#F1 Press Briefing by FIA on Bianchi crash: Laudable or Whitewash?

Whilst the life of the young and talented Jules Bianchi is hanging in the balance, there was a press briefing held in Sochi today. It was a weighty affair because the often invisible president of the FIA was in attendance. Others as part of the delegation included, Charlie Whiting, Jean-Charles Piette CMO & Dr Ian Roberts Medical Rescue Co-ordinator.

A screen had been set up and the tension was palpable amongst the assembled accredited F1 press. What were they going to be shown?

Well, the FIA apparently has no footage of its own of the incident, however, circuit CCTV cameras saved the day. Without much a do, the tragic visuals were on display.

Within no time at all, Charlie Whiting addressed the ‘leaked’ matter of Bianchi’s speed immediately prior to the accident.

“There were some that didn’t slow down much; there were some that slowed down a lot,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go into details about how much he slowed down relative to others, suffice to say we do have that data”.

Whiting did add in a coded fashion, “He did slow down, but it’s a matter of degree.”

There we have it, the implication that Jules was not playing strictly by the rules.

Without much a do, Charlie moves swiftly on to his big conclusion.“One of the most important things to learn here is that it is probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers,” These may prove to be weasel words, but we’ll get to that later.

Regarding the post crash treatment of Jules Bianchi, the assembled troops were informed that the plan for such an incident was enacted within all the protocols set out by the FIA. The helicopter was not used due to landing difficulties at the hospital. The road ambulance took 7 minutes longer than had the helicopter been used.

Given the nature of Jules current plight, much of the damage to his brain would have been from secondary reactions following the impact, which may occur up to many hours following the initial trauma [editors note].

When asked whether there was a delay in race control knowing of Jules accident, Whiting replied, It took an extra 20 or so seconds. THEY didn’t realise what had happened.”

Presumably Charlie is no longer part of this body.

Charlie Whiting confirmed that Jules Bianchi’s crash had not been seen live by race control, who were notified of the incident by a report from marshal post 12.

Apparently the images from the camera we saw in the fan video in the foreground were not relaying conclusive pictures for those viewing them back at race control so they couldn’t fully appreciate what had happened.

Further, the device on the Marussia which sends a signal when there is a high G-Force impact, was damaged by the crash and did not transmit as normal.

At present, there is no evidence at from Marussia or anywhere else that there was a mechanical failure on the car.

Interestingly, Charlie Whiting claimed that had there been no tractor there, Bianchi’s crash with the barrier would have been similar to one in Barcelona 2008. “Looking at the first estimates of the speed of the car, I would say it would have been – with three row tyre barrier and guard rail – very similar to Heikki Kovalainen’s accident in Barcelona. But that is a very rough estimate.”

Whiting did admit, that race control had no way of monitoring the progress of the tractor visually once it had been dispatched. He also asserted that “the race-start time is entirely unconnected to the incidents in question.” The implication is clear, he does not regard the failing light as a contributory factor.

Ideas such as the use of pit lane speed restriction technology, tractors with skirts and canopies were all presented as options to be investigated further in collaboration with the drivers and teams, though Whiting yet again casts aspersions on the Formula One participants trustworthiness to act in a safe manner.

“One thing that would worry me slightly is the fact that you can see how engineers and drivers push the limit for the pit lane speed limit,” a concerned Whiting confessed.

And we concluded the 75 minute gathering with the President of the FIA, being very presidential stating, “I fully trust the people around me,” and that “this can never happen again”.

Adam Cooper commented on twitter, “Full marks to the FIA, Charlie Whiting and Jean Todt for giving us a 75-minute Q&A session on Suzuka”.

Zero marks for those who are FIA press accredited; follow the sport around the world reporting it for the fans, for not asking the right questions.

Byron Young of the Daily Mirror tweeted after the event, “Charlie Whiting media briefing lasted over an hour. Very comprehensive and defused tension building among media needing more information.”

Will Buxton added, “The members of the panel spoke with authority and clarity. And, perhaps most importantly of all, Jean Todt stepped up as President. Never have I sat through a press conference like that. Incredible respect from all there. No blame, no pointed fingers as many had feared”.

