Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Suzuka, 2022

“Unacceptable”: F1 drivers furious after passing crane on track at Suzuka

2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez reacted with fury after encountering two recovery vehicles on track during the Japanese Grand Prix.

The race was red-flagged due to heavy rain shortly after the start was given as two drivers crashed out.

Recovery vehicles were sent to recover the cars of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Alexander Albon which crashed between the hairpin and Spoon Curve. Perez passed the machinery while the Safety Car was out and complained to his team on the radio.

“Is it not clear that we don’t want to see ever a crane on the track?” he said to race engineer Hugh Bird.

Gasly was further back in the queue of cars and the race was being red-flagged at the time he saw the machines.

“God – what the? – what is this tractor?” he exclaimed in shock. “What is this tractor on track?

“I passed next to it, like… This is unacceptable! What has happened? I can’t believe this…”

Sebastian Vettel was also unimpressed with what he saw.

“Next time, they should inform us if there’s a fricking tractor on the road,” said the Aston Martin driver. “I know we’re under Safety Car, but in turn 12, there’s this…”

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“A tractor?” asked his race engineer Chris Cronin. “Yeah, exactly,” the driver answered.

Nicholas Latifi complained he saw “the fucking crane on track there” as drivers passed by. “It’s not great in these conditions. Very silly, actually.”

This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix marks eight years since the race in which Jules Bianchi crashed and struck a crane, sustaining head injuries he later died from. Bianchi’s father Philippe responded to footage of the incident on social media saying: “No respect for the life of the driver, no respect for Jules’, memory, incredible.”

Alexander Wurz, the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, reacted to the incident with dismay on social media. “I think we need to discuss a tractor on track,” he said. “We can keep it short: this must not happen guys.”

The FIA issued a statement pointing out the race had been red-flagged by the time Gasly came across the vehicles by the side of the track.

“In relation to the recovery of the incident on lap three, the Safety Car had been deployed and the race neutralised. Car 10 [Gasly], which had collected damage and pitted behind the Safety Car, was then driving at high speed to catch up to the field.

“As conditions were deteriorating, the red flag was shown before car 10 passed the location of the incident where it had been damaged the previous lap.”

The FIA has announced it will investigate whether Gasly was driving too quickly during the red flag. It noted “car 10 reached speeds of up to 250 km/h when completing the lap under the red flag after passing the scene of the incident.”

This article will be updated.

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Keith Collantine
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23 comments on ““Unacceptable”: F1 drivers furious after passing crane on track at Suzuka”

  1. I’m not surprised they’re angry about this. I sure am. Jules’ accident was so incredibly preventable. This makes me think we’ve learned nothing. Surely a race should be red flagged immediately if a tractor is required trackside in the wet. Especially when cars are aquaplaning. It doesn’t really matter who’s behind the wheel at that point.

    1. Horrible reminder. The rule should be simple and clear – when visibility is terribly compromised during heavy rain – no heavy equipment permitted on track until all cars are off track. Period.

      FIA/Liberty need to ensure such a reckless deployment in the wet never happens again.

  2. This is just ridiculous…. After all the incidents we have seen throughout the years in Suzuka when wet(1994,2014), after the loss of Jules, we once again had a crane on track with cars passing nearby it with increasing rain…….. Really disappointing from FIA…

  3. Yeah, that’s unfortunate but what the race direction is doing now is downright ridiculous. The rulebook should state we can’t race in the race because these chicken will never allow any racing under such conditions. We were waiting for 45 minutes when the conditions were relatively stable only for the rain to get harder and delay the restart. Clowns, clowns, clowns.

    1. At least try full wets. MichaelN in the Live commenting page made an excellent point regarding all cars starting on inters to save a pit-stop rather than full wets when it looked pretty obvious that they were required on the parade lap, if not earlier. And the Japanese fans risk losing out as the Belgian GP fans did last year.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur Glad to see you’ve got your priorities straight…

      1. The lengthy talk about the recovery vehicles is just gaslighting at this point. We don’t need to talk about it for 3 hours ignoring the fact that the race was practically abandoned.

  4. Gasly passed the scene under red flag conditions, as race control noted. He should be going very slowly at that point, not racing to catch up.

    1. That’s irrelevant. Tractors should not be on the track under any circumstances unless all cars are moving at reduced speed behind the safety car. Otherwise we’ll have a repeat of Jules Bianchi’s accident.

      On that note, if you have F1TV watch the 1994 Japanese GP replay. Martin Brundle had a similar accident and made the point on an in-race interview after he’d retired that he was lucky not to have been killed. Then we lost Jules. Now this. You would have thought F1 would have learned something in 28 years.

      1. As the FIA investigation showed, Bianchi was going over 200kmh when he ran off. The FIA should indeed be cautious when using recovery vehicles, but they should also be strict on enforcing flag rules. The marshals’ safety is just as important as the drivers’.

