Jules Bianchi Accident Panel Report


Valued Member

The FIA today published the accident panel report from the Bianchi incident at the Japanese Grand Prix, and their findings are indeed very interesting.

Firstly, the dry line was narrower at turn 7 because water "abruptly" started draining onto the track. This situation is similar, of course, to the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Michael Schumacher flew into a run off area where a recovery vehicle was at work. Interlagos' drainage was reviewed after this incident, and it seems that a similar action will be undertaken at Suzuka.

The report finds that Bianchi was not slowing down enough and thus not adhering to the regulations, which means that virtual safety car has been recommended and implemented for 2015. Interestingly though, the fail safe in F1 appears to be to press the throttle and brake on full, which cuts the engine. However, the design at Marussia inhibited the fail safe option; this clearly needs to be the focus of scrutineering in future.

The suggestion of canopies for the car or skirts on the crane have been dismissed, with the panel stating that they should not focus on keeping crashes safe between large vehicles and racing cars, rather keeping racing cars from large vehicles.

There is a large implied criticism, too, of Bernie Ecclestone and Honda. The panel recommends that the four hour window for completing a race is held entirely in daylight; thus all races should start four hours before sundown. It has also been suggested that races avoid rainy seasons; this suggestion if implemented will significantly affect the timing of races in Sepang.

Hopefully, the accident panel's recommendations will be implemented and lessons will have been learned from a serious accident. But it is also encouraging that steps have already been taken, and it is equally encouraging that it required so many things to fail for this to happen, such that the risk of a repeat is unlikely.

Finally, it is important not to let the implication of Bianchi's blame by the panel dull the desire that he pulls through his injuries with the minimum possible effects, even if the situation is grim.

The report leaves a lot to think about, and did reveal some things that could clearly be worked on with regards to safety.

I have wondered many a time why some races are scheduled so close to an area's typical rainy season, so I'm glad they've identified that as a possible problem.

The four hour rule is also very sensible - driving in changing light conditions is dangerous, and there's a reason why in the real world, many young drivers on regular roads have driving curfews in order to avoid confronting them with tricky driving conditions. F1 drivers may be at the top of their game, but they're also doing something inherently more difficult - changing light conditions due to the approach of night-time shouldn't be something they have to contend with, if at all possible - it almost certainly would affect their ability to recognize and identify signal flags, since color vision is impaired in low light and darkness conditions.

I'm still not sure I agree that skirting shouldn't be applied to recovery vehicles - I do agree that the focus should be on preventing collision in the first place, but disagree with regards to not also making an effort to making collisions more survivable when they do happen. The fact that it most likely would not have helped in this case shouldn't mean the idea should be discarded as useless.
I reckon F1 is already safer than most things a driver does in every day life if they stay within the rules of the flag system, lets be honest how safe do you want it to be?

Do you want the risk element eliminated altogether?

Drivers drive for the rush of adrenalin the same as free climbers climb for the danger or base jumpers jump and astronauts climb into a bloody massive bomb to launch themselves into space and test pilots fly untested aircraft. etc, etc, etc and so on, it would be one hell of a boring sport if there was no risk whatsoever.

People die playing football, rugby, cricket, American football and so on what is it you guys want..? Why is it only F1 that spooks you in this way?

Micheal Schumacher probably the greatest F1 driver ever is in a coma due to a pathetic little fall on his skis and and a camera mounted to his safety helmet, what are you going to do ban skiing...?
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It's not just F1 that spooks me that way. The cross country stage of three day eventing scared the heck out of me - the lack of frangible fences, and therefore the rate of highly deadly rotational falls, was much to high. The introduction of frangible fences has been a game-changer with regards to survivability of falls - and that's a good thing!

As long as there are reasonable concessions that can be made to make a sport safer, I'm all for them. I don't expect anything unreasonable, and the cost of some simple skirting for trackside recovery vehicles really isn't that high - much less than the miles of safety barriers already installed around circuits.
Very bluntly put Meph (in your usual inimitable style) but you are right to a point.

I do want danger and I'm pretty sure the drivers do too but:
  • The racing is better in changeable conditions - not monsoons - so I'm in favour of avoiding rainy seasons in the tropics.
  • Driving in changeable light is fine IF there is artificial lighting available - no lights then bring it forward.
  • Flags should be fine. If drivers want the increased danger of only making a token reaction they must accept the risks; and so should we (I may regret writing this).
  • Tractors on the circuit are an unnecessary hazard... find a better way.
  • And skirts / canopies are ignoring the hazard.
This virtual safety car thing, is it deployed for every yellow flag or are they going to pick and chose which ones would warrant it?

My fear is that F1 will become nothing more than a series of stop start mini races and the overall spectacle will be made 10 times worse than it is now...
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Considering the race could have been started at 1pm which is the standard local time that a Grand Prix starts - the organisers had waited until 3 pm to start because they wanted to get as much crowd in as possible AND there was the fear of fading light and downpour so Honda or the organisers must take a share of the blame putting drivers and marshalls at additional risk

However it was a freak accident with Bianchi
Philippe Streiff is being sued by the FIA for these comments.

"Shame on Jean Todt who organized and ordered at the last World Council of FIA in Doha, Qatar, a report about the accident of Jules Bianchi. A document prepared by a group of ten friends, including Professor Gerard Saillant, to shirk errors FIA vis-à-vis insurance, "
"The bottom line today is that Jules Bianchi could recover the maximum of his physical and intellectual capacity and his family to avenge Jules then to transfer Jean Todt FIA ... They have the legal means, because they are undergoing is shameful. "

He is obviously upset. Does make you wonder if there is anything in his accusations.
The blokes a gobshite I'm no big fan of the FIA but he's got previous with his false claims about Schumacher plus I see no evidence that the FIA did anything wrong in this case, Bianchi just didn't slow down for yellow flags there is nothing the FIA could have done about that...
It's also interesting there's been no official announcement from the FIA regarding Franck Montagny's drugs test. They seem to be all too keen to protect their personal reputations but rather slow to do any actual FIA business.
Where Montagny is concerned they are waiting for a case to be heard before they make an announcement - he is currently only under appeal awaiting the result of that.

You'd think the fact he's admitted outright he is guilty would speed the process up but they are following the letter of the law.

My bug bear with the FIA at the moment is the complete shirking of decision making. Is this part legal on the car? Well we'll let the teams decide between them and make the rule. Shall we move the start of the race to avoid the monsoons? Well we'll let the organisers decide. We need to make sure enough money gets to the smaller teams so F1 has a full grid - Ok well let the teams decide between then how thats going to work. They don't seem to want to make a decision on anything incase someone holds them liable for it.

Don't get me wrong, I think Max Mosley is an awful awful man, but at least the FIA took action on issues (even if they did it the wrong way) now it just seems like they bob along watching it happen around them.
I never thought the report sought to exonerate the FIA, so I think Streiff is barking up the wrong tree. It identifies failures in the yellow flag rules and in the start times.

It is difficult for some to accept that Bianchi could be culpable; I would hope a nuanced view would accept that blaming him in part does not imply that he deserves to be hospitalised.
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