should be blamed.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          20th July 2015, 10:16

          @coldfly – Would Jules have received a penalty for going too fast if he hadn’t gone off the track then? No.

          I’ve said this since the FIA first tried to blame Jules – F1 is about making the most of every tenth of a second to get the best result possible. If a yellow comes out and everyone takes the corner at 100mph, you won’t do it at 70mph in the name of safety. In fact, if you did regularly slow down more than other drivers for yellows (in the name of safety), you’d probably be replaced with someone who didn’t!

    3. Bernie isn’t at fault for the start time though, Honda the track owners vetoed any change of start time so they didn’t have to refund anyone. Bernie might have wanted to keep the same time too I can’t remember his position on it but even if he didn’t It wouldn’t have changed because of Honda.

    4. He didn’t hit a cloud, he hit a crane that shouldn’t have been there. If they want to improve safety, find another recovery method. I put hardly any effort in to finding another solution and already i thought about a small recovery vehicle of sorts with soft padding all around in case of impact. Those who’s job it is to improve safety will be able to find much better solutions than me. so what is stopping them?, surely they don’t think those cranes are acceptable.

  4. That Express articles shows everything that’s wrong with tabloid F1 reporting… Poor Romain, being confused for Max Verstappen.

  5. pastaman (@)
    20th July 2015, 0:56

    @keithcollantine I tried to reply to the Indycar forum post but it is not showing up.

    1. Worked for me, but I posted a few minutes ago. Retry?

  6. Just reading about the confirmation that Jules would have replaced Nasr or Ericsson this year, and Raikkonen the next, damn near brought another tear to my eye on a tough weekend to be an F1 Fanatic. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I recommend the montage/salute to him as done by Adaco of MiniDrivers fame. The last part hit home.

    MiniDrivers – Tribute to Jules Bianchi:

  7. follow the link to view the early laps of the 85 British GP, then come back and tell me how much clown tyres and pit stops have improved F1, yes I know it’s just my rose-tinted glasses.

  8. Finally something that Eccelstone says makes sense. That crane shouldn’t have been there. If at all a crane is required, get a big one which is capable of lifting heavy loads from distance. Hopefully they have learnt their lessons by now.

    Also get the races done in before daylight is finished. The Asia-Oceanic belt only have a handful of grandprix for which the fans in Europe have to sacrifice their schedule.

    With Bahrain becoming a night race and Singapore always being one; Japan, Australia, Malaysia, China are the ones where they might have to adjust to the race times.

    F1 is deemed dangerous because of the very high speeds in which the drivers operate their cars. F1 shouldn’t be dangerous because of someone’s stupidity.

    1. In the past, the reason why they used a mobile crane was, because there is an emergency access road immediately behind that barrier and because the circuit doubles back on itself there for one of the short track configurations, it was judged that it was not possible to install a permanent crane due to the lack of room.

    2. You can’t have large arm cranes everywhere around a track like Suzuka. Sure Monaco, but not Suzuka. It would simply cost way too much money.

      I’m surprised they haven’t explored putting barriers around the base of the tractors however. They could be adapted. The real problem was Bianchi sliding under the thing, which even at low speeds (with a VSC) could be fatal with an exposed cockpit.

      1. @john-h and @anon I am not aware of the cost impacts but considering that the track itself is generally kept totally clear of any obstacles, I am very much against a heavy machinery occupying the same real estate as a fast moving car.

        If it is deemed that car cannot be fetched without the entry of a crane into the track, then better stop the race or wait to get the crane in till the cars are queued behind the SC. It will be a drag but I rather have all the drivers start the next race than lose a few so young.

        Also the option you mentioned about putting a barrier around the base of the crane should be explored. Anything to make F1 safer.

        Finally, if it is not possible to deploy a permanent crane due to change in track configuration, then more thought needs to go into the planning of the race. In this era of computer simulation, I am sure a lot more scenarios like Bianchi accident can be recreated.

        Finding a solution to it must be the prime motive of FIA now. Improving the show for the fans can wait.

