What the FIA’s Suzuka report found, and why it called Gasly’s driving “reckless”

2022 F1 season

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The FIA published a detailed report from their investigation into an incident during this month’s Japanese Grand Prix, when a crane was deployed on the race track during the rain-hit race.

Recovery vehicles are a common sight during grands prix as they are regularly used to clear crashed or retired cars from the circuit. However, the circumstances at Suzuka prompted a furious reaction from drivers and team principals.

While many of the main details of the incident were already known, the FIA’s report – overseen by president Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s deputy president, Robert Reid – has revealed new information about the incident as well as outlining what the FIA plans to change to avoid similar situations in the future.

The incident

The Japanese Grand Prix was scheduled to start at 2pm local time on Sunday 9th October. Heavy rain had fallen over Mie prefecture across the weekend, affecting Friday’s practice sessions before returning on Sunday.

Despite heavily wet conditions having prompted FIA race director Eduardo Freitas to delay the start of the Monaco Grand Prix held earlier in the season, the Japanese Grand Prix began at its scheduled time, with the field of 19 cars taking the start of the race on intermediate tyres, as opposed to extreme wet tyres. Pierre Gasly also started the race on intermediate tyres, but from the pit lane.

On the opening lap, fourth-placed driver Carlos Sainz Jnr lost control of his Ferrari through the fast shallow right-hander of turn 12 and spun into the barriers, which dislodged an advertising hoarding and caused race-ending damage to the Ferrari, which was bounced back onto the outside of the race track. A yellow flag was deployed, with Gasly warned over the radio that Sainz had crashed exiting the previous corner.

Gasly passed the crane at 189km/h
As Gasly passed Sainz’s crashed Ferrari in the poor visibility, he collected the loose advertising board on the front of his car. Seconds later, the Safety Car was deployed. Alexander Albon – who had also suffered damaged in an earlier clash – then pulled off the track to retire, meaning two cars needed to be cleared from the circuit around 200 metres apart.

Gasly recovered to the pit lane with the board still on his car. As the board blocked his vision, he greatly reduced his speed, meaning that he was positive on his minimum lap time delta by 18 seconds when he entered the pit lane. As he received repairs, marshals were given permission to join the track and attend to Sainz’s car, with a crane being deployed onto the track 12 seconds later. A second crane was later deployed to recover Albon’s car.

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Gasly left the pit lane under Safety Car conditions. His Safety Car delta had not yet reset, meaning he was still showing as 18 seconds positive to the minimum lap time. This meant that Gasly was able to drive around the circuit to catch up with the Safety Car queue at a speed higher than intended under the regulations, without breaching the minimum delta time.

Visibility was extremely poor at the original start
Around 23 seconds after the first crane was released onto the circuit, the Safety Car passed the crane at the site of Sainz’s crashed Ferrari. The first nine cars passed the accident at speeds of 70km/h or slower. The next five cars passed the accident at speed between 73-92km/h. The final three cars in the train – Nicholas Latifi, Sebastian Vettel and Zhou Guanyu – passed the crane at 143km/h, 159km/h and 167km/h, respectively.

While still catching the back of the train, Gasly approached the crash site aware of Sainz’s Ferrari being stopped on track, but unaware there was a crane on the circuit. One second before he passed the accident, the race was red-flagged by Freitas. The AlphaTauri passed the crane at 189km/h – the highest speed of all 18 drivers. He then drove by the second crane recovering Albon’s car at 163km/h – a far higher speed than the rest of the field. Despite the red flag, Gasly accelerated up to 250km/h along the back straight between Spoon curve and 130R – he would later be penalised by the stewards for this.

The FIA’s conclusions

Having completed their investigation, the FIA have drawn a series of conclusions from the incident. The first is that, in the FIA’s view, Gasly failed to respect the yellow flags and Safety Car conditions while trying to catch up with the rest of the field after his pit stop, determining he “ignored basic safety rules” and had driven in a “reckless” manner.

The FIA point out that Gasly could have lost control of his car in the conditions at the speeds he was driving, which could have resulted in him sitting Sainz’s car, the crane, and a marshal. The report also points out that in similar scenarios, there could have been a driver who may have been crossing the circuit at the time, or ambulances and medical staff attending on the scene as Gasly navigated by the accident scene.

Despite criticising Gasly’s conduct, the report also concedes that “it may have been better to delay the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track,” due to the worsening weather conditions at the time of the incident. The difference in speeds between drivers in the Safety Car train and drivers recovering to join the back of the queue was also recognised, with the report noting that Safety Car conditions provide control over cars directly behind the Safety Car, but “not sufficient control” over cars outside of the train.

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What will change

The FIA have outlined a raft of changes that will be made in order to try to ensure such a dangerous situation never happens again. Many of them will be implemented as soon as this weekend, with the report recommending other measures to be introduced next season.

