George Russell, Williams, Singapore, 2019

Giovinazzi: Crane incident was “quite safe”

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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Antonio Giovinazzi said his driving in the incident with a crane which earned him a 10-second penalty in the Singapore Grand Prix was “quite safe”.

The Alfa Romeo driver was penalised after the stewards ruled he caused a “potentially seriously dangerous situation and a risk to the marshals” by driving close to a crane which was being used to recover George Russell’s crashed Williams during the race.

Giovinazzi, who kept his 10th-place finish despite his penalty, said the incident looked worse outside the car than he believed it was.

“They said I was too close to the tractor that was recovering Russell’s car,” he said. “To be honest maybe from outside can look [that way].

“But you are in the street track, really tight track, and I was on my target. For them I was too close but for me it was to be honest quite safe. But they are the stewards. At least nothing changed on my result.”

Giovinazzi was warned “stay on the right, turn eight” on his radio before he reached the crash scene but, unlike other drivers, was not told about the presence of a crane on the track.

He said the stewards advised him to drive more slowly in a similar situation in future.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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17 comments on “Giovinazzi: Crane incident was “quite safe””

  1. I think he missed the point that it doesn’t matter what he thinks, the fact is the stewards have said your driving was not safe so perhaps be a little humble and suggest you will leave more space in the future…

    1. His reply merely confirms that a 10sec penalty was not enough; he should have received a reprimand and/or penalty points.
      I thought it was blatantly clear what the consequences can be when a racecar fails to make the turn with a tractor on track.

      1. I think a reprimand and 2 points would have been fair in addition to the penalty.

  2. While I have the utmost respect for racing drivers under racing conditions, under safety conditions I’d not trust them as far as I can throw them. I’d rather trust my fellow commuter, instead.

    Under safety conditions these drivers are fiddling with their car’s settings, fussing with managing tyre temperatures, and so on. So while Giovinazzi in this instance might think he was safe (and the absence of any contact indicates he was right), that does not mean it is acceptable by any means. We’ve seen that even under safety conditions, the urge to push, to drive to a delta and to ensure one doesn’t lose a competitive edge – not to mention sheer track circumstances – means that drivers can lose control (e.g. Grosjean at Baku, Hamilton at Germany, or more tragically, Bianchi at Suzuka).

    Typically, accidents require a cascade – a sequence of events to go wrong. And safety is achieved in depth – by trying to eliminate most events in that accident sequence one can ensure that even if some of them occur, an accident can be avoided. Start assuming that since there are so many safeguards that a few corners can be cut (figuratively!) and that’s a slippery slope to a tragedy.

    In this instance, a crane should not have been there with cars in circulation, drivers’ physical safety should have been ensured by potentially parking a lower vehicle like the medical car there to ensure a same height impact (if one occurred) instead of putting the halo in the firing line, and drivers should have driven more cautiously.

    This attitude is no different from a drunken driver thinking “Hey, I made it home safely last night, so I’m sure I can drive safely under the influence in future”.

    1. @phylyp, that’s the CoTD. Marshal’s permitting.

      1. @jimmi-cynic – I got a stop and don’t go penalty, instead. Help?

        1. No worries, @phylyp. We can appeal to the highest court in the FIA. I’m willing to be your advocate at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Please sent a first class ticket. You wouldn’t want to give the wrong and lowbrow impression to the International Court of Appeal, would you?

          1. @jimmi-cynic – you’re that eager to see Mr. Todt, are you? What was it you were calling the halo? Ah, that explains it ;)

          2. @phylyp: Not eager to see Todt or his upside down safety underwear. I’m sick, but there’s a limit. Just keen to defend your 5 sentences of fame from the arbitrary frontier justice of Marshall Keith.

    2. @phylyp, to that end though, there is one point about that incident which I feel deserves more attention – which is how slow Masi was to send the safety car out in the first place.

      Given the damage to the car, it was pretty clear that it would require some form of lifting equipment as it couldn’t simply be towed or rolled out of the way. There was some debris that had been spread near the racing line, the car was in a position where it could easily be struck by another car and Russell was standing on the car looking for a way to get through the fencing as other cars were coming past him.

      All in all, it should have been fairly obvious pretty quickly to race control that a safety car was needed to remove his car, yet it seemed to take at least a couple of minutes for Masi to react (even as the cameras cut to race control to show Masi looking at the screens at Russell’s damaged car).

      Traditionally, race control have reacted relatively quickly in those situations to neutralise the race so the marshals can begin recovering the car safely and to make things safer for the drivers involved. Here, though, it seemed to take Masi at least a couple of minutes to react – there seemed to be a lack of urgency from them to neutralise the race and to control the pace of the drivers.

      This doesn’t seem to be the first time either, and to some extent I am concerned that Masi doesn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency or focus that Whiting did when it came to safety matters. There have been the weak penalties for unsafe releases in the pit lane – to me, even the 5 second time penalties are still too soft given that often it’s still in the teams interests to take the penalty and chance an unsafe release – and, dare I say it, at some venues it feels as if marshalling standards have slipped too.

      After all, in Monaco we had the instances of marshals running across the track without permission – something that is extremely surprising, given that the marshals in Monaco are normally meant to be quite well trained – and, in the support races, we also saw large numbers of marshals entering the track to move cars when they really weren’t required, and probably just getting in the way. Thankfully, the FIA are now tightening up the briefings to marshals on entering the track without permission, but that should be a message that should already be hammered home as a basic point.

