Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022

‘We lost Jules because of this mistake’: F1 drivers condemn use of crane in wet race

2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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More Formula 1 drivers have criticised the decision to send recovery vehicles onto the track during the rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix.

Several drivers reacted with anger on their radios after seeing a crane and another vehicle on track after the Safety Car was deployed. Some passed the vehicles during the Safety Car period, other once the race was red-flagged due to the deteriorating conditions.

Alexander Albon, who retired with a technical problem on the first lap, was one of several who pointed out Jules Bianchi suffered fatal injuries after spinning and hitting a crane at the circuit eight years earlier.

“We know what happens,” he told Sky. “We don’t want to talk about it, a few years ago.”

He expects drivers will raise the matter with the FIA after the race.

“We’re in a position where it is really dangerous,” he said. “I think people don’t realise that. Of course, the FIA, I am sure there will be such discussions going into the next race about why a recovery crane was on the circuit.”

The other driver who retired on the first lap was Carlos Sainz Jnr, who crashed. He said drivers can lose control of their cars much more easily in wet conditions, increasing the risk of spinning off and hitting something.

“I don’t know if people understand, but even behind Safety Car we are going at 100, 150 kph,” he said. “And still at those speeds, we see nothing. Even behind the Safety Car.

“So if one driver decides to get out of the racing line or has a small aquaplaning or has to change a switch on the steering wheel and gets a bit out of line and hits a tractor it’s over.”

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He questioned why the decision had been taken to send recovery vehicles onto the circuit when the race was about to be stopped.

“I still don’t know why we keep, in these conditions, risking having a tractor on track because it’s just worthless. [They] were going to red flag it anyway so why risk it?

Other drivers who continued in the race voiced their concerns over the use of the crane on social media.

“[What the fuck]. How’s this happened?” said Lando Norris. “We lost a life in this situation years ago.

“We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. We wanna race. But this… Unacceptable.”

Sergio Perez, who complained about the recovery vehicles on his radio immediately after passing them, reiterated his concerns on social media.

“How can we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on track?” he wrote. “We lost Jules because of that mistake.

“What happened today is totally unacceptable! I hope this is the last time ever I see a crane on track!”

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2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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11 comments on “‘We lost Jules because of this mistake’: F1 drivers condemn use of crane in wet race”

  1. Philippe Bianchi has sent a live message to the French TV commentator of Canal+ in which he described that deploying a crane in a red flag period while cars still on the track is sheer incompetence. The race direction in F1 are a joke , a bad joke, and Masi was scapegoated to obscure that fact.

  2. 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 regardless, it shouldn’t have happened, race direction, f1 learned nothing like you mention wec has slow zones, they already copied vsc, they could implement a delta and by the way Gasly was running with a loose headrest when he hit the hoarding, he pitted for a new wing and for the headrest to be fixed, the hoarding surely does not need to be tied to the barrier, one which clearly should have been made of tecpro and not tyres, it ended up bouncing a car into the track and a piece of hoarding, now imagine the loose headrest Gasly had crashed heavily?

    2. 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.

      More than that, the crane should have been well illuminated. I have often seen these types of vehicles operating in broad daylight with flashing lights on, and wondered why they need them turned on, but of course the reason they need them turned on in broad daylight is because there are days when instead of full sunshine you have driving rain and massive rain clouds obscuring a setting sun. People have been killed in conditions like those at Suzuka. So the FIA have to mandate heavy vehicles like cranes must have warning lights on when they come out from behind the crash barriers during a race, or if the local laws don’t require warning lights on heavy vehicles like cranes then measures need to be in place to warn any vehicles on the track about the crane, especially in conditions like here.
      Another point is the race had been Red Flagged before Pierre got to where the crane was, so why can’t they instigate a speed limit on the track when the race has been Red Flagged, e.g. 80 km/h, or whatever the pitlane speed limiter is set to?

  3. Jules was lost because the race was not neutralized when the rescue vehicle was on the side of the track. That section of the track was under waved yellows which means drivers can continue to race but with caution. Today was different as the race was red flagged. This means danger and thus drivers must return to the pits at greatly reduced pace. Gazly was driving way too fast and the FIA should penalize him accordingly.

    1. Double yellow flag means Danger on track be prepared for an immediate stop.
      Jules drove too fast, lost traction and crashed into a rescue vehicle.

      With the demand for safety its unbelievable a rescue vehicle was on track this race, and it is as unbelievable that FIA still not cracking down on dangerous driving during double yellow and red flag situations.

      It apparently has to go wrong again, before they want to do what is correct.

    2. Jules was lost because the race was not neutralized when the rescue vehicle was on the side of the track.

      Well, no.
      He was lost because he flew off the track when driving too fast for the conditions – one of the conditions was double-waved yellows due to an existing incident, which require him to slow significantly, be able to stop or take avoiding action within that zone.
      And that’s exactly what Gasly was putting himself at risk of, and why it has shaken him up so much.

    3. The red flag was waved 2 seconds prior to Gasly passing the tractor. And define too fast – I’ve read elsewhere that he was driving under the safety car delta until the red flag was waved. And considering the red flag was more due to rain rather than the crashed car, having Gasly slam on the brakes on a track that’s wet is only asking for a big crash.

      My understanding is that the penalty he was given was for speeding under the red flag after clearing the tractor.

      As for Jules, remember that happened before we had VSC. I’d argue that any crash that requires a tractor to recover the car should result in a safety car to neutralise the race before the car is recovered and make sure that no-one is in in the immediate vicinity. Going back further, Martin Brundle had a similar accident in 1994 and made comments during the race (after he’d retired) that he “someone could have been killed”. 20 years later we lost Jules. Then this happened today. It’s simply inexcusable and F1 really needs to fix this ASAP.

      I also wonder why F1 doesn’t allow the race director to communicate directly with drivers as happens with Formula E. That would really make a big difference if they can call safety cars directly to the driver rather than the race engineer having to relay the message.

  4. I don’t think they need to call for a red flag whenever a recovery vehicle is needed.

    I think in the future all that needs to happen is for no recovery vehicle to be sent out until all the cars are in the SC queue as at that point the SC can further reduce speeds through that part of the track (As it did today actually).

    And should a car pit after after that just implement a slow zone forcing drivers to stick to a safe speed while going through that part of track.

    I also think we need to have direct communication between race control and drivers as we see in WEC for example so that race control can tell all drivers directly where the incident is, Whats on track & where it is and inform them that through that sector the SC will run at reduced speed and they all need to follow it at the reduced speed and stay in line.

  5. I am sorry but, with the current regulations and standard procedures, it is completely normal what FIA did there. Gasly was the one who decided to drive at 250 kph a) through the zone he knew it was an accident at, because he clipped the board before; b) during a SC in treacherous conditions, which seems pretty unsafe by his side; and c) meters after watching a red panel at the left and a red light on his dash.

    A crane on track during a SC period is completely normal. It happened in Monza with Ricciardo, with several drivers still not queued up behind the Safety Car, and nobody said “oh no! It is so dangerous!”. In fact, everybody said “come on! Quicker! It should have been already removed!”.

    FIA has put the crane out during a SC period, which is a much better call than the one with Bianchi. They are completely entitled to think that the only car not queued up would reduce his speed as there are SC panels, SC lights and after that red lights and red flags. If Pierre fails to do so, it is Pierre’s fault.

    1. Gasly has been handed a drive-through penalty (well, 20 seconds post-race) because of the incident.

      I highlight this, from the FIA document:

      The driver conceded that he now understood that there could have
      been marshals or obstacles on the track,and admitted that he was too fast.

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