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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite 1997 – Rocky Balboa meets F1
“Hey Adrian. Adree-ann. AYDREEANN” “Yes Rocky”
Couldn’t help it, one of cinema’s greatest scenes, lines, mocked sequences… and on this day Rocky star Sylvester Stallone and Bernie Ecclestone announced a partnership which allowed Hollywood into the paddocks to make an F1 film.
After having seen the original Rocky before he became a caricature of himself, or even the original First Blood before Rambo became his own personal army hoped this new film would do justice to the sport. If you have ever sat through Driven we can only be thankful Bernie pulled the plug. Street races in Indycars…imagine Alonso and Vettel driving down the Champ Elysees..
The Grumpy Jackal
Meeting of the WMSC
TJ13 has since the inception of the website contended that the safety car regulations and the complete failure to enforce double yellow flags properly, have been a dangerous failing within the Formula One.
During the 2012 Singapore GP, around 20% of the race was run under the safety car, when at times this solution appeared to be overkill.
However, the fact that Formula One has in recent years appeared to be the only category of world motor sport to practically defy the WMSC regulations on double waved yellow flags, has forced the incremental use of the safety car, which in turn creates criticism for its ‘over use’.
As expected, this criticism has led to the safety car being used in a more circumspect manner.
However, the spiral described eventually led to the events in Suzuka, where clearly in vastly reduced light, given the arrival of the eye of the tropical storm together with pressure from commercial entities prior to the race, led those in race control to make fatal errors of judgement.
Today, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) will receive the report from the FIA ‘panel of experts’ into the events in Suzuka which resulted in the life threatening condition in which jules Bianchi now finds himself.
The response from the FIA has been to test various methods of deploying a ‘virtual safety car’ during the final three GP weekends of the 2014 season.
However, fans of the sport must realise, this technology has been available for some time, and in fact, this year each circuit on the F1 calendar has been carved up into a maximum of twenty safety zones, where the times of the drivers are monitored should there be a yellow or double waved yellow flag deployed.
The problem was, that Charlie Whiting and the FIA deemed it acceptable, that the speed reduction through any double waved yellow flag zone be a mere 10-15% – and an edict to this effect was issued prior to the start of the 2014 season.
Following the events in Germany, TJ13 insisted this measure was woefully inadequate. the conclusion of the Hockenheim race saw Adrian Sutil spin with a hand full of laps remaining and his car was stranded across the start finish straight for several laps, This was dealt with by the measure of double waved yellow flags, thought the 15% reduction in speed of the cars passing the incident was obviously completely inadequate
The virtual safety car tests run by the FIA in Austin, Brazil and Abi Dhabi have received mixed reviews. Initially, drivers were being requested to drive to a delta time as they do when the safety car is deployed. However, the sectors were so small, that this was difficult for the drivers to manage when compared to the delta times issued when the safety car is deployed. These are to be observed over 6 or 7 times the distance and generally relate to the traditional 3 timed sectors as displayed on the timing screens.
The FIA then experimented with a pit lane speed limiter type solution for the yellow flagged sectors of the circuit. However, drivers complained that there is no line on the track to indicate the exact starting point of the caution and further they were concerned over the possibility of excessive early braking by one car, resulting in the one behind to approach at a highly inappropriate delta speed.
These are mere teething problems – and will be resolved.
TJ13 has been informed, the teams have agreed in principle to the use of the virtual safety car during the 2015 season, and this matter will be presented to the World Motor Sport Council today for ratification.
However, a member of the TJ13 staff challenged Charlie Whiting in Jerez this year over the obvious failings of the double waved yellow flags enforcement in F1 together with the inappropriate use of the safety car. He was only to be dismissed with the explanation, the safety car is the best and highest form of intervention for track isolation we have studied to date”
At least this closed minded attitude is now no longer.
However, lest we forget, Jules Bianchi is still in hospital and it is questionable even should he regain consciousness, whether he will have any kind of quality of life again. This was an enormously costly error to be made.