Recovery vehicles could get brighter lights
From this weekend, teams will be formally notified whenever a recovery vehicle is released onto the track on the official FIA messaging system and will be obliged to inform their drivers when that occurs. The FIA’s race control systems will be enhanced to improve awareness of where cars are on the circuit and monitor cars that are outside of the Safety Car queue. Race director Niels Wittich will review the incident with drivers during the drivers’ briefing this weekend, while the FIA will also review penalties for drivers who are deemed to be speeding in yellow flag zones or while under Safety Car conditions.

From next season, the FIA propose to introduce dynamic Safety Car and VSC deltas which will vary in incident zones and require drivers to slow down more than throughout the rest of the lap. It also proposes to close pit lane entries under Safety Car and only allow drivers to rejoin once the train has passed – a change which would have a major impact on strategies if it went ahead. The FIA will also investigate the use of artificial intelligence in race control management and review trackside advertising boards in order to prevent them coming loose and being knocked onto the race track.

Finally, the FIA will explore adding lights to recovery vehicles of a similar specification to existing F1 rear visibility lights to ensure drivers can spot them in poor conditions and will consult with tyre supplier Pirelli on how to develop the extreme wet tyre which has been subject to criticism for being ineffective at providing grip on very wet track surfaces.

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Gasly’s response

As one of the most vocal critics of how the incident was handled by race control, Pierre Gasly said he was encouraged by the proposed changes for the future in the wake of the incident.

The FIA is taking “good steps forward”, said Gasly
“I was most interested by what they will put in place for the future,” Gasly told media including RaceFans. “That’s what I discussed with Mohammed after the race in Suzuka, that whatever happened there happened and the most important [thing] is just moving forward, that we make sure everybody is safe, whether it’s in Formula 1 or in the lower categories. That’s what they are they are working on.

“I think what they’ve put in place is clearly good steps forward. I know we’re going to discuss it at the drivers’ briefing. Anything more we could do will be welcome. I’m glad to see that they’ve working on this matter very quickly and come up with solutions already, the race straight after that happened.”

While the report described his driving as “reckless,” Gasly says he has no interest in discussing or defending his conduct during the incident.

“I don’t want to do any polemic on that side,” he said. “As I said, I followed my delta. I got penalised for over-speeding in the back straight, which was after the incident. I don’t want to do any polemic with that. That’s not even what matters in this report.”

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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...

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26 comments on “What the FIA’s Suzuka report found, and why it called Gasly’s driving “reckless””

  1. Am I the only one worried by Gasly’s comments? Yes, the FIA is absolutely at fault with the truck – proper communication to drivers on positions of trucks is long overdue – but Gasly still could have gone off. Sainz could have been in the car, there could have been marshals around the car – doubt they’d survive an incident like that. He would have known where Sainz went off as well, and given the weather was so bad, surely that warrants more caution? Again, not completely Gasly’s fault but he’s not accepting his share of the blame and I do wonder if he’s going to do the same thing again if the same situation arises.

    1. Should clarify the end of my second sentence: even if the truck wasn’t there, Gasly still could have gone off.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      23rd October 2022, 9:52

      Yeah I agree. His argument seems to be “I could have hit the tractor and then I’d have really hurt myself” whilst completely ignoring the fact that there were marshals on the track and if he was driving so fast that losing control and hitting a tractor was a possibility, he could have hit the marshals instead. He doesn’t seem to care about that though – only that he could have been hurt.

      1. I read it more as saying that he’s aware his conduct could have been better, on reconsidering the situation, but that he doesn’t want that to be the focus but rather the positive steps and the recommendations to make sure the same situation cannot happen again that is the main bulk of the report @petebaldwin and Corran Horn (nice name, have to wonder at your ride ;).

      2. @petebaldwin Probably because several other drivers have used the marshal argument during the time Gasly’s been racing in F1, and it never seems to have spurred action. Citing the tractor has worked before and was therefore worth citing again.

  2. The FIA will also investigate the use of artificial intelligence in race control management

    I can see it coming – Cause of problem: “Computer error”

    1. Yes, I think it would make things harder before it made them easier.

  3. It also proposes to close pit lane entries under Safety Car and only allow drivers to rejoin once the train has passed

    How would that work?
    If you are in P3 and have a damaged front wing, you would have to drop to the back of the train to enter the pit lane?
    Surely closing the pit lane exit until the train has passed is where they mean to tag the safety aspect.

    1. It also proposes to close pit lane entries under Safety Car and only allow drivers to rejoin once the train has passed

      Given the context, I think it is supposed to say ‘exit’. It would still put you to the back of the field if you have to pit though.

    2. Most likely both would get shut – it’s what they did last time this was tried in 2007-2008. Basically, the closed entry allows anyone pitting for any reason other than damage to get a penalty (so no tactical stops – back then refuelling a strictly limited amount was also allowed, but that wouldn’t be necessary in these no-fuel-stop days). The closed exit prevents people from leaving ahead of the safety car.

