Lessons from Bianchi crash NOT learned

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Given the tragic nature of the past nine months and the utter devastation Jules Bianchi’s family must have lived day in and out, they have been an inspiration to everyone on how to remain dignified whilst experiencing a living hell.

Both of Bianchi’s parents have spoken at times with the media disseminating information for the army of well-wishers, which is a credit to them for being able to consider those with far more remotes connections to Jules than his immediate family.

The family have now asked for privacy during this time, which properly brings them respite from the direct line of questioning over any decision made to turn off Jules’ life support systems.

Jules is the first Formula One driver to be killed for 21 years, such has been the safety enhancements in both car monocoque design and circuit adaptations. Yet the real tragedy of Jules’ death is it wasn’t because of a lack of technology but from a consistent refusal of a fully ordained ‘policeman’ do properly do their job.

The FIA should be responsible for both setting out the governance for Formula One both in the technical and sporting regulations AND also for policing those regulations.

Under the leadership of Jean Totd, the FIA has abdicated its responsibility for regulations, selling this right away for a mere $40m in exchange for the F1 strategy group.

Due to the lack of leadership from the FIA’s F1 safety delegate, Jules ultimately perished on Charlie Whiting’s watch.

The 2014 Japanese GP had been in question for several days due to the threats of typhoon fanphone. 24 hours before the off, the typhoon was upgraded to a ‘super typhoon’ by the US Naval Observatory. Now there were huge concerns over the logistics of getting to the inaugural Russian GP for aback to back race weekend

The weather outlook which was eventually reflected in actuality, was that as each hour passed on Sunday, the rains would worsen and the storm’s power increase. Accordingly, the FIA asked Honda to move the race forward to 11am, though a combination of either/or Ecclestone and the Japanese car maker meant the offer was declined.

Given the free falling TV numbers, moving the race to around 3am European time would have been suicide for Ecclestone. Honda appeared to have concerns over communicating to the fans the change of arrangements and also the availability of certain VIP guests.

That said, Charlie Whiting and the FIA could easily have mandated the earlier start citing safety precautions. Though it is highly probable that pressure was brought to bear by FOM on the FIA in the form of litigation threats for damages suffered by breaching a contract with Honda.

The race time arrived, and given the ever worsening weather predictions, Race Director Charlie Whiting decided to start the race under the safety car. As widely predicted, the red flag was shown on lap two which meant the race was to be deemed as ‘run’, and FOM could collect their hosting fee from Honda.

To the surprise of many, there was a lull in the storm and so the race began properly some 20 minutes later.

But the rains returned and the outlook again was bleak. Adrian Sutil spun in his Sauber 42, double waved yellows were deployed to the section of the circuit where Adrian’s car was stranded, but one lap later Bianchi’s car left the track at the same pace and hurtled into and underneath a ‘recovery vehicle’ retrieving Sutil’s stranded Sauber.

Just a few races earlier in 2014, TJ13 questioned the practices allowed by Charlie and the FIA under double waved yellow flags, following Hamilton and a host of other drivers following an incident in Hockenheim.

Double Waved yellow flags are mandated by the World Motor Sport Council to convey the instructions – ‘…slow down and be prepared to stop or change direction…’

In Germany, Adrian Sutil’s Sauber was stranded on the pit straight and double waved yellow flags were in play at the final turn. Lewis Hamilton later stated, “When you come round that corner at serious speed and then there are marshals standing not far away from where you’re driving past, for me that’s the closest it’s been for a long, long time.”

As the commentators here observed, why was any driver travelling at “serious speed” through double waved yellow flags which required the drivers to be ready to immediately ‘stop’.

Due to the lack of will power from the FIA and Whiting, over the years the working rule for yellow flags was diluted from its intended meaning to simply demonstrating you had not delivered your fastest sector time on the lap when the course was under caution. A demonstration in the telemetry that a driver had lifted was sufficient to avoid sanction from the FIA.

Charlie Whiting must live forever with his conscience over his responsibilities in this matter and the subsequent death of one of the brightest and finest hopes in F1.