So we await the FIA’s disclosure of their ‘panel of experts’ report together with the detail of the future virtual safety car regulations; and can but hope a miracle will visit the likeable and talented French driver soon.
Red Bull are only interested in themselves says Mercedes chief
The Mercedes ‘Enforcer’, Paddy Lowe, is critical of the recent suggestions from Red Bull that the engine rules should be simplified by running a twin-turbo set-up which in turn would being about huge cost-savings.
“The rules are designed for stability in F1 – especially the engines. When people ask to amend them quickly, it’s usually due to personal interest.”
Lowe is candid that he believes there are ulterior motives attributable to those calling for engine regulation changes on the basis of ‘cost control’.
“I have worked in teams that suffer good and bad years”, Paddy explains, “but I do not remember this happening before – where someone suggests changing rules to allow them to win…”
The gloves are clearly off between Red Bull and Mercedes, however, the composition of the F1 strategy group for 2015, should mean that Mercedes has sufficient support to block any revisionist move on engine regulations – along with their customer teams.
The Spanish Samurai heads to Le Mans
Reports that Formula One TV viewer numbers is in decline for what may be a number of reasons, has led to a resurgence of belief in certain quarters that the WEC is the perfect antidote. Mark Webber clearly believes this to be so and he made a passionate case for his new racing series to F1 fans from the Village stage during the Abu Dhabi GP weekend.
The WEC has a significant manufacturer presence at Le Mans, an event which in all probability will increases in appeal as the list of Formula One drivers joining the grid grows. This crossover of participants may yet lead to a feel that Le Mans is returning to the glory days of endurance racing – where the best drivers in the world are competing.
The Italian press revealed last week that Nico Hulkenburg has signed a contract to race for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 hour event next June, along with the preceding six hour race in Spa, Belgium. This then led to rumours that the Hulk is in fact one of a three F1 driver team for these events and Mark Webber has been open in calling Jenson over to the WEC both on twitter and to the accredited F1 media.
Having been typically ejected by Toro Rosso, Jean-Eric Vergne is reported to be now considering racing in the WEC series full time in 2015.
Further, pictures of Fernando Alonso were spread across social media at the recent WEC event in Bahrain. The narrative to these images was questioning whether the Spanish Samurai would be leaving F1 to race full time in the WEC.
However, it may now be more pertinent to enquire whether Alonso – signed to drive for McLaren in F1 – would be granted permission to also drive for McLaren’s road car competitor Porsche…
Time alone will tell.
What is certain – is that the profile of the WEC is rising quickly.
Conversely, Formula One has spent most of 2014 dragging itself through the mud, from crisis to crisis, which may yet see more competitors leaving the sport.
McLaren Honda it is
The wait is over and without a fanfare, the Woking team have declared their hand. McLaren Honda will be the name of the team in 2015.
Though if you look ever so closely at the webpage (here) in the bottom right hand corner, McLaren Mercedes – for now – lives on.
EU inquiry at an advanced stage
TJ13 reported back in January 2013, that the EU Commission’s competition arm was adopting a watching brief on regulatory and competition matters within the sport of Formula One.
Adam Parr had described the enforced new bio-lateral contracts between the teams and FOM as a ‘crime’, and called for the EU to act.
It now would seem that the recent complaint made by UK MP Annaliese Dodds, may in fact have been a procedural mechanism to activate the EU Commission’s competition into a more pro-active investigation than had was previously being conducted.
Kevin Eason, F1 journalist for the Times now confirms, “Worryingly for F1 it appears that EU officials have been building up a file for the past 18 months”.
Yet this investigation may be not be such a surprise for certain participants in the sport, because CVC have in rather timely fashion been reducing their holding by around 50% over the past two years.
Jean Todt’s predecessor was in charge in the Place de Concorde the last time the EU Commission rode into town and regulated on the governance of Formula One. Max Mosley claims, “If the EU come in, they can rip the whole thing up”.
When asked about whether his experience and expertise could assist Formula One during an inquiry, Max responded “I am flattered by the idea that I could be involved. I am out of touch, but I would do anything I could to help if all of the relevant parties agreed.”