      2. It was a safety car condition though. Gasly was going way too fast under both an in-car safety car indicator and especially the double waved yellows being shown in that sector of the circuit. As, alas, was Bianchi several years before under a yellow condition, which resulted in the changes to the safety car rules that were supposed to prevent this type of driver behavior in similar situations. As a former F1 marshal, it’s a trickier situation than it may appear from the marshals’ perspective, since course workers are usually under considerable pressure from F1, race control, and their immediate supervisors in yellow flag and safety car situations to remove the obstructions from the track area as quickly as possible. They are supposed to be protected in doing so by drivers obeying the flagging and safety car rules (which include the proviso that support vehicles and personnel may be on or near the circuit). Sending the recovery tractor out there at that moment certainly seems a bit premature (however had the race remained running under a safety car it would have been deployed soon anyway), but I’m also sure the course workers also didn’t anticipate Gasly totally ignoring the rules and their safety and smoking around a wet track at 250kph under double waved yellows like a teenage rookie.

        The real fault though lies in race control and F1 administration, which probably never should have started that race under those conditions, especially with all the cars on inters. And definitely should not have hesitated on the red flag once the inevitable chaos ensued.

        1. Gasly was going way too fast under both an in-car safety car indicator and especially the double waved yellows being shown in that sector of the circuit.

          This is not what the stewards ruled. The stewards found he went too fast after the point on the track where the crane was, under red flag conditions.

    2. The first crane he passed was still under SC.

      1. And the one Vettel and Perez, and Latifi were talking about was also before the red flag, clearly. Very bad from FIA to be gaslighting rather than promising to properly investigate and improve so it won’t happen again. Learn from how airflight authorities do it or something.

  5. This picture is showing another tractor. There was one before this on the track.

  6. The GPDA should all come together and sue FIA for gross neglience and refuse to listen to them from now on as they clearly lost control of the sport regarding rules, penalties and proceedings.

    To do this at this track with this weather is unacceptable and people deserve to be put in jail over this as Jules Bianchi died for nothing.

  7. Lessons learned… Not.

    Shocking really.

    Especially since it was obvious red flag will take some time. No need to risk drivers lives…

  8. Whilst the crane went out, it was under the SC, however, when Gasly approached, there was a red flag and he was still travelling at speed (over 200 kph) under the SC/red flag.

    Whilst the race was wet, are they supposed to stop the race now in order to recover a vehicle? This is a huge over reaction (I was watching the race where Bianchi was mortally injured) from Gasly who was also seemingly travelling at excessive speed through the incident area, which he would have known about from the previous lap, when it happened.

  9. I think at the time the tractor was sent out the SC was on track and the expectation was that everyone would be lined up behind it which would have been perfectly safe because as Sky showed the SC itself slowed right down & it as well as the cars directly behind it all moved over to the right side of the track at that heavily reduced speed.

    The issue was that Gasly pitted and therefore got to and passed the crash site at speed trying to catch the pack.

    The SC call was correct & recovering Carlos car with that tractor under the SC was also safe. The only issue was that one car (Gasly) wasn’t in the SC line and therefore entered/passed the scene at higher speed.

    In future I think the only change required is something like a slow zone which mandates drivers go through the sector that has a vehicle on track at a specified safe speed when not in the line behind the SC. The SC itself can (Like today) slow to a safe speed with all cars in the line behind it doing the same so the slow zone would only really be needed for anyone trying to catch the pack.

    1. @roger-ayles against that, if the FIA was also throwing a red flag out to stop the race, why did they need to bring the tractor out onto the track with cars circulating round anyway? At that point, there is no need to rush the tractor out to begin with if they’re going to be stopping the race for an extended period of time anyway.

      1. The tractor was sent out as soon as the SC picked up the pack which is normal practice. Same thing has happened without any complaints in both wet and dry conditions both before & after Suzuka 2014.

        People complained (Rightfully so) before Suzuka 2014 about recovery vehicles been used under greed flag conditions. Such vehicles been used under the Safety car (Or even the Virtual safety car which lets not forget was introduced because of Suzuka 2014) was never something raised as an issue because cars going by it at reduced speed was considered safe.

        It’s only been raised as an issue today because Gasly went by it at speed. When we all saw the SC line pass by it nobody raised any concerns as the SC slowed them all down to safe speeds, It was only after the Gasly incident was raised on twitter that everyone started raising a fuss. Gasly going by it at speed was an issue, The rest going by it at very slow speed behind the SC was fine & commonplace in every category.

        When the SC was called they may not have been thinking about a red flag and only called the red later on because conditions got worse quite quickly as the rain fall apparently intensified during the SC period which is what led to them calling for the red flag.

        1. Would it not be expected that the incident area would be covered by a double yellow.? It should even under a SC.
          I thought that there were rules from many years ago to stop drivers going flat-out to catch the pack behind the SC.? Which is what Gasly was doing.

      2. FIA doesn’t send out the tractor. That’s race control’s responsibility, or that of the marshal supervisor onsite, depending on how the local organizers set up the command chain. Keep in mind that the marshals, flaggers, etc. on the track don’t know that there’s going to be a red flag until race control tells them to display it. They have to act on the information they have at the time, which at that moment was that the race was continuing under a safety car (and also double waved yellows in that portion of the circuit). Meaning that their primary responsibility would be to clear the track area of any disabled cars, debris, etc. as quickly as possible so that racing could recommence asap. And supposedly that the responsibility of drivers would be to obey those signals and slow down enough to let the marshals work as safely as possible.

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