Felipe Massa, Williams, Monte-Carlo, 2015

Bianchi crash was unacceptable – Massa

2015 F1 season

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Felipe Massa, Williams, Monte-Carlo, 2015Felipe Massa says he cannot accept that Jules Bianchi’s car was able to collide with a crane in his fatal accident during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Speaking during a press conference at the Hungaroring today Massa said Bianchi’s crash was something he “cannot accept”. However he pointed out that F1 had already made several changes to prevent it from happening again.

“I think if you go back to what’s happened to Jules many things changed after that,” said Massa. “So unfortunately we need to see that type of accident to understand what’s happened.”

“I really agree that the Formula One change a lot, especially after Ayrton Senna’s accident. And I believe the car is very safe now. We always need to keep working to improve the safety, not just the car but the tracks and everything is very safe now.”

“So what’s happened in Japan, it was a different situation. What’s happened in Japan is something that we cannot, I cannot accept. Because a car crash on the tractor.”

However, Massa added, “I am sure after that accident so many things change and people understand that what happened there is something that’s not supposed to happen.”

“So we had some different rules after that, for the Virtual Safety Car, for the more Safety Cars, especially if the car goes out of the track and everything. So unfortunately we need to see that type of accident to change something. But I think the most important thing is not to see that again.”

“Unfortunately Jules is not here any more. But even so many things changed in the past because of accidents, unfortunately. But it’s important that we don’t see that any more.”

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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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31 comments on “Bianchi crash was unacceptable – Massa”

  1. There were some really lovely memories of Jules from Massa especially – he articulated with some gravitas that Jules has left an unmistakable and unforgettable mark on this sport.

    Whilst this is not an occasion for speculation, I do wonder how manageable the emotional weight of attending a funeral for a fellow driver is for a family man like Massa. With a commendable career behind him, you can’t help wonder if this could trigger Massa’s retirement.

    1. I am sure the article is about Jules and not Massa…

      1. How can it not be about Massa when Massa is the one saying the words?

  2. Has FIA been talking about minimum height skirts/safety beams/bumpers for track vehicles? (Similar to those at the back of lorries)

    I’am just wondering, because that seems to me like the logical, simple and cost effective solution to prevent such accidents.

    1. In the official report the decision was (and correctly so in my opinion) that such a situation should never occur in the first place. That is why we have the VSC now.

    2. In the report they said it wouldn’t work:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2014/12/03/fia-releases-bianchi-crash-report-findings/

      I have to say though I understand your logic I can imagine why it would be impractical. Look at how deep the tyre walls are around solid barriers:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/?attachment_id=302221

      Now imagine fixing something like that onto the side of cranes.

      Far better to not send the cranes out unless there’s a Safety Car or a Virtual Safety Car. And regardless of hindsight there had been enough near-misses pre-Suzuka that this policy should have been in place already:

      http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2015/07/20/learning-the-right-safety-lessons-from-bianchis-death/

      1. But a concrete wall would have been better than getting tangled under the crane, the reason the deceleration was so sudden and ultimately killed him.

        6 rows of tyres aren’t required, just an armco.

        Even at half the speed under a VSC you would still aquaplane under one of those cranes and get decapitated. I don’t understand, there needs to be a number of measures.

        1. there is what is said, and what can be reasoned. a couple inches of steel would have been enough, 6 inches off the ground. IMO.

          the thing about tractors and walls, is that walls do not move, and the car is left to come to a complete stop, with respect to a tractor, it could have been completely toppled, it’s operator killed (very real possibility, funny how nobody talks about the operator of the crane who could have easily been killed that day). The skirts are not a big thing, but the FIA does not want to be responsible for having to pay up in court, or look poor.

      2. I thought there was also an aspect of the undercarriage of the crane being the same height as the cockpit of the cars, making for a very dangerous situation. These cranes don’t have to be fast, you just have to attach some energy absorbing material (slightly elastic but obviously strong like Kevlar) to the side of the cranes like the plastic bumper that surrounds go karts. Then couple that with the VSC and the energy in any accident that could possibly occur would be exponentially less, making it more survivable.

        1. steel would be good enough, but don’t forget some beefier kit around the operator of the crane too, just a few feet to the left, and a bump could have easily ended the life of that crane operator.

    3. Simplicity & cost effectiveness is one of the last criteria in risk management, and rightly so when there is potential of harm to an individual (be it permanent or temporary) or a risk to a life.

      In the construction industry in the UK the hierarchy employed is (very briefly):
      1. Remove the risk altogether
      2. Mitigate the risk as best as you can (i.e. limit the potential impact or frequency of it occurring)
      3. Provide physical safety protection for any residual risk

      Skirts etc falls under stage 2, but in actual fact if they remove the tractors/cranes they are removing the risk altogether. This is a good example of risk management but it is just a shame it took an accident and hindsight to realise what the potential impact could be, even if the frequency of it occurring is so low.