Mosley’s involvement may cause some embarrassment for the current FIA president, and as such would then be vetoed.
TJ13 is aware that representatives from certain ‘smaller’ teams have been providing information and evidence to the EU Commission for some time. This dates back to the replacement contracts forced upon certain F1 competitors following the expiry of the last Concorde agreement on 31/12/2012.
Certain teams have presented information to the EU to demonstrate their belief that Bernie Ecclestone forced them into contractual terms by ‘abusing a dominant position’. This is outlawed under EU Competition Law, and specifically the Commission had already ruled against these practices in Formula One back in 2001.
Further, the EU ruled in 2001, that the FIA must independently and not induced by commercial influences regulate the sport of Formula One. Yet Jean Todt stated after meetings with the teams in Geneva last week that he was restricted in his power to regulate autonomously, stating, “We have certain decision-making processes that we cannot just change. That’s democracy.” This reference was to the voting powers of the F1 Strategy Group.
A ‘quick in’ for the EU Commission may be to rule on the the obvious commercial pressures which are influencing the FIA’s ability to independently regulate the sport, particularly given the new structures of governance created for 2014 – the F1 Strategy Group and the F1 Commission. However, once inside the sport, any EU investigation will not be a swift process unlike during Mosley’s time in office.
The issues this time are more complex and intertwined, and any ruling which could even see criminal charges brought, is unlikely to be in haste – given the loop holes exploited following the previous ruling the Commission made on Formula One.
There are esteemed F1 writers and senior figures within the sport of Formula One, who appear to be propagating the notion that the current crisis is all a Bernie Ecclestone plan – and like the wizard of Oz he is controlling matters by strings.
Yet, CVC stand to lose huge sums of money and interestingly Ecclestone has not been reinstated by the private equity firm to any of his statutory directorships which were removed by Donald Mackenzie prior to Ecclestone’s criminal trial.
For those who know no Formula One life without Bernie, it is natural for them to believe he will rise from his knees yet again to reign victorious – just as he always did before.
Yet one day, the clock strikes twelve. And for those with a wider field of view, the ticking and tocking is growing louder and louder with each passing day.
Previous TJ13 article: F1 and European Union Article 82
FIA findings on Bianchi crash
The FIA has released the findings from the 10 man panel of experts, recruited to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jules Bianchi’s crash at the Japanese GP this year.
Unsurprisingly, there are recommendations that yellow flag procedures be changed together with circuit improvements and better scheduling of races given the prevailing seasons of rain in certain parts of the world.
Pirelli were absolved of any blame, though better arrangements for testing of wet weather tyres is also to be considered going forward.
The headline issues will unfortunately centre around the fact that the report states Bianchi did not slow sufficiently and that the Marussia brake by wire system, may or may not have played a part.
Summary of FIA findings:
On lap 43 of the Japanese GP, Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in turn seven, and struck a mobile crane that was recovering Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which had crashed the lap before. Bianchi suffered life-threatening injuries to his head, and was evacuated to hospital by ambulance.
The weather conditions at the time were rain and a deteriorating track condition, and the section of the track where the accident occurred was subject to double yellow flags, due to Sutil’s crash.
A review of all the evidence and other information about the events leading up to Bianchi’s accident has been carried out by the 10-man Accident Panel, appointed by the FIA. The Panel has issued a 396-page report on their findings with recommendations for improvements, many relevant to all of motorsport. This has been presented to the FIA World Motorsport Council.
The review of the events leading up to Bianchi’s accident indicate that a number of key issues occurred, which may have contributed to the accident, though none alone caused it:
- The semi-dry racing line at T7 was abruptly narrowed by water draining onto the track and flowing downhill along it. Both Sutil, and Bianchi one lap later, lost control at this point in T7.
- Sutil’s car was in the process of being recovered by mobile crane when Bianchi approached Sectors 7 and 8, which include the part of T7 where the recovery was taking place. Sectors 7 and 8 were subject to double yellow flags.
- Bianchi did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control at the same point on the track as Sutil.
