As everyone knows, motorsport is dangerous. Cars have got a lot safer over the years, with advancements in technology and rule changes contributing to massive safety increases. So much so that it is a rare occurrence when something serious or fatal happens that it becomes a huge shock to all in the motorsport community. When something serious does happen, questions are always asked to reduce the risk or prevent it from happening again. For example, when Alan McNish crashed at Suzuka in 2002, the barrier he hit was moved back and extra tyres added. After Jules Bianchi’s crash, also in Suzuka, what could have been done differently or what could be changed to prevent this happening again?
McNish went through the barrier at 130R in 2002
Should the recovery vehicle have been on the racetrack? Short answer, yes. Long answer, yes and no. Adrian Sutil had gone off the lap before, his was was stuck on the track and needed moving in case someone else spun off and hit that. The marshals followed all protocols set out by the FIA and is the same protocol followed in the UK by the MSA. This was covered under double waved yellow flags; “A double yellow, consisting of two flagmen waving yellow flags (or one waving two flags) at the same post, indicates great danger ahead. Drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop; no overtaking is permitted.” In dry conditions, this isn’t an issue. Slow where the yellows are so there is no risk of losing control. One of the solutions to this risk is cranes. These work well at Monaco and elsewhere at Suzuka. These enable marshals to remove cars without needing to take any sort of recovery vehicle on track.
Crane at Monaco
The main problem last weekend, however, was the weather. At the time Bianchi went off, the rain had started to fall quite hard and quickly. Most of the other cars had started to come in for the full wet tyre, changing from the intermediates. I believe he would have come in for wets at the end of the lap the accident occurred. Should the safety car have been deployed? I think it was just getting to that point. The rain at that point was heavy and getting heavier increasing the risk of aquaplaning so the saftey car may have come out a lap or 2 later anyway.
Left: Intermediate tyre Right: Wet tyre
Every time a head injury occurs in Formula 1 or any open cockpit Formula, the question of closed cockpits is always raised. It was raised after Felipe Massa suffered a fractured skull in 2009. There are always arguments for and against both being completely valid. In this instance, a closed cockpit wouldn’t have helped. I have seen pictures of the car, which I won’t post here in respect to Jules and his family, the roll hoop on the car had been completely ripped off. So a closed cockpit would have been ripped off too and the same injury occurred.
The spring that injured Massa in 2009
I don’t think anything could have been done differently to prevent the accident last weekend. It was all a series of extremely unfortunate circumstances. If each had occurred individually, it would have been a very minor incident. The marshals did everything correctly and there wasn’t anything more they could have done. Hopefully Jules will make a full recovery as he is a huge talent and it would be a great loss to the world of motorsport. #ForzaJules