The FIA has announced immediate changes to how Safety Car periods will be handled after investigating the use of recovery vehicles during the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month.Pierre Gasly was especially critical of the incident, as while most drivers passed the vehicle at reduced speed behind the Safety Car, he was travelling more quickly as he had pitted and was driving at increased speed in order to rejoin the queue of cars ahead.
The investigation found that “all FIA race procedures were followed” during the race in Japan, and the decision to use a standing start was correct, despite Carlos Sainz Jnr’s crash halfway around the opening lap which led to the recovery vehicle being sent on-track. However the FIA admitted “it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track” as “the weather conditions were changing” at the time.
The incident drew parallels with Jules Bianchi’s collision with a recovery vehicle at the circuit in 2014, in which he sustained fatal injuries. “The review panel acknowledged that having recovery cranes on track at Suzuka during the weather conditions is a sensitive matter in view of the tragic incidents of the past,” the FIA noted.
It also acknowledged that race control failed to realise one car was not in the queue behind the Safety Car. “Given the track conditions and the overall visibility for drivers, marshals and recovery staff at the time, initially under a Safety Car followed by a red flag, and as efforts were focused on safe recovery, the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly in the pit lane was not immediately detected,” it said.
A series of new measures will be taken from this weekend as a result of the report’s findings. This will include using the official messaging system and FIA intercom system to notify teams when a recovery vehicle has been sent onto the track. Teams will be obliged to inform their drivers when this happens.
A live monitoring window for use during Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car periods has been developed. It will allow the FIA F1 race director and FIA Race Operations Centre to monitor the status of all cars on the track, behind the Safety Car, and in the pits.
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The roles and responsibilities in race control and the ROC during Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car periods will be clarified. Particular attention will be paid to monitoring cars which enter the pit lane under Safety Car conditions and therefore how many cars are in the queue.
Drivers will be informed of the FIA’s planned solutions during the drivers briefing at the United States Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing, during which the Japanese Grand Prix incident will be reviewed. They will also be reminded of the rules relating to Safety Cars and red flags, as Gasly was penalised for speeding when the race was red-flagged after passing Sainz’s crash scene.
The FIA will review with teams the penalties given for drivers not respecting the rules relating to yellow, double yellow flag, VSC and SC conditions will take place.
In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to Yellow, Double Yellow, Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car situations.
Further changes are under consideration for 2023. These include a new dynamic Virtual Safety Car function, allowing for changes in the speed limit drivers must follow in the sectors where an incident has occurred.
The FIA will also consider whether to close the pit lane exit during Safety Car periods. However it acknowledged such a move would have a significant implications for race strategies and needs careful analysis.
The use of on-track advertising boards will be reviewed following Gasly’s collision with one on the first lap which led to him pitting. The possibility of adding strong lights to recovery vehicles to help drivers spot them is also being looked at.
Further changes under consideration include improving the management of wet weather races using artificial intelligence and other new technologies, further drainage improvements at Suzuka and continued work on the performance of the full wet weather tyres used in F1.
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FIA statement on Japanese Grand Prix investigation
FIA to implement procedural measures based on the findings of the review into incidents at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix
Thorough review overseen by FIA Deputy President for Sport Robert Reid.
Findings based on the FIA’s critical reflection process, feedback from the GPDA and drivers including George Russell and Pierre Gasly.
A number of measures have been adopted as a result of the findings.
The findings of a far-reaching FIA review of incidents at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit have determined that a number of procedural recommendations will be implemented.
The review is based on the FIA’s critical reflection process, a letter from the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association and discussions between the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem and a number of drivers including George Russell, GPDA Director, and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who expressed their concerns over the on-track incidents during the severely rain-affected race at Suzuka.
From an operational standpoint, the review was originated by the FIA Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Geneva immediately after a series of incidents on lap two of the Grand Prix. The ROC, introduced for the 2022 season, provides support on procedural, sporting and regulatory matters to Race Control during race weekends.
The review panel comprised representatives from a number of FIA departments including Race Control, ROC, Safety, Operations and Technical. The process was overseen by FIA Deputy President for Sport Robert Reid, who was in attendance in Suzuka.
The ROC has recreated a full timeline of the incidents from video and data capture.
The wet track conditions and driver visibility were taken into account by Race Control staff from Suzuka together with the ROC in reaching their conclusions. A lengthy study of video footage and Race Control telemetry and ROC data was undertaken.