Indeed Will. If you ask someone accused of negligence to collect the evidence, analyse it and prosecute the hearing – that’s the result you get.

It appears our erstwhile F1 press pack have not joined up the dots. Questions raised by fans since Germany remain unanswered about the enforcement of double waved yellow flags as legislated by the Sporting Code.

Neither have the men in pork pie hats remembered or understood, that a Whiting directive as reported by Autosport in March had neutered this regulation, demanding that drivers merely slow 0.2 seconds for a yellow and 0.5 seconds for a double waved yellow flag.

@SomersF1 commented here yesterday. “What is clear is that Charlie’s FIA directive about double yellow waved flags could make the F1 stewards culpable for any mistake made under those conditions. The sporting code (appendix H) has this to say about double waved yellows:

Double waved: Reduce your speed significantly, do not overtake, and be prepared to change direction or stop. There is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the track and/or marshals working on or beside the track.

This is the unilateral FIA mandate for double waved yellow marshaling. The directive issued by Charlie undermines this and raises Formula One’s status beyond that of all of series (Bear in mind that the appendix already has several caveat statements within it that deal with F1, WEC & WTCC) calls into question whether the stewards have the right to make that change without a change to the sporting code / unanimous agreement from the WMSC”.

It could be argued this Whiting directive was actually an interpretation of the Sporting Code, but in fact this was a revision of substantive proportions which Charlie Whiting does not have the authority to enact.

To argue Whiting intended the drivers to still live by the spirit of the Sporting Code yellow flag regulations and that this direction was merely an indication of where the line would be drawn so that transgressions could be penalised, is tenuous to say the least.

Nobody is looking for the proverbial scapegoat for the sake of having someone to blame. Yet the FIA is responsible for safety in Formula One and the only indication we have from Whiting today that anyone may have been culpable is that drivers were speeding, and teams consistently attempt to push his regulations to the limit.

Hypocrisy. A 0.5 second time reduction over a safety section of around 300 metres, would result in a car reducing its speed to around 80% of the maximum.

Bianchi and others following the Sutil accident were travelling at over 210 Kph, and Whiting admits they had lifted off. Bianchi in those difficult conditions over the entire lap, had been averaging 50 metres per second, so a 0.5 second reduction in times through the affected sector would have resulted in ‘legal’ speeds of around 176 Kph.

Of course we must now believe, this directive from Charlie was appropriate and would have prevented Bianchi losing control of the car.

Better Whiting and the FIA had been enforcing for the season, double waved yellows means “Slow down…and be prepared to stop”, but they haven’t.

Cynics may observe, that most of the journalists have reported tortuous journeys to Sochi, via several countries and flights, and may well not have yet have had time to research matters properly or even be aware of certain information provided to the world outside the F1 circus. If so, this much lauded ‘speedy’ briefing and Q&A, may also have been an opportunistic move by the FIA.

The seeds have now been sown. Drivers were speeding. Jules is critically ill.

TJ13 has evidence it will publish soon which demonstrates that the data systems used by race control to flag the circuit, were not in synch with the actual marshaling flags being shown on the circuit. Whether this was due to misunderstandings during the marshal briefing due to linguistic problems, we can but speculate.

However, this raises another issue ignored today; a matter TJ13 has been campaigning on since our inception – the need for professional travelling marshals.

Of course we have the promised investigation from Todt, though if the right questions aren’t asked, the correct conclusions will not be reached.

If that is the case, once again, Formula 1 will draw the circle close, nobody wants a fuss – let’s all just learn from this – at Jules Bianchi’s expense.

The questions which must be addressed is is, have proper procedural regulatory changes been adhered to regarding changes to the sporting code and double waved yellow flags?

If not, why have the yellow flag regulations not been enforced properly by the regulatory body of the sport, Charlie Whiting and the stewards?

And this writer knows that had voices of concern been listened to earlier this year, Jules Bianchi – given Charlie’s example – may be now in a similar vein of health as was Heikki Kovalainen, 5 days after his brush with the barrier in Catalunya.