      I don’t want to sound harsh, but I do get a feeling that the FIA is suffering from a problem that quite a few organisations face when they’ve been forced to make a change to their procedures because of a major accident. The problem is that, over time, as new people come into that organisation, because they’ve not experienced a major accident before, there is a lack of awareness of the consequences of something going wrong and a sense that some people lose a sense of why those procedures came in to begin with. It generates a sense of complacency, or maybe more a lack of awareness for how and why things can go badly wrong, if enough isn’t done to remind people what happened and why it happened.

      To some extent, I get that feeling now with the FIA, and more so under Masi’s direction – especially given that Masi had to take the role up much sooner than planned, cutting short the transition period where he could have learned more from the more experienced figures in the FIA.

      Whilst most focus on driver safety, I feel that has led to a lack of attention towards those outside the cockpit – the mechanics and marshals that are all needed to make the sport run. I do agree that it feels that some safeguards that should be in place are being overlooked for expediency, or not being properly enforced, perhaps because those who are involved haven’t had the misfortune of learning how badly things can go wrong when things are not properly enforced.

      1. I don’t want to sound harsh, but I do get a feeling that the FIA is suffering from a problem that quite a few organisations face when they’ve been forced to make a change to their procedures because of a major accident. The problem is that, over time, as new people come into that organisation, because they’ve not experienced a major accident before, there is a lack of awareness of the consequences of something going wrong and a sense that some people lose a sense of why those procedures came in to begin with. It generates a sense of complacency, or maybe more a lack of awareness for how and why things can go badly wrong, if enough isn’t done to remind people what happened and why it happened.

        I totally get what you’re saying here in terms of the loss of institutionalized knowledge, it’s one of my soapboxes (not about the FIA, but the industry I work in) :)

        Thanks for your comment, anon!

        1. @phylyp, the problems with that loss of knowledge is something I have heard about across a wide spread of the engineering sector (and it’s good to hear that it’s something you are actively challenging in your own field) and, in this instance, there is an increased risk given that Whiting’s sad demise has forced Masi to take his place before he was fully trained up.

          Furthermore, that enforced change has also occurred at a time when the FIA seems to have been planning to split Whiting’s role between two different figures – with Tombazis being responsible for the technical aspects and Masi the sporting aspects – which seems to have disrupted that sense of continuity even more in this case.

          They have perhaps been fortunate that things have gone OK so far, but at the same time I worry that, because they’ve gotten away with it so far, it’s also not going to force figures like Masi to look at what is happening and to re-evaluate their decisions.

    3. @phylyp

      Typically, accidents require a cascade – a sequence of events to go wrong. And safety is achieved in depth by trying to eliminate most events in that accident sequence one can ensure that even if some of them occur, an accident can be avoided

      We safety people always start the elimination process at the top and work down which in a the average workplace can seem relatively easy (it’s not), if we can’t eliminate we manage. In high risk situations like Motor Racing the primary cause of the risk is the whole point of the exercise in the first place.
      Making as the primary controls engineering = expensive and potentially introduces further risks and can cause controversy the Halo for instance, Administration = the implementation of perceived draconian rules (Red Tape) a dragon i’d love to sleigh, and PPE = the last resort generally clumsy and of little effect.
      This approach then requires the application of human factors which is the black art of trying to predict what a person will do and how they will perform under specific circumstances. Despite Googles, claims this is not possible :).
      This all starts to get really complicated and can be bit hit and miss even with screening, excellent training and ‘adequate’ supervision of the participants. Applying safety to such purshutes as Motor Racing would be very challenging and frustrating.

    4. I think you are overreacting. Since the terrible incident with Jules, we do have the halo. Plus the conditions were excellent at the moment and race control had given the instruction to inform the drivers that a crane is at the track. These guys have above the average response times, unless there was a catastrophic failure in the car (like a brake or steering wheel failure) there is no way they would crash into the crane, they casually avoid their fellow drivers at well beyond safety car speeds.

      If that’s not enough for you I guess we need to have a red flag each time a crane enters the track.

      1. @afonic, actually, racing drivers don’t have quicker than average reaction times compared to most athletes, and in general the difference in reaction time between an athlete and the average person on the street would not make a meaningful difference in this case (in the order of maybe 0.01-0.02s at most).

        The main difference between a racing driver and the average person on the street isn’t in terms of reaction time – the main difference is usually in being able to anticipate that they will have to make a correction to the way the car is moving, rather than waiting for the car to respond and then making a correction.

        In this sort of scenario – a driver coming round a corner with no clear line of sight – that benefit doesn’t exist and Giovinazzi would react no quicker than any other random person of the same age as him at reacting to seeing the crane on track.

    5. COTD for sure.

      Racing drivers are inherently dangerous. That is what they do, racing around the place at totally unsafe speeds. Most of the top ones crash several times during their careers. 10cm from the wall is “not using the full width of the track”

      For him 2-3 m from crane might seem perfectly safe. When you are going at 300 km/h around corners as close to the walls as your skill allows then doing 100 km/h 2-3m from the crane must feel pretty pedestrian.

      But to the marshals probably life starts flashing before their eyes.

  3. With hindsight he is of course absolutely correct – he didn’t have hindsight before he went round the corner though did he?

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