- If drivers adhere to the requirements of double yellow flags, as set out in Appendix H, Art. 188.8.131.52.b, then neither competitors nor officials should be put in immediate or physical danger.
- The actions taken following Sutil’s accident were consistent with the regulations, and their interpretation following 384 incidents in the preceding eight years. Without the benefit of hindsight, there is no apparent reason why the Safety Car should have been deployed either before or after Sutil’s accident.
- Bianchi over-controlled the oversteering car, such that he left the track earlier than Sutil, and headed towards a point “up-stream” along the barrier. Unfortunately, the mobile crane was in front of this part of the barrier, and he struck and under-ran the rear of it at high speed.
- During the 2 seconds Bianchi’s car was leaving the track and traversing the run-off area, he applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet. The FailSafe algorithm is designed to over-ride the throttle and cut the engine, but was inhibited by the Torque Coordinator, which controls the rear Brake-by-Wire system. Bianchi’s Marussia has a unique design of BBW, which proved to be incompatible with the FailSafe settings.
- The fact that the FailSafe did not disqualify the engine torque requested by the driver may have affected the impact velocity; it has not been possible to reliably quantify this. However, it may be that Bianchi was distracted by what was happening and the fact that his front wheels had locked, and been unable to steer the car such that it missed the crane.
- Bianchi’s helmet struck the sloping underside of the crane. The magnitude of the blow and the glancing nature of it caused massive head deceleration and angular acceleration, leading to his severe injuries.
- All rescue and medical procedures were followed, and their expediency are considered to have contributed significantly to the saving of Bianchi’s life.
- It is not feasible to mitigate the injuries Bianchi suffered by either enclosing the driver’s cockpit, or fitting skirts to the crane. Neither approach is practical due to the very large forces involved in the accident between a 700kg car striking a 6500kg crane at a speed of 126kph. There is simply insufficient impact structure on a F1 car to absorb the energy of such an impact without either destroying the driver’s survival cell, or generating non-survivable decelerations.
It is considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable. It is imperative to prevent a car ever hitting the crane and/or the marshals working near it.
A number of recommendations for improvements have been proposed, relevant in many cases to all of motorsport. They include the following:
- A new regulation for double yellow flags:
Proposed new Appendix H Article (possibly under 184.108.40.206 b):
The Clerk of the Course will impose a speed limit in any section of track where double yellow flags are being displayed.
It is proposed that a Working Group, made up of FIA Race Directors and Stewards should meet and draw up detailed regulations and guidelines for the application of this new regulation, in time to apply it in 2015 across international circuit racing.
- Safety critical software:
A review of safety critical software and measures to check its integrity will take place.
- Track drainage:
Guidelines on circuit drainage will be reviewed, to include drainage off access roads.
- 4-hour Rule:
Article 5.3 of the F1 Sporting Regulations states that:
However, should the race be suspended (see Article 41) the length of the suspension will be added to this period up to a maximum total race time of four hours.
It is proposed that a regulation or guideline be established such that the Start time of an event shall not be less than 4 hours before either sunset or dusk, except in the case of night races.
It is also recommended that the F1 Calendar is reviewed in order to avoid, where possible, races taking place during local rainy seasons.
- Super Licence
It is proposed that drivers acquiring a Super Licence for the first time should undertake a course to familiarise themselves with the procedures used by F1 in running and ensuring the safety of an event.
It is also proposed that new licence holders pass a test to ensure that they are familiar with all the relevant regulations.
- F1 risk review
Consideration will be given to a review of F1 risk, in order to ascertain whether there are any significant holes in the safety defences, such that an unforeseen combination of circumstances could result in a serious accident.
It is part of the challenge of a racing driver to drive his car as fast as possible given the track conditions combined with the characteristics of his tyres. Although the characteristics of the wet weather tyres provided by Pirelli did not influence Bianchi’s accident or its outcome in any significant way, it is recommended that provision is made for the tyre supplier to develop and adequately test wet weather tyres between each F1 season, such that it is able to supply the latest developments to the first event.