Previous article, Respect for life requires FIA action 

49 responses to “#F1 Press Briefing by FIA on Bianchi crash: Laudable or Whitewash?

  1. Excellent, Excellent work. I am preparing a larger piece on this topic, but here is a taste of some simple data i compiled:

    00:00 Yellow flag for Sutil off.(according to TV feed, lap counter goes yellow)
    00:30 Sutil climbs out of car
    01:20 ticker at bottom of FOM feed shows Bianchi in 17th +11.8
    02:00 ~2seconds after Bianchi crash. First Camera shot of tractor with Jules car behind it. Driver is still in tractor cab. Marshals are still walking towards back of the tractor. The crash must have happened within the last few seconds.(all on FOM feed) Camera is perfectly framed and in focus, not following a moving car.
    02:19 an info-graphic pops up in the bottom right of the FOM feed. It shows Sutil off just passed Dunlop. It does not show Bianchi off at same.
    02:30 FOM ticker shows Bianchi in 18th, no time, red arrows signifying
    he is dropping places.
    02:54 safety car and medical car are deployed.
    03:33 FOM ticker shows Bianchi as OUT
    07:14 Sky TV realizes Jules is off the track
    07:55 Sky announces ambulance has been deployed
    08:22 Ambulance arrives on scene on FOM feed.
    9:20 RED FLAG

    I am looking for a transcript of the presser, to compare data.

        • check this out http://youtu.be/3DS33TY50CU

          Notice, sector 7 just before where Sutil’s car comes to rest is not yellow for some 15 seconds after secot 8 was made yellow. V Dangerous

          Further, the video we have seen shows that sector 8 goes green when the tractor reverses past marshal point 12 – the data feed never shows this

          Confusion between what Race Control see and what is going on out there on track?

          • I think the 15 second delay until sector 7 Dunlop curve goes yellow is probably because the flag marshal for that sector only turned it to yellow once the recovery marshals entered the track at the entry/exit point just before tower 12.

          • re. “Further, the video we have seen shows that sector 8 goes green when the tractor reverses past marshal point 12 – the data feed never shows this”.
            I don’t know who presses the button for the data feed showing yellow or green, but I wonder if the marshal or his assistant at tower 12 waving green forgot to press a button for the data feed to indicate that his sector was now green.

          • Although the tractor reverses past marshal point 12 there is still a marshal up at Sutil’s impact point attempting to retrieve the front wing and other debris. Whether the FIA investigation knows he was there (he’s clearly visible in the fan video of the crash that was posted) but didn’t deem his safety worthy of yellow flags or they simply haven’t noticed him, I don’t know.

          • …Race Control had no idea that sector had been declared green by the marshals

            Whiting admitted today, they had no camera informing them of the tractors progress.

    • …Also have you seen the F1 app data video? It shows who was where and tracks Bianchi following Sutil’s off.

      Link was posted in comments yesterday…

      • Yes Judge I have. I hesitate to use the info available as I have no confidence in its reliability. It appears to be real time, but i have personally noticed inconsistincys in its timing, when compared to 2 different television feeds.

        One thing I did notice in said video, was that the sector post tower 12, up to Degner, was the first sector to go Yellow after Sutils crash. The app calls it sector 8, the tower is #12, and we think FIA has broken the track into 20 sectors, so things overlap a bit. Anyway, “sector 8” goes yellow, then a few seconds later sector 7 goes yellow. According to the app, this means the entire Dunlop curve, all the way up to Degner, was under Yellow from that point forward. When we compare this to the fan video, we know the sector between the tower and Degner in fact went Green, but the app did not reflect this.

        30 sends of on-board footage would answer a lot of questions.

        • ….There are more marshal points than timed ‘safety sectors’.

          Your last point is exactly the case. Inside the tower – with no windows, Race Control are looking at this believing it reflects what the marhsals are doing –

          – clearly it does not – and therefore race control are not aware of what is actually happening – just what should be happening

          Just cos they pushed a button – didn’t make it so.

          You can buy the F1 app (android or IOS) last 4 races for £8 and download the data from the Japanese GP in full.