Driver behaviour and the performance of circuit marshals and recovery vehicle operators was also evaluated. The conclusions of the review has led to the adoption of a number of measures for the future.
The FIA is committed to constant improvement and analysis so that situations such as that which occurred in Suzuka can be avoided or at least safely mitigated.
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Although it was raining, conditions were suitable enough to start the Race from a standing start on time. All teams started on intermediate tyres following reconnaissance laps to the grid, but heavier rain around the time of the start meant that car control on intermediate tyres after the start was more challenging.
Deployment of recovery vehicles and marshals
The review concluded that all FIA race procedures were followed. After the incident involving the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz at Turn 12, the track was neutralised with the Safety Car before marshals and recovery vehicles were deployed on track.
The review noted that in such conditions, a recovery vehicle should not be deployed unless all cars are aligned behind the Safety Car. Furthermore, marshals and recovery equipment would only be deployed whilst cars are on track (Safety Car periods) when the weather conditions and location of the cars to be recovered allow for a quick and safe intervention.
Given the track conditions and the overall visibility for drivers, marshals and recovery staff at the time, initially under a Safety Car followed by a Red Flag, and as efforts were focused on safe recovery, the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly in the Pit Lane was not immediately detected.
Race Control do not necessarily monitor all cars that may pit during Safety Car periods as they are more concerned about any area containing an incident and neutralising the field behind the Safety Car.
After his Pit Stop, Gasly rejoined the track and drove to his Safety Car delta time in an effort to catch the pack. When he reached the incident in Turn 12 for the second time, marshals were working with a crane on track.
Even though it is common practice to deploy recovery vehicles once a race has been neutralised, the review panel discussed whether the entry of the recovery vehicle at Suzuka to retrieve the stricken Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was premature given the prevailing conditions.
The review panel acknowledged that having recovery cranes on track at Suzuka during the weather conditions is a sensitive matter in view of the tragic incidents of the past. The panel determined that in hindsight, as the weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track.
It was acknowledged that every effort should be made to perform an efficient and safe recovery of cars. A longer recovery period, in conditions such as those which prevailed in Suzuka, may result in a race suspension.
It was also acknowledged that while the Safety Car is used to neutralise a race, the FIA has control over the cars directly behind the Safety Car, but it does not have sufficient control over the cars that are elsewhere around the track.
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It was also acknowledged that in accordance with the applicable regulations, drivers have an obligation to limit their speed accordingly under Yellow Flag, Safety Car and Red Flag conditions. The drivers are further obliged to apply common sense at all times.
In the case of Gasly, data showed that in an effort to close the delta time to the Safety Car he had been travelling at speeds which exceeded 200 km/h before the scene of the Sainz incident – and after passing the stricken Ferrari of Sainz under a Red Flag. It should be noted that after the event he expressed his regret during a Stewards hearing which resulted in a penalty.
The performance of the current wet weather tyres in extreme conditions was discussed. Analysis of tyre performance in wet weather conditions is ongoing between the FIA Technical Department and the official tyre manufacturer.
Advertising on track barriers
The issue of the fixing of Advertising boards, their construction, location and materials is constantly under review by the Circuit Commission.
Discussion is ongoing between the FIA and the circuit organisers on circuit drainage improvements at Suzuka Circuit.
Japanese Grand Prix review findings: Measures to be implemented
As a result of the findings, as of the next race – the United States Grand Prix, the following measures will be implemented:
Information to be provided to the Teams by means of a message via the official messaging system and communicated via the FIA intercom system to notify teams that a recovery vehicle is on track with the obligation from the Teams to inform their Drivers.
Development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to display the status of all cars, on track, behind SC, in PITS to be used by Race Control and the ROC.
Race Control Procedure Update to better define the allocation of tasks across the Race Control team (including delegation of monitoring tasks to ROC as required) under SC or VSC procedure. In specific relation to this review, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the Pit Lane under SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.
The FIA Race Director will hold a review of the incidents in Suzuka during the United States Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing to explain what solutions the FIA plans to introduce to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future and to remind the Drivers of the rules relating to Safety Cars and Red Flags.
In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to Yellow, Double Yellow, VSC and SC conditions will take place.
Assessment of the current application of advertising boards, their construction, location and materials used to avoid the potential for them to being torn off and thrown on track.