        1. It is funny how every one forgets that just before the accident every one on here was complaining about the safety car coming out for every little thing. Then the accident happened and every one complains about the safety car that was not there. A lot of people all so forgets that double yellows are for the hole sector and not for half the sector. This was a great tracigety that happen because of a lot of factors and you can blame every one for there little part of the accident but at the end it was a lot of unfour see factors that leaded to the accident and not just one major factor.

          1. Nothing wrong in learning from a tragedy I suppose? Or do you want this to continue and someone else to lose their life in similar circumstances?

            21 years is a long time and maybe the fans and the F1 people didn’t think such an accident was possible. Now that it has happened, why not take time to review the situation and add in a few checks to reduce fatality to null?

            There might be ‘N” number of factors but it was the impact with the crane that killed him. I am sure if he had stuck the car, he would have escaped with lesser damages. Hence the reason why many are focussing on the crane here.

    3. ColdFly F1 (@)
      20th July 2015, 9:55

      @evered7, don’t forget that the crane probably saved the life of the marshall who was directly behind the crane (and in the path of the Marussia)!
      Things are never as easy as they seem at first sight. Motor sports (like taking an elevator!) has some inherent risks. Let’s minimise the risks without losing the essential.

      1. @coldfly I don’t remember the accident wholly but why was the marshall standing near the crane? Probably to help it shift the Sauber away from the track using the crane? Which brings the existence of the crane into question again.

        We have previously seen multiple cars hit the same spot on the track through aquaplaning (Korea 2010 was it? or Malaysia 09?). But no marshall was there to be injured.

        I agree that there are some inherent risks associated with the sport, but a crane on the track is a definite ‘NO’ after what happened at Suzuka.

        1. The marshall was there to stabilize the car @evered7, and both he and the crane were out only for the short period of time needed to clean up Sutil’s car.

  9. Yes Bernie, the tractor shouldn’t have been there. I would go further and say that part of the F1 circus should be light weight mobile cranes to bring to each circuit instead of bringing in whatever farm machinery is available that weekend near the track.

    Then the crash structure of the mobile cranes can match up to the cars. The size, weight and visibility of the rig could be just right for the removal of an F1 car and the safety of the course workers.

    1. But its not just F1 events that run at the circuit around the year. The track needs a permanent solution to lifting all kinds of cars off the circuit safely.

      Plus flying or shipping cranes all over the world does seem a little over the top.

      A compulsory safety car or VSC when a tractor is on track would be a sensible solution, along with some protection at the base of the tractors to avoid sliding under.

      1. Yes as long as the race director doesn’t have the wherewithal to make sensible decisions himself. Then we need that rule.

        When a truck is on the inside of the barrier on the outside of a turn in wet conditions. That means automatic safety car.

    2. IMHO that machine wasn’t even close to a good choice for the job it was doing – my guess is that it belongs to the track.
      The nature of mobile cranes is that they’re heavy (counterweight) – not as heavy as the wheel loader at Suzuka but well into immovable object territory.
      The marshals need to have hands on the load to steady it when they’re being shifted with a mobile crane – that isn’t required for a fixed position crane so the marshal can hook up and depart – exposed for a matter of seconds rather than minutes.
      Best-fit cranes are available by the hour/day around every one of these venues – they simply aren’t that expensive. Maybe Bernie should chip in for decent cranage at every runoff at the tracks.

  10. You can have as many tractors as you like, but it’s only sensible to cover them with a safety car when they’re on the track.

    1. And put foam or at least one layer of tires around them

      1. and put a foam around the marshalls?

        in Indycar Trackmarshalls are banned from entering the track in every condition because drivers refused to back down forcing a safety car . the driver then have to wait for the safetycrew in their truck for medical help, they also have a restarter to start the cars again

  11. Saying the tractor shouldn’t have been there is easy now, on top of that it almost means it would’ve been fine had Bianchi hit Sutil, and then he would’ve said ‘Marshalls should have gotten the Sauber out of there’. It’s all easy to say such things now but everyone acted as they deemed right and up to that point we have had many tractors on track and nobody ever shouted fire. Remember in Korea when that firetruck drove onto the track? Except for some funny captions nobody said that was a major hazard whilst it also was.

