The details emerge of the accident report in Jules Bianchi crash

AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1The FIA has for some years had a flagship policy of improving safety in Motorsport. Formula One fans will recognise the impact from a number of changes – including the large tarmac runoff areas that have replaced gravel.

A database has been devised to collect the data from some 200 accidents, where the specifics of each crash are recorded and compared with others in an effort to learn lessons.

The results of the investigation into Jules Bianchi’s accident are now coming to light and many specifics which have previously remained unreported are now in the public domain.

Jules lost control of his car at 213kph and collided with the vehicle recovering Adrian Sutil’s car