Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022

Using cranes on wet tracks “never safe” even under Safety Car – Zhou

2022 United States Grand Prix

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Formula 1 should not deploy recovery vehicles such as cranes on track in wet conditions even during Safety Car periods, says Zhou Guanyu.

The Alfa Romeo driver said Formula 1 drivers voiced their concerns to the FIA over the use of such vehicles following the Japanese Grand Prix. Many of them were infuriated by the use of a crane in heavily wet conditions at Suzuka in response to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s crash on the first lap of the race.

Despite the low visibility, drivers were not warned about the recovery vehicle sitting on the outside of a fast corner. Pierre Gasly reacted with horror when he passed the recovery vehicle at around 200 km/h while rejoining the Safety Car queue.

The decision to deploy a recovery vehicle in wet conditions prompted grim parallels with the serious accident that befell Jules Bianchi in similar conditions at the same circuit in 2014. He suffered series head injuries, which ultimately proved fatal, after striking a crane.

Gasly, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris were among the drivers to speak out over had the handling of the situation. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called for an investigation into the incident, while McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl stated that “something like this simply must not happen”.

Asked by RaceFans ahead of the United States Grand Prix about what drivers could do to help ensure such a situation does not happen again, Alfa Romeo driver Zhou said that the FIA are listening to drivers’ concerns over the incident.

“Every driver has an important voice in the sport,” Zhou said. “There’s only 20 of us – it’s not like the NBA where you have 1,000 players. So the FIA and Formula 1 are really taking [notice of] what we say.

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“We already had a quite long discussion after the race. Of course it’s not the correct way to see it, especially after what happened with Jules a few years ago in the same circuit.

“For us the visibility was so low, it was like the lowest ever driving a racing car. Even when the vehicle was out, when I passed it through the Safety Car scenario, I didn’t see it until I was like two metres away. So for us it’s pretty dangerous. I was happy that no one crashed into Sainz when he was stopped in the aquaplaning area.”

Zhou believes there is no sufficiently safe way to have recovery vehicles out on track with cars passing by in conditions as wet as in Suzuka, where visibility is seriously impaired.

“In general it’s never safe to have this tractor vehicle on track even while we are under Safety Car,” Zhou argued. “Obviously especially in the wet conditions, you can never judge if you get aquaplaning with our car, it’s so sensitive.

“Especially with the water, everything can be happening, especially tracks like Japan, there’s a lot of corners where you are almost flat [out] but then with steering lock which creates an unbalanced car.

“So in general we don’t want to see any vehicle out there. Especially if the race was anyway going [to a] red flag it’s better to wait.”

The FIA have investigated the incident and are set to make their findings into “procedural issues” public in the coming days. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said that he believes the governing body understand the concerns of the drivers.

“I think we all made that point clear with the FIA, we don’t want to see that,” said Leclerc. “In 2014, we’ve obviously lost Jules for a similar crash and we’ve been very clear with the FIA that we don’t want that and I think they understood.”

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2022 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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14 comments on “Using cranes on wet tracks “never safe” even under Safety Car – Zhou”

  1. Modern “nooo, I shall take only 0% risk” F1 driver. What a pathetic state this fake sport is in now.

    1. You are pathetic and probably are fake human being, if you are really demanding that drivers should not advocated to increase their safety!

      1. They could increase their safety by using the left pedal less and the right pedal more.

        If it is safe for them to pass behind the safety car, that is the pace they should be going past the scene behind the safety car or not.

        The risk is a result of their actions. Start punishing them harshly for their actions and their actions will quickly change.

      2. I witnessed F1 drivers speeding up behind Safety Car, under double yellow flags and red flags multiple times, so it seems they don’t care at all not only about their safety, but mainly marshalls’ lives. And only now they are crying like spoiled kids because they saw evil tractor on verge of the circuit. What happens if we’ll see another track invasion like Singapore ’15 or Silverstone this year? You can put SC or red flags 1 second after spotting it, but it doesn’t matter if these prima donnas driving their cars don’t respect the rules and hit somebody at 200 kph.

    2. Ridiculous comment @armchairexpert F1 is not a blood sport anymore and should rightly remain this way.

      1. I agree therefore Gasly should’ve been banned until the end of the season for blatantly disrespecting the rules and putting marshalls’ lives in danger.

    3. I guess you weren’t watching when Jules Bianchi went under that crane? I’ve seen enough snuff in the name of sport not to want to watch that sort of thing again. Maybe you should think about getting up out of your armchair once in a while, your perspective on life might improve.

  2. So if it not safe for them to be on track, that also means it is not safe for marshalls, medics and other safety personnel to be on track because the drivers could potentially strike them. Oh wait, the drivers don’t care about them. They will just continue to endanger them.

    They only care when it is them at danger, even though this danger can be brought down to almost zero by the drivers doing exactly as they are supposed to do under the current rules, slow down & be prepared to stop. If they were following that rule correctly they would not be in any danger.

    One important thing, if a driver could have potentially hit the recovery vehicle, they would have potentially hit the stricken car, the driver of that stricken car and potentially anyone tending to that car or driver. The driver could have injuries requiring medical attention and anyone who could have potentially struck the vehicle would have struck them instead.

    Instead of bringing in new restrictions, enforce the current rules correctly and harshly. The drivers would quickly learn when they started getting race bans because they drove like a moron.

  3. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    21st October 2022, 17:21

    New procedures are up on the FIA website

    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.

    1. 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 ‘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.

  4. The problem I have with Zhou’s PoV is that they then need to Red Flag a race in EVERY instance when there is stopped car or debris/items on track.

    If we agree that it is too dangerous for drivers to have a crane on a wet track under SC, then it is certainly too dangerous for the marshals to be on a wet track during a SC.
    Or are the lives of the drivers more important than those of the marshals?

    1. @jff A Similar sentiment.

    2. I am not a fan of red flagged races, but if it is raining hard and a car has to be cleared from the track, then the race should be red flagged. The lives of both the marshals and the drivers are equally important.
      A dry race, with good sight lines, probably could get a car cleared with just a SC, debris with just a VSC.
      What we need is a race controller with correct and quick judgement when the conditions warrant it, who isn’t concerned in any way with “The Show”.

  5. Nothing wrong with having a recovery vehicle ‘on track’ simultaneously with racing generally, especially in dry conditions, as proven many times since 2015, so this will remain the case moving on.
    Heavy rain conditions might be different, but suggesting ‘generally never’ is wrong when the reality shows otherwise.

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