    Sure the SC should’ve come out but even then whilst doing that lap it is obvious Bianchi was still pushing a bit to much under terrible conditions whilst everyone else was slowing down. Comment above saying Bernie is at fault for not starting the race earlier is just complete nonsense, like anyone ever could have predicted this was going to happen.

    Sure call it an unpopular opinion but it is always easy to blame someone afterwards and say what he/she should have done, and Bernie is one of the last guys who should be pointing fingers. Next to all that I think Greame Lowden is the only man talking sense. These things happen and we must treat them as a learning moment, a very costly one indeed, and most importantly move forward. We must never stop improving safety or call it a job done.

  12. The facts are that the car was traveling to fast for double yellow conditions, I have seen it reported that the car was under full accelerator and brakes simultaneously when it left the track, human error or faulty drive by wire are the questions we must get answers for, Maria de Villota had the same problem when she was injured and Kimi R has twice reported unexpected power surges . Should this accident have been caused by unintended acceleration not even a safety car would definitely have prevented it.

  13. Ok so Bernie waits 9 months and a fatality later to say that?

  14. The key question regarding the Bianchi accident is why he didn’t slow down. The rain was increasing over the previous few laps and his was one of the very few cars to have increased lap speed during this period, why? Part of the reason for his speed is that Sutil had been behind him for several laps and Jules driving stock was on the up, Ferrari beckoned.

    Then Sutil crashed, but how much can a driver see in his mirrors of the car following, did Jules realise he was on his own? The first positive information that might have been made available was when he passed the pitwall a couple of minutes later. Marussia then had a scant 20 seconds before he crashed to tell their driver he was no longer under threat from behind and he could ease off. Was there radio communication, nothing has ever been said about this, remember this came directly after the [Ecclestone inspired] team radio restrictions.

    I believe that without the uncertainties of penalties arising from radio restrictions Marussia would have felt able to inform their drive and he would then have slowed for the waved yellows as the rules require.

    1. So now it’s Marussia’s fault? Astonishing…..

      1. No, if you read my post properly, it’s the fault of the person who rushed in the radio communication restrictions, Bernie was laying claim to that at the time, therefore it is he who who is in part to blame.

    2. @frasier

      why he didn’t slow down

      To be clear, the report found he did slow down, but in the authors’ view not “sufficiently”:

  15. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, leaving the onus on a driver to drive to a certain delta or speed is asking for trouble. They are racing drivers for a reason and will always push everything to the limit, they should implement a sort of speed lane restriction button until the incident is clear, it’s not rocket science.

  16. When you are accelerating as fast as you can and flinging cars around others within mm’s, you have already admitted that you are not worried about your safety. And we get called out for not caring about our safety. It is a calculated risk that you will or won’t die above any certain speed. But when you feel that thing hook up and pull and start successfully ripping off some smokin lap times, there’s no feeling like it.

  17. Steph (@stephanief1990)
    20th July 2015, 9:31

    Bernie finally says something sensible – although he’s forgetting that it wasn’t the only issue, as there was the much contentious debate of if/when the race should even go ahead which surely played into things,.
    People have commented that now isn’t the time for such talk but I strongly disagree. The number one priority should be making sure needless incidents are avoided. Racing will always be dangerous but there’s a difference between natural danger which comes with racing and then avoidable danger which the drivers should never be exposed to. This wasn’t exactly unpredictable either- not only because of the debate about when the race should start but because for years there have been near misses with tractors such as at the European GP in 07 when Liuzzi nearly hit the tractor. Tractors present an obvious danger; they’re huge and very strong so an F1 car is never going to stand a chance and they’re often positioned in the parts of the track where drivers are likely to crash due to needing to collect a car that’s crashed in that area in the first place. As soon as Brundle saw the tractor he commented that he hated seeing it iirc (and does whenever there’s a tractor) which is understandable given his history but just shows that the information was there and there was an understanding of the danger it presented. Imo if a recovery vehicle – tractor or medical car- has to come onto the track then just red flag it.