      You see other examples of this in other areas of F1, e.g. massive run off areas are stage 2, mitigating the risk as much as possible and the tyre walls are stage 3, providing a physical barrier.

      I just wish they’d apply the same to the pit lane!

      Altogether though, there is inherent risk within motorsport as we all understand, so exemptions are made to these stages above. For example, these cars don’t HAVE to hurtle around a track as to remove the risk & applying stage 1 would mean not having a race whatsoever!!!!!

      1. Yeah, I was thinking even something convex so a car is deflected off of the recovery vehicle. But that is likely to send up sprays of carbon fiber, and there are marshals standing near the vehicle to assist. Now you’re putting the marshals’ lives in danger. So yeah, “this shouldn’t happen” is the right approach.

    4. Skirts would solve nothing, there where the car of Sutil and Sutil himself and not to mention the marshals running around the crane and hitting them would have been even worse than hitting the crane. The problem is they let the race go on during a vehicle recovery at an unsafe spot. Virtual saftycar, closed cockpits, skirts and whatnot would do nothing as this was the cause of a bad judgementcall to let the race go on and nothing else.

  3. I just realized something; many people seems to think it was because F1 car hit a tractor or whatever heavy equipment used by the marshal, which is what happened, but I think we should look more at the detail of the crash. It was because somehow Bianchi car hit the tractor right in the engine/counterweight part and hence it hit the driver head directly. Imagine if the positioned is changed just slightly so the nose hit the tractor wheel instead, I think at worst we will have a destroyed Marussia, disabled tractor and probably concussion for Bianchi (not that concussion is not dangerous, but its way better than direct hit to the head).

    The probability of F1 car hitting a tractor is much higher than the probability of F1 car hit a tractor right in the area where the crash structure actually not colliding with the tractor itself. So I can’t see why this can’t be called freak accident.

    1. I remember thinking at the time ‘freak accident’ when this happened. Since then though I’ve considered my opinion and realised that there is no such thing as a ‘freak accident’. Either that or all accidents are ‘freak’.

      Accidents are unpredictable, it’s what defines an accident. An unexpected event, most often with an undesirable outcome. Otherwise it’s not an accident, but a deliberate action.

      So the freak accident thing is misplaced. If anything it could be described as a rare type of accident, but it still it happened. To paraphrase Murray Walker, anything can happen and it probably will.

      An accident is an accident and must always serve as a lesson.

      Do not allow tracktors onto the track unless the VSC is in effect or the safety car has picked up all the cars. It’s simple. No more such accidents. It’s a tradegdy that we lost a driver to learn this lesson. In that, Massa is 100% correct.

      1. @psynrg Well my definition of freak accident is something that should have really low chance of happening happens. Usually involves many variables so that the chance it happening is really low. Like Massa accident, how can you prepare for a spring will fall from a masterpiece of engineering, at such high speed, with perfect trajectory to hit to weakest spot in a helmet? Likewise, Bianchi accident is he aquaplaning at such speed right into the most fatal part for the impact.

        Of course if it can happen, it will happen someday (Murphy’s law?) but you sure don’t become paranoid for those kind of accidents.

    2. @sonicslv, it was not the impact per se that killed Bianchi, but rather the deceleration that generated terminal g-forces.

      1. @serg33 True. However if the impact if between the crash structure and tractor, most of the energy will be absorbed by it. The g-forces will be divided along deforming structure, seatbelt, body, and some limited neck movement. Of course the driver will still have serious risk of injury and concussion but its still way better than direct hit to the helmet where it only handled by the head alone.

  4. So, forgive my ignorance, but is there a reason, beyond tradition (for lack of a better word), why F1 cars (and GP2, and Indy, etc.) are open cockpit? Is it just a question of style for open wheel racers, or is there an engineering reason? Is it a weight factor?
    Before anyone says, I realize a closed cockpit would not have helped in this instance given the g-forces involved. I am just curious why we still have open cockpit cars when we have the tech to have fighter-jet type canopies that can absorb .50cal rifle shots and do not impede visibility.

    1. No there is no other reason. F1 cars are open cockpit and open wheel out of tradition only, there is no engineering reason why you couldnt have LMP1 style cars in F1.

    2. Having open-cockpits is generally considered to be part of the definition of what a formula car is, alongside open wheels.

    3. The first automobiles and racing automobiles were open cockpit and open wheel. Biologically speaking, this was the original “species” of automobile, and single seater formula cars are the modern descendants in this evolutionary line, technologically evolved but basically the same anatomy. This anatomy creates a unique driving and racing experience, and the specific risks require particular driving and racing techniques versus fendered and roofed vehicles. All these constitute the appeal of formula car racing. To me, there is nothing that matches the primal sensory experience of racing an open wheel car at the limit on a natural terrain road course. It is the closest thing to dogfighting in a fighter jet. Maybe motorbikes and LMP1 come close. But this particular experience entails increased inherent risk that formula car drivers must be willing to accept. Once you put a roof and fenders on, the discipline is different, and we already have those categories of racing. So either we live with the risk of the open cockpit and wheels, or we let the formula car go the way of the biplane. It’s our choice as a racing society.