          • I wasn’t clear judge, sorry.
            It’s not that I question the video, I question the info in the actual app. I have compared it live to both SKY feed and US coverage, and there are often inconsistency’s.

  2. Great article.. It really bothered me how so many F1 journalists wrote articles and blog posts that were obviously designed to be protective of the sport +immediately+ after the accident.

    Of course it would be bad to overreact and blame anyone before the dust settles and an inquiry takes place. But surely it’s at least as bad to try and whitewash the whole thing prematurely.

    I had a brief exchange with Joe Saward in reply to a post he made just a few hours after the accident, basically trying to dismiss anyone criticizing the decision making in Suzuka and arguing that race control had done everything as well as it possibly could have. If he really believes that, why even have an inquiry? We should just accept that drivers will be killed sometimes and move on. Here is our exchange…

    What a bizarre post. Are you an independent journalist or a Formula 1 press officer?

    on October 7, 2014 at 2:41 am | ReplyJoe Saward
    Why don’t you go away and be rude to people elsewhere. My enthusiasm to help fans understand things if seriously undermined when people like you come here and write this rubbish.”

    I must have touched a nerve I guess.

    • I bashed Joe pretty hard over his article titled “Why Andree Lotterer is driving for Caterham”. So much so that he deleted the post, so I reposted it in the comments of a reddit link. You can’t delete something from the internet, its like trying to take Pee out of a pool. That’s when I stopped going to Joe’s site. If you want to see my takedown you can find it on reddit.
      He does not take criticism well.

    • I have nothing against him personally. I think the problem with F1 press coverage is more structural and Joe Saward is fairly typical of the trend.

      Other sports like football have real, independent journalists covering them in an adversarial way. This is what keeps those in power honest (up to a point anyway).

      F1 feels more like a club where everyone is working together for the good of the sport. In my mind, that’s not compatible with real journalism. It is more akin to how professional wrestling works than say, how football works. Of course, sites like this one are doing a good job of changing things and speaking truth to those in power.

      I had an interesting discussion with an F1 fan on one of the forums about TJ13. She was saying she never reads this site because “he’s not a real journalist”. When I asked her what she meant she said “sometimes he publishes things that have been embargoed by the mainstream press”. At that point I kind of gave up.

      • Reminiscent of most cricket journalism in the UK.
        In return for ‘access’, check your scepticism at the door…

      • “I have nothing against him personally. I think the problem with F1 press coverage is more structural and Joe Saward is fairly typical of the trend.”

        Indeed. Coffee Shop Joe (CSJ) has learned how to survive in the F1 environment, knows his place, and knows that paddling the party line and not asking questions or second guessing your “intellectual superiors” is essential to survival. As does our very own Dr Gary Harstein.

        In our latest podcast ( http://thejudge13.com/2014/10/09/tj13-f1-courtroom-podcast-2/ ) Dr Harstein complains that the valid questions that fans are asking and their seeking for the truth to come out, which he elegantly calls “conspiracy bullshit”, makes him “nauseating”. And he proudly pronounces with utter disbelief in his voice:
        “It’s [the amateur footage of the accident] like a conspiracy bullshit. There is no mistakes! Except that that car shouldn’t be aquaplaning. We need to do something about that. But… there is no mistakes!”

        So can you believe this guy, without having seen any official video footage (at least he didn’t acknowledge anything in the podcast), hard data, etc., etc., just like CSJ he uncritically and unapologetically comes on a white pony in FIAs defense. Conveniently he forgets, among other things, that he himself pointed out that one failure by the FIA was its utter impotence to regulate driver speed in DWY zones. And he also glosses over the glaring contravention of F1’s protocols, namely with the race proceeding while the helicopter couldn’t lift off…

        • Right, I personally haven’t seen any “conspiracy theories”. I just object to people jumping the gun and declaring that nothing was done wrong so soon after the accident. It’s disrespectful to Bianchi and suggests they are not sincere about the need for any kind of inquiry. In particular because many people had questioned the timing of the race and the likely conditions +before+ it even took place. The darkness and the weather conditions (both likely contributing factors) could certainly have been avoided or mitigated by running the race earlier. This is not just talking with hindsight, it was being suggested well in advance of the race. Then there seem to be lots of other legitimate questions about the use of yellow flags, the crane, the helicopter, etc. that all deserve attention. None of that is to suggest I know who or what is to blame, I don’t. It may be that no one was negligent and the problems are with the protocols rather than individuals making mistakes. It just seems really weird to jump to sweeping conclusions like “no mistakes were made” immediately after the race.