    If Bianchi had slowed and hadn’t made the error of riding both pedals at the same time, the crash could have been avoided but driving errors happen. It’s the responsibility of the authorities to make sure that when incidents happen they’re not put in anymore danger than can be avoided. If the tractor hadn’t have been there he would have gone into the barrier and chances are the crash would have caused less physical damage, but even if the trauma was the same at least it wasn’t preventable. Everyone who races and watches the sport understands how luck features into accidents- Massa’s Hungary accident. Alonso and Kimi both nearly getting head injuries at Spa 2012 and then Austria 2015, Webber’s flying crash at Valencia 2010, but in these accidents the sport has been outstanding in its response and never contributed to the accidents severity by its rules or actions etc. It’s not about blame but ensuring that nothing like this can happen again.

    1. I think pressing both pedals was more the result of a panicked brace reaction. It’s hard to override human instinct. Nothing in evolutionary history calls for slowing down with one foot and accelerating with the other; it has to be learned.

  18. A lot of people are making mention of the accelerator and brake being applied and I just wanted to highlight that he was aquaplaning at the time. This meant that the wheels were no longer breaking through the water to touch the ashphalt underneath, instead it behaved like a boat does and the tyres sat on top of the water skating, therefore his actions of accelarating and/or braking was completely irrelevant. I believe that his speed also probably wouldn’t have counted much either, I think he just hit the part of the track that had the largest stream of water and took off, no different to what happened to Sutil in the first place.

    Chances are the reason he was trying the accelerator at all was because he was trying to get some form of traction, because the brakes weren’t doing anything.

    1. What a foolish comment. Speed didn’t play a part in it? Please. The higher the speeds you go at, the greater the chances of aquaplaning. You don’t need to be an F1 driver to know this…driving in torrential rain on highways will teach you the same.

      1. Of course speed was a factor, I never said it wasn’t, please take time to read my argument before jumping the gun

  19. I think Bernie was asked for comment about the incident and he gave the only acceptable response he could, nothing more. He is doing his job of trying to keep the FIA/Formula 1 out of the law courts. We tend to analyse every word that comes out of his mouth, however, there is very little else we could expect from him over this tragedy. We want increased safety measures and he’d argue that the VSC is an innovation brought about in direct response to the initial incident.

    I remember reading some of the statements by the FIA post 94 Imola, and they were all very guarded back then for the same reason. However, back then they were a bit too ambitous to try any and every safety measure, including ridiculous tyre walls for make shift chicanes (spain 94 comes to mind), and they even forced teams to cut out large holes out of their airboxes as an immediate reaction.

  20. “He [Bianchi] belonged to the Ferrari family and we had chosen him for the future and after our collaboration with Raikkonen.”

    This quote is intriguing to me, if you read into it, it suggests that Kimi was set for a departure last year if Montezemolo reamined in charge. So it certainly does look as if Arrivabene gave the Kimster a last shot at it… Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  21. So the old fart Ecclestone still around showing as always amazing hindsight

  22. I disagree. I think everything was done correctly.

    Remember, we were complaining that drivers were being babysitted in the rain too often, too much. It was amazing to have seen the FIA not call out the SC, and remember everyone (commentators and viewers) were in support of the decision at that point in time.

    Also, if you go back to the tyres Jules has, he was among the cars that had the most worn tyres. Plus, he hadn’t changed to a wetter compund that others were on. Two things there. As much as it is painful to swallow, I think the blame ultimately lies with him. He’s a grown up man, and knows the consequences of his actions. He went too fast for the tyres he was on and flew off the track and met his eventual end.

    The one safety improvement I can get behind is to somehow have “mobile barriers” surrounding the heavy duty cranes. Such as pad them up with tyres, or some kind of skirting so as to ensure drivers don’t hit the edges of the vehicle at their head-level.

    Otherwise, everything else is just nonsense and people not speaking truthfully.

  23. Stating the obvious is his forte. It’s easy to point the finger at someone after an accident, what would make Ecclestone great would be if he could tell everyone whats GOING to happen, before it does. There’d be a lot less accidents that way. :) RIP Jules Bianchi – an unfortunate accident that goes with the sport.

  24. Michael Brown
    21st July 2015, 17:25

    Well, yeah, but the point is that it was there, and the doubled waved yellows didn’t help. The drivers weren’t responding the the doubled waved yellows, and that includes Bianchi.

Comments are closed.