While Jules Bianchi fights for his life post his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix weekend in Suzuka, a lot of drivers got vocal about the incident, some in anguish and some in anger. The race was stopped shortly after the accident with Lewis Hamilton who was leading the race declared as its winner.
Felipe Massa, a close friend to Jules Bianchi describes the Suzuka Sunday saying “It was the worst day of my life, worse than when I had my accident” and said he even considered quitting F1. He added on “I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track”.
Force India’s Sergio Perez said in rage the incident was “totally inacceptable” while Spaniard Fernando Alonso suggested that its time the sport considered closed cockpits as head injuries are always a concern in the sport. However, considering closed cockpits remains a separate issue altogether as open cockpits have been the highlight of open wheeled, single-seater or formula racing.
The incident occurred as Jules Bianchi’s Marussia rammed into a recovery vehicle which was retrieving Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which had crashed earlier at the Dunlop curve of the circuit. On a rain soaked tarmac, Bianchi crashed into the vehicle while approaching the curve at more than 100mph. The impact made his car rebound violently and sent it spinning into the barriers.
Its incidents like these that remind us time and again that ‘Motorsport is Dangerous’, the signboard we read at most levels in this sport from a go-kart track to all forms of this sport, a warning given to every individual even before entering this sport. The sign flashes in every spectator’s mind who witnesses such an incident while the racing fraternity wonders whether they have taken it seriously at all.
A result of the crash has been a meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) on Friday to discuss improvements and safety of the sport with the FIA .The race organizers have come under heavy criticism for scheduling the grand prix despite being alerted of a typhoon and heavy downpours well in advance.
FIA president Jean Todt had a 75 minute briefing and ended it saying “We have a responsibility to take into consideration what has happened and make sure it will not happen again. But motor sport is dangerous and you cannot guarantee that there will not be any more accidents.” The FIA has decided to impose speed limits on drivers in dangerous conditions, such as a yellow flag speed limit in such a scenario in the future.
They said they are working on discussing safety issues with the teams on completion of the investigation and after thorough analysis of the video footage and GPS data is carried out. FIA race director Charles Whiting said that more immediately to address the issue, they will be more careful with the recovery vehicles used on the track. He said they will considering placing a skirt around the recovery vehicles to avoid cars going underneath them.
The last time the GPDA came nervously to discuss the safety in Formula One was during the horrific Imola weekend in 1994 after Rubens Barichello’s crash on Friday followed by Roland Ratzenberg’s death on Saturday and the loss of World Champion Ayrton Senna on Sunday. Infact the GPDA was formed as a result of Barichellos and Ratzenberg’s incident.
A result of Senna’s crash was Sir Sid Watkins introducing the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device to avoid Basilar Skull injuries. Senna was the last fatality in Formula 1 but there were many more freak incidents such as that of Massa in the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, when a spring from Rubens Barichello’s Brawn hit him in the Ferrari causing serious injuries and leaving him in a coma.
Another incident was in the same year when racing legend John Surtees’ son Henry was killed in a freak accident in a Formula 2 race at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. A wheel of a front car flew and hit the 18 year old sending his car veering off into the barriers.
Sadly for Marussia Racing team this is not their first fatal crash either, the crash of their reserve driver Maria de Villota remains the most serious one. The Female reserve driver had crashed violently into a lorry while performing an aerodynamic test at the Duxford Aerodrome ahead of the British Grand Prix in 2012. The thirty three year old Spanish driver suffered grave face and skull injuries along with the loss of her right eye.
A miracle recovery sent her back to the paddocks working as an ambassador at the World Motorsport Council in the Womens’ Commission. Shockingly she was found dead at a Spanish hotel a year later in October 2013, causes being her weak health condition due to incomplete recovery from her previous injuries.
In my initial days of writing articles on F1, one of the features I had chosen to write was on the most lethal crashes in F1 (Also Read: http://www.zigwheels.com/motorsports/formula1/features/lifestyle-features/most-horrific-crashes-in-f1-history/15382/1), when friends of mine would say it was disturbing and depressing reading it, well only I know what I could’ve gone through watching all those videos on YouTube and then writing it.
After horrific footage of Bianchi’s crash emerged, it was a flashback into those days when I had sat compiling that horrific article, resulting in my foot automatically lifting off the throttle and making my drive back from work to home a tedious one.
Years of innovation and safety improvements in this sport have reduced fatalities and serious injuries, but there is no 100 percent guarantee. It only sends a reminder and reflects the dangerous conditions undertaken by young drivers even at the most budding stages in comparison with other forms of sports.
The most experienced driver on the grid Jenson Button has tried calming the atmosphere saying “Most of us have been doing this since we were eight years old and it is something we love. Nothing will change with our families and friends because this is what we love doing, it’s our job. This is where we feel most alive. We are trying to tame a Formula One car with 850 horsepower.”
While Russia will host its inaugural Grand Prix at the Sochi circuit on Sunday, 21 drivers will carry ‘Tous avec Jules’ (All with Jules) message on their helmets. Unfortunately on home ground Marussia will have only one driver, Max Chilton on the grid and it is the first time after Senna’s crash in 1994 when a team will enter a solitary car . The incident remains fresh in the minds of other drivers and has cast a shadow on the forthcoming race weekend.
Lewis Hamilton said “The whole sport is clouded right now because our thoughts are somewhere else. When you get into the car you switch into gear and think racing. It wouldn’t be good for anyone to get in the car and thinking about anything else but getting themselves around the track”
According to doctors Jules condition remains ‘stable yet critical’ and French surgeon Gérard Saillant who treated Michael Schumacher after his skiing accident last December, has been monitoring and treating his injuries. However fears loom in the paddock that the young rising star might not ever recover completely from this accident.
Bianchi has been a product of the Ferrari Drivers Academy and was a reserve driver at Force India in 2012 before he landed a drive with the Marussia Racing team in 2013. For now all one can say is “Forza Jules” and hope the young driver fights on and recovers soon.