          • “It may be that no one was negligent and the problems are with the protocols rather than individuals making mistakes.”

            As the Judge points out, the FIA is responsible for coming up with the protocols. IF the protocols themselves and their correct application have created an unsafe environment for driver and marshal lives, then we’re talking about a mistake by the FIA. In this case we’re no longer in the “individuals making mistakes” domain, but we’re into the “systemic mistakes” territory. Worser, so much worser.. And in such a case, heads should start rolling, with responsibility lying at the very top..

  3. It’s interesting to note that in 2003 when the Japanese MotoGP driver Daijiro Kato was killed in an accident at Suzuka – it was actually Honda, the team Kato drove for and the owners of the Suzuka circuit who commissioned the Daijiro Kato Accident Investigation Committee. The report was accepted by the local police and Mie Prefecture. No further investigations were done.

    If history is anything to go by – the FIA and Honda (as the circuit owners) will do an investigation into the Bianchi accident which will clear themselves, and indirectly put the blame on Bianchi and unpaid course workers. A few recommendations will be made. Everyone at the FIA and FOM will pat themselves on the back and things will be back to normal.

    It is probably unfortunate for Bianchi that the accident happened in Japan and not in Europe, North America or Australia where it would have become subject to a formal police investigation.

  4. “If you ask someone accused of negligence to collect the evidence, analyse it and prosecute the hearing – that’s the result you get.”

    So indeed. You’re asking the right questions, Judge. If it weren’t for TJ13 coverage, I would have likely simply drowned in FIA’s and Autosport’s officially approved drivel. Thanks a lot.

    “I fully trust the people around me,” and that “this can never happen again”

    This is an indication that the Sleepy Beauty has awoken, and is now scared like hell for her own survival. Now the (other) three stooges Bernie, Charlie and Todt will coalesce into one might front of mirrors and smoke to divert attention from actual events and genuine responsibility.

    For all the nicely sounding, comprehensive and clear explanations, I still haven’t heard any hard facts on (1) Jules’s speed into that corner, (2) Jules’ crash trajectory (spin or head-on?), (4) the speed of other F1 drivers going through that zone in DWY conditions, (4) the exact sectors of the track being yellow-flagged, etc., etc.

    “Better Whiting and the FIA had been enforcing for the season, double waved yellows means “Slow down…and be prepared to stop”, but they haven’t.”

    I’ve been thinking about this, and most every racing weekends we get drivers penalized for speeding in the pitlane. I cannot recall one single case where a driver was penalized for speeding under DWY, even though Dr Harstein clearly points out that it was common occurrence for drivers to set purple times in yellow-flag zones. So is this not the responsibility of the FIA to enforce safety protocols? Is it not a systematic mistake by the FIA?

  5. Another thing that occured to me.. After Kimi crashed at Silverstone this year, there was a lengthy delay while the crash barrier was repaired. Lauda, in his usual outspoken style, said something to the effect that the delay was unjustified because it was almost impossible that another car would go off in the same place. That comment looks pretty foolish in light of what happened in Suzuka (if it didn’t already). And yet, lacking any self-awareness, the guy has the nerve to come out and warn everyone against over-reacting to the Bianchi crash. These people.

    • “That comment looks pretty foolish”.

      Sorry, but I don’t agree.

      In my view, Kim’s incident at Siverstone would be impossible to replicate even if you deliberately tried to do so.
      Whereas aquaplaning in the same part of a flooded track would be very easy to replicate, just by going at a similar speed in a similar car, even if you deliberately try NOT to aquaplane.

      • “In my view, Kim’s incident at Siverstone would be impossible to replicate even if you deliberately tried to do so.”