      Having said that, Bianchi’s death was not the result of the inherent risk of the sport but the result of poor safety protocol, and could easily have been avoided if previous “near-misses” had been paid the attention they deserved. A “near-miss” does not show that existing safety protocols are adequate. The lesson from a “near-miss” should be that current safety protocols are actually inadequate and that you have been highly fortunate to have been given an opportunity by the universe to observe a previously ignored mechanistic chain reaction with its associated underlying physics before something bad happened. Once the “near miss” has been encountered, the bad consequence is no longer “freak” or “unpredictable”, but is highly predictable given the right circumstances. Not implementing a corrective protocol after a near miss is gambling that statistical unlikelihood exceeds the cost of implementation. From a safety standpoint, this is unacceptable. The risk to formula cars from safety equipment was taught to me the very first time I stepped into a formula car. In addition, correct protocols beat mitigation (padding the tractor, etc) every time. Mitigation is not a replacement for proper protocol.

      The only excuse for a low probability incident is that you’ve never encountered anything like it before, which is clearly not the case here. The FIA and its on-track representative Charlie Whiting either still did not understand the risk properly due to misinterpreting previous “near-misses” (negligence) or they underestimated it (greater negligence). Who should bear the burden of this mistake? Only Bianchi and his family?

      1. actually that should read “cost of implementation exceeds the statistical likelihood and/or human cost of the event”

  5. Massa is always so outspoken and says his “correct” comments after a incident has happened, blaming the organizers and safety comity is a low blow. Where was he before this freak accident screaming that a working track vehicle could be in the wrong place at the wrong time one day??? so cut the unacceptable crap. He’s making himself out smarter then everyone.

    1. My interpretation was that he was saying additional safety measures were introduced in the wake of the accident therefore it wasn’t acceptable to the sport to carry on as it had been.

    2. I would say that a guy with a decade at F1, and one that survived a brutal accident, has enough authority to talk about his business without asking for authorization.
      I can´t see how do you expect anyone to talk about a accident that didn´t happen yet, tbh.
      Talk about unacceptable crap….

  6. I remember what I thought when I saw Sutil’s car in the barrier and him climbing out: “Sutil has aquaplaned off, that’ll be a Safety Car”. So why was I so sure that the Safety Car would be deployed? After all, I don’t think that after every crash I see. The key word is “aquaplaned”: if one car has gone off due to aquaplaning, the likelihood that another will do so in more or less the same place increases – moreso than if the track is dry. Therefore, marshals and heavy machinery will be in the firing line for whatever time it takes to recover the car.

    Not deploying the Safety Car was a catastrophic decision and it’s not like there hadn’t been near misses involving cars aquaplaning around the vicinity of recovery vehicles (see Nürburgring 2007).

  7. Do you want to know the difference between Senna’s death and Biachi’s death?

    Senna’s death was an accident.
    Bianchi was murdered.

    1. Bianchi didn’t slow down as much as he should have after seeing double waved yellow flags. After going off he didn’t slow down either, because he was full on the throttle while trying to brake.

      The first problem is “fixed” through virtual safety car forcing the drivers to actually slow down.

      The second problem was partly a fault in the Marussia not dealing properly with such a driver error. A properly functioning F1 car would switch off the engine when it detects the driver panicking and applying both brake and throttle at the same time. FIA has conducted checks to see if they all do this properly now.

  8. @patrickl Human factors experts know that placing judgment in the hands of humans when safety is concerned is the source of errors and catastrophe. In this perspective, allowing speed control in the hands of drivers when safety equipment and marshals can be struck by cars at speed is an incorrect safety protocol and is thus unacceptable. Drivers should never be given speed judgment when the lives of safety workers and other drivers is at stake especially under inclement conditions where control of the vehicle is highly impaired, because they will often overestimate what they can do or misread conditions and thus choose wrong. Drivers are trained and conditioned from their first races to go as fast as conditions allow (including under cautions and yellows), not as slow as needed. This is a crucial difference. Tenths of seconds lost or gained change race positions and outcomes. Drivers are also genetically predisposed to not think of their own safety once the visor goes down. It is a requirement for success in all high risk professions. Therefore in these professions, implementation of correct safety protocols that takes as much human judgment out of the equation as possible is a requirement. It is the only way to avoid catastrophic incidents. The only way. There is a great discussion of these aspects of the incident on Gary Hartstein’s blog.

    What the safety car does is it takes the judgment of what speed is acceptable out of the hands of the drivers.

    Therefore, from a formal safety analysis perspective, the correct safety protocols were not implemented. Regardless of whatever error Jules made, this error by race control is the greater of the two errors.

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