  4. I don’t like Gasley’s attitude here. He seems to be so obsessed by the presence of the crane that he has abandoned common sense. There were at least two active incidents, and there could have been marshals or other vehicles anywhere on track, yet he chose to drive at 250 km/h.

    Gasley justifies this by claiming he was within his delta. Maybe I’m thinking too simply here, but surely actual speed is more important than the delta. Maybe there should be a simple rule such as drivers must reduce speed to (say) 100 km/h within 5 seconds of the red flag being shown.

    1. I think you are.spot on but when he saw the tractor it was still yellow not red flaged. The same happened to his friend Jules Bianchi who was probably also partly to blame. So I can understand his “obsession” . But in the end the drivers are also responsible of slowing down.

    2. @avroanson He did not drive at 250 kp/h – that wouldn’t have been possible on that corner in the dry…

      Also, the regulations require adherence to delta. What Gasly was saying was that the regulations required him to drive at a speed above the minimum element of the delta (these deltas having both minimum and maximum) and still be prepared to slow down/stop – which is impossible unless one happens to have a time machine. Which would be banned under various technical regulations even if such devices existed.

      In any reasonable system, if the regulations are such that it is impossible to comply with them through regulator mistake (as here, since the FIA was put under court settlement to refrain from this sort of thing in 2017), then no penalty was issued by the FIA (even a reprimand is apt to be revoked if the governing body is found to be the cause). Thus, Gasly’s been penalised for not doing the impossible.

      1. Please read the article: ” Despite the red flag, Gasly accelerated up to 250km/h along the back straight between Spoon curve and 130R – he would later be penalised by the stewards for this”.

        1. yes please read his comment
          “As I said, I followed my delta. I got penalised for over-speeding in the back straight, which was after the incident.

  5. Gasly would do himself and everyone else a huge favour if he simply acknowledged that regardless of the things outside of his control, he still made a very poor choice in that moment.
    Delta or no delta – you don’t go through a known incident/double-yellow flag zone at 200kph. Especially not in those conditions.

    1. Assuming the speed indicator was accurate…

    2. good thing gasly did not go through a known incident/double-yellow flag zone at 200kph then

  6. So when teams and drivers are penalised for reckless behaviour, where they have to pay certain amount, the reverse should be the same as well isn’t it? Shouldn’t the FIA pay the teams for their recklessness?

  7. Minimum he should be banned from 1 race for poor attitude.
    A 2nd race ban should be applied for his lunatic, not reckless, speeding under yellows.
    Same old FIA BS. Closing the stable door after the horse has long bolted.

    1. @wildbiker So in your view, opposing dangerous rule-making (which caused the impossible situation Gasly was put in) deserves a penalty, let alone a race ban?

  8. I think we should cut Gasly some slack here. Drivers in his situation are probably under a lot of pressure from the put wall to catch up with the rest of the pack, to stay within delta, to keep his tyre and brake temps up, etc. We don’t really know what the team were telling Gasly at the time, and if he had gone really slow and safely, and lost out to the rest of the field, chances are people would be criticising him for that instead.

    1. Especially since he was apparently 9 seconds below delta, and there’s a penalty for being too far below delta in any given subsector (something the FIA should have mentioned and didn’t).

  9. The closing of the pitlane until the train passes is relevant to Monza and Suzuka. Yes it impacts the race (but remember drivers get to unlap themselves). But the main thing is it does not delay the field closing up and it gives marshalls to maximum time between cars passing to clear up the track as soon as possible. Up until now there was nothing to stop someone pitting for a minute every lap and manipulating a Monza style finish.

  10. Where were the formal notifications of the vehicle which retrieved Bottas’ car? That was supposed to start this weekend.

    Dynamic SC and VSC (and, for that matter, dynamic yellow flag zones) were one of the conditions of the Bianchi settlement, which the FIA agreed to in 2017. I would be interested to know why the FIA decided it could ignore that settlement.

    Closing the pit lane isn’t going to make any difference – the pit stop on that occasion was due to damage, and releasing the cars only after the Safety Car has passed means people will still be charging around trying to catch the queue (subject to the already-five-years-late dynamic SC).

    AI in race control management is definitely not going to be an improvement, since that requires humans to manage it and one of the problems is that the humans in race control already have too much to do. That load needs to be significantly reduced before AI can be installed.

    Lights on the recovery vehicles are not much help when visibility is so poor even the rain lights are being spotted – plus, if something that big and yellow’s not getting spotted, the visibility is logically too poor for marshals to see each other’s flags. That’s a mandatory red flag situation and the FIA has apparently decided it doesn’t matter.

    As such, even the report (which I note has multiple factual errors) looks like further endangering the drivers. The FIA owes everyone an apology and a retraction, though doubtless lawyers will need to be involved.

  11. Lot’s of changes by the FIA whereas the same people claim that it was Gasly who was reckless. Another set of rules lacking rigor which required an incident to be corrected….

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