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11 comments on “FIA admits error in use of crane at Suzuka and announces immediate changes”
21st October 2022, 17:40
(I posted this in the Zhou article, but it better fits here.)
The ‘track’ wasn’t neutralised, merely the ‘racing’; quite a big difference.
FIA clearly puts most of the blame on Gasly (who was indeed driving too fast/recklessly), but they don’t focus enough on what they could/should do, except for the implementation of a dynamic VSC (not sure if that will work, or cause more confusion).
I would’ve suggested a change to the SC procedure:
– SC picks up lead car, and drives slow enough to bump up the whole field within the first couple of corners (then resumes at a safe speed for the local conditions).
– pit lane exit is closed except when the SC is passing plus some short time thereafter.
– Also Perez needs to stay within 10 car length.
21st October 2022, 20:59
Sorry, he’s driving a more expensive car almost everyone else, like on normal roads that means normal rules don’t apply :)
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
21st October 2022, 18:11
The “sensitive issue” part is cringe as it suggests that they’ll take more care at Suzuka, Spa and Imola due to previous fatal accidents, than anywhere else.
Why in this day and age are we still relying on 2nd hand information? IndyCar and FE simply have the Race Director broadcast to all drivers directly. Also I hope that’s a typo “has been sent” rather than “will be sent”. Drivers should know in advance!
Overall glad they’ve done something, just hope the flipside is that we now don’t get 8 laps behind the safety car while they remove a car that’s 3m off track, on a straight, on the opposite side from the racing line…
Stephen Crowsen (@drycrust)
21st October 2022, 18:49
Wouldn’t it be better to stipulate a speed limit under Red Flag contitions? The only reason I can see for not having a speed limit under Red Flag conditions is related to the type of brakes on these cars. The onboard video from Pierre’s car showed he passed a Red Flag sign. A speed limit, e.g. whatever the pitlane speed limit is, 80 km/h, 100 km/h, etc, would mean everyone knows that is where their obligation starts.
That doesn’t lessen the need to have properly illuminated heavy vehicles with warning lights being active (something which the FIA seem to have overlooked) when the vehicle has come out from behind the safety barriers, especially when light levels are less than what you normally get in broad daylight.
Also, the Pitlane exit should have been closed when the race was Red Flagged. I don’t know if Pierre departed from the Pitlane under a Yellow Flag or a Red Flag, but there’s no need for him to have departed the Pitlane once the race had been Red Flagged.
21st October 2022, 21:21
@drycrust He departed the pit lane before red, but a speed limit thing for red-flag conditions or mini sector-specific would be good.
21st October 2022, 20:57
That might well be covered in this bit:
Which I find interesting since it’s something I’ve said multiple times, but only on this forum and to my family/friends.
Is my PC bugged? Racefans.net scoured for ideas? Or did the FIA actually think of that independently?
VSC can have any speed reduction between 1% and 99%, transmit that and then figure out all the other stuff as the cars shift around slower and maybe much slower.
21st October 2022, 21:26
Sending out the recovery vehicle before Gasly had passed Sainz’s car was the only true error.
22nd October 2022, 11:23
Because a recovery vehicle is more dangerous than Marshals on track?
21st October 2022, 23:02
… Wait… Race Control didn’t know where the cars were during their decision making process.
Am I the only one who’s hair stood on end reading this? And I’ve got a lot of hair to stand!!
Don’t they have access to the GPS managed display of which car is where? Don’t they have transponder lines at each sector, both major and marshalling?
Most advanced technology on the PLANET, and they didn’t know where all 20 cars were?!? REALLY?!?
21st October 2022, 23:06
My thoughts exactly! I was more than a little surprised by that one!
Darryn Smith (@darryn)
22nd October 2022, 0:15
Why is this even an issue? Whenever I watch 80’s F1 races I see cranes all over the track and the are always on the other side of the barriers. They just move it to the car still separated by the barriers and get the car out of the way without disturbing the race or risking the drivers. I seem to remember this practice dying out sometime in the 90’s. Another helpful 80’s trick was just leaving a car that wasn’t in any particular danger of being hit on the track. I never once saw another car hit a parked car and if it did wouldn’t it just be added cushioning? Seems like what used to be so simple and flawless 35 years ago is now impossible to pull off. I know we have been incapable of going to the moon for 50 years, but this seems like a problem that shouldn’t exist. I mean Bianchi dying wouldn’t have happened in the 80’s Suzuka.
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