Drivers praise FIA for giving more warnings about cranes after Suzuka near-miss

2022 Mexican Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 drivers praised the FIA for improving its communication about recovery vehicles appearing on-track in response to their complaints following the Japanese Grand Prix.

During the rain-hit race at Suzuka, a recovery crane was sent out on track under Safety Car to retrieve the car of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr under Safety Car after he aquaplaned off.

The worsening rainfall and decreasing visibility resulted in the race being red flagged. Many drivers were furious to encounter the crane on track without prior warning, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly driving by the incident at just under 200km/h.

Gasly, who was penalised with a 20-second time penalty for speeding under red flag conditions, later voiced his fury that the crane on track had posed a serious safety risk. The FIA launched an investigation into the events around incident, reporting “procedural issues” with how the crane had been deployed and recommending a series of measures to improve safety, including race control issuing a warning on the official race control message system which teams must relay to drivers.

Two weeks later at the United States Grand Prix, the warning was issued for the first time when Valtteri Bottas spun out into the gravel trap at the penultimate corner. A crane was deployed to remove the Alfa Romeo and race control issued the message ‘recovery vehicle on track at turn 19’, which teams relayed to drivers over team radio.

Gasly later said he felt the situation was managed “in a lot better way” at the Circuit of the Americas compared to Suzuka.

“It is a sort of message which I would have liked to have in Suzuka because it would have changed completely my approach going in this area of the track,” Gasly explained.

He called for the FIA “to find even more ways to make it even safer”, but was pleased with the speed of the implementation of the new approach.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“At the end of the day even if there is 0.0001% chance something bad happens… That’s the reason we put the halo – same thing. If it reduces 1% or even less than that, why would you not do it?”

“I think it’s at least a step forward,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was warned about the crane over the radio by race engineer Will Joseph. “We try to make it clear there’s still a big difference between when it’s bone dry and perfect sunny conditions.

“Common sense is just needed for when it’s obvious – it’s dry. There’s times when we accept it, when it’s dry, we have grip, we can be in control of the cars.

“But places like Japan, when it was so wet, there were crashes because people were aquaplaning. It’s hard to get your tyres up to temperature. The common sense of maybe it’s just best we red flag it or wait a lap or whatever, then do it, recover the cars and we restart a race. It’s a very simple thing to do.

“So I think we all made it clear. I think they did a good job putting our review together and explaining it to us. We’re thankful for that. It was at least a step forward, what we had in Austin. We got notified and so on, and we could get out the way.”

Sainz also praised how quickly the FIA responded to drivers’ concerns. “I love proactivity and reactions when things don’t go to plan,” he said.

“I love the FIA taking it seriously and building up a report and trying to find conclusions. It’s the way we should all work together. It’s maybe what we were lacking a bit at the beginning of the season and it shows that they are trying to improve on them. And we’re going to be there to support them the whole way.”

World champion Max Verstappen said it is critical for drivers to be given as much detail as possible about where recovery vehicles are on track when drivers’ visibility is compromised.

“In Suzuka we had a lot of spray and, of course, when you have the spray you try to move left or right to see something and if you don’t know there is a crane, that is very dangerous,” he said. “Just communicating, ‘hey, guys, the crane is going to go on the track now, be prepared to really take it easy there’.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 F1 season

Browse all 2022 F1 season articles

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

8 comments on “Drivers praise FIA for giving more warnings about cranes after Suzuka near-miss”

  1. The recovery vehicle message didn’t appear in graphic form, nor did relevant radio comms get broadcasted.
    Still, a good precautionary move.

  2. I don’t understand why the race director can’t have priority radio to all cars to issue the message to them all at the same time. FE and WEC have it when announcing slow zones, FCY etc and its broadcast too so everyone knows whats going on.

    1. Seems the drivers have shielded frequenties so any message must be relayed through the team. But i think they should have a possibilty to reach drivers faster then that. Like the thing of yellow flags on board which is controlled by RC.

      1. Also, radio reception in the car isn’t available at all parts of the track. The teams know where and when to communicate with their drivers.

  3. Nothing wrong with issuing a notice to teams (or drivers directly). But the other part of this is the FIA Code, which is very clear about how drivers are supposed to behave when there are yellows or double yellows out. Enforcing these rules is crucial for both driver, and even more so, marshal safety. On their practically new tyres with thread patterns specifically designed to handle massive amounts of water, F1 cars shouldn’t aquaplane at the speeds required by the FIA Code.

    1. Unfortunately, the depth of water on any specific piece of track is not entirely controllable by the FIA. Cars literally become boats for a couple of unexpected meters, despite Perelli’s best designs. I think the big problem revolves around how quickly a decisive decision can be made around a red flag. Like you say, enforcement is key, specifically timely enforcement. In Suzuka, it took ages for a decision to be made, probably because a “the show has to go on” mentality was observed.
      As a long time F1 fan, I don’t mind race control calling a quick end to action in bad conditions. It’s a sport, not a war after all. I never want to see another driver or marshal die because conditions were deemed acceptable in the face of money and spectacle.

  4. As in WEC the race directors messages should be broacasted for every car.

  5. All the above comments have merit by I am of the unwavering opinion that the RD .MUST have “override all radio restrictions capability instantly and use it. As for no reception area c.on this is F1, build a “crows nest” as a start and see how quickly everyone can come up with something much better and not offensive to the eye.

    In total agreement with @ferrox-glideh last para. Safety plz even if that means teams or drivers thinking they got the rough end of the pineapple if a race is stopped just buttoning it
    There WILL be another race but never another you. All the RIP’s in the world don’t count, they can’t hear them!

    Rant over, sorry.

Comments are closed.