The FIA report and back of a fag packet subsequent summary of the events surrounding Jules’ crash is a laughing matter. Even at the last race in Silverstone, the Virtual Safety Car which is supposed to ensure a Bianchi style crash never happens again – failed miserably to slow the cars properly when passing the stricken Toro Rosso.

The cars are clearly visible on the ‘world feed’ during the race – flashing past at speeds not reflected by the WMSC standard of, ‘…be prepared to stop…’

As is the way in any cover up where responsibility and accountability are not scrutinised properly – lessons CANNOT be learned, because behind the investigation’s façade – no one is admitting that anybody was responsible for all or part of what went wrong.

Except Jules of course – who the FIA quickly made known was travelling too quickly at the time of his crash, ‘amongst others’.

RIP Jules Bianchi

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13 responses to “Lessons from Bianchi crash NOT learned

  1. As the FIA appear to self-regulate in the same way FIFA does, surely they can’t be trusted or be seen to have the best interest of safety at heart. With the rules of yellow flags set by the World Motor Sport Council, can’t the WMSC question the FIA’s version of their rules? If the WMSC state that double yellows mean “slow down and prepare to stop,” and the FIA only deem the drivers to have to slow down by a tenth, surely the FIA have disregarded their rules and should be punished? Or this that just fanciful thinking? I’m not too clued up on how it all works so I might be speaking jibberish here!

  2. For too long the FIA have been sliding into complacency regarding safety.
    Bianchi’s lamentable, and avoidable, death ought now to become the driving inspiration for a ruthless and uncompromising analysis of the state of the sport, and rapid instigation of the resulting recommendations with the same urgency and focus that was last seen in the wake of Senna’s and Ratzenburger’s deaths.
    Sid Watkins must be spinning in his grave.

  3. in the “good ol’ days” that everyone seems to enjoy harking back to, I recall it often said that Schumacher used to show his acknowledgement of yellows by nonchalantly raising his index finger to the marshalls as he passed

  4. I wonder if now there will be writs flying everywhere, each person blaming another. I imagine Bernie will come out of it spotless though.

  5. “Charlie Whiting must live forever with his conscience over his responsibilities in this matter and the subsequent death of one of the brightest and finest hopes in F1”. Unfortunately I doubt this corrupt rat cares about Jules or anything apart of himself. It’s been years since the rules aren’t enforced or are just enforced to teams that don’t do as he or his master Bernie say. When Senna died in 1994, weren’t reports -later forgotten- that he removed the black box from Senna’s car and smashed it with a hammer? He was rewarded with a promotion to his current position.

  6. This is an extremely clear, well thought out piece.
    Shame the thoughts within are not getting the wider attention they deserve.

    • I agree… it’s a good piece. I’ve promoted it on my Twitter too, for whatever that’s worth – not much. Well thought out.

  7. Given the demonstrated unwillingness and/or inconsistency by FIA to enforce subjective rules, there simply needs to be hard speed limits for certain sections rather than ‘…slow down and be prepared to stop or change direction…’ So ditch the yellow flag completely and improve the VSC.

  8. The VSC is the lesson learned.

    That truck should not have been out on that particular corner in the rain with out a safety car. That was the most dangerous error by the race director.

  9. As soon as I saw the tractor out with the car still at racing speed I was screaming at the TV, WTF is going on here, where is the god damn safety car!!!!!!!!!!!

    The biggest issue is that everyone ignores yellow flags now. In Australia we have the same issue with v8supercars, yellow flag = race to the pits to make up time.

    They need to take the VSC one step further. I’ve been go-karting and the yellow comes out and the throttle is disabled on the karts so you can only idle along. Can’t be too hard for a similar system in the F1 cars, yellow comes on, dash lights up and say within 5 seconds the pit limiter is applied remotely. This gives the driver time to slow the car up and change down etc so it isn’t “dangerous”

    Then we won’t see this STUPID act of making up time during the yellows.

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