        I disagree. I argue below that Kimi’s accident would be copy-catted by any driver trying to reenter the Silverstone circuit around the same spot. See below.

    • @davis
      “After Kimi crashed at Silverstone this year, there was a lengthy delay while the crash barrier was repaired. ”
      Actually *I* am still shocked by how whole Kimi incident in Silverstone has been handled, and how blame was attributed. Charles has been parroting on and off on how Kimi was either too reckless, or sufficiently responsible on reentry. The white-haired idiot has took a full 1h to repair a barrier.

      HOWEVER, not one single time was the *cause* of the accident properly identified and addressed: the f^cking *ditch*. Kimi spun violently not because he was speeding (or going too slowly) and not because he has decided to reenter as soon as possible, but simply because there was a f&cking big, gaping whole in the damn grass zone surrounding the circuit. Even if Charles took 3h to fix the barrier, an identical copy-cat accident could easily be replicated by any other driver trying to reenter the circuit via the same f*cking ditch!!

      And why was there a ditch in Silverstone, you ask? Well, in all certainty FOM hosting fees and Charles’ requests for replacing gravel with tarmac must leave big gaping holes in the pockets of promoters when it comes to addressing safety concerns on their circuits..

      • Not completely true. It’s always more than one factor. The ditch is the biggest one. But kimi s speed comes second. If your doing 30 kph you never ever have a spin like that. Ditch or no ditch.

        • Well, yes, sure, it is one factor, and the biggest one in this case (as you mention). And of course if he was doing 5kph there would be no crash, but just an F1 car stuck upon a ditch. But which F1 driver would have reentered the track at such ridiculous speeds? None. Any driver in Kimi’s place would have reentered at a crash-inducing speed, *given* the ditch.

          • True. The only problem for kimi is that it was him. This could have happend to anyone in the same situation. But the same counts for bianchi. It’s always a case of wrong time wrong place

          • “It’s always a case of wrong time wrong place”

            Agreed. But proper safety protocols (no ditch in Kimi’s place, proper enforcement of DWY and proper gravel traps in Jules’ case) would have prevented the accidents. And it’s not like either incidents weren’t predictable, nor that the FIA didn’t get sufficient warnings from the past. It’s more like the FIA has patiently waited until the first obvious and twitterly sexy fatality arose.

      • They spent all their cash paying FOM so couldn’t afford to finish the ditch filling in.

        It’s going to get worse each year due to escalator….

        No toilet cleaners….

  6. That was an excellent piece Judge. Simply excellent.
    And here’s me been thinking recently you’d lost the plot……..

  7. “Of course we have the promised investigation from Todt, though if the right questions aren’t asked, the correct conclusions will not be reached.”

    And just to give credence to the above, here’s what Autosport had deemed to publish in the wake of FIAs “move” (because there isn’t a decent way to call it otherwise):
    Jules Bianchi accident: Key questions answered

    Implying, of course, that “Full marks to the FIA, Charlie Whiting and Jean Todt”. When actually they were simply parroting Charlie’s drivel.

  8. ‘Whiting did admit, that race control had no way
    of monitoring the progress of the tractor visually
    once it had despatched’ . . . Wow, ITS A BLOODY TRACTOR, that is working close to/within the confines of a LIVE racetrack.

      • Adam Cooper tweet. “C Whiting confirmed that race control knew nothing of the Bianchi impact until marshals reported. That surely must be a big lesson….

        We now know that race control authorised the dispatch of the tractor to recover Sutil’s car, but its progress was not followed on CCTV…

        If a tractor is sent out like that, under yellow flag and not safety car protection, what it does and where it goes should be observed”

    • ….. Exactly

      However, Charlie and the FIA, as the article on the press conference, by moving so quickly to suggest new procedures and protocols – conveniently shifted the dialogue from why this accident happened – to lets be proactive and crack on to sort out the issues.

      Websites and twitter lines from countless individuals are lauding the FIA’s swift response and honesty….

  9. Pingback: RIP Jules Bianchi, 1989 – 2015 | Man's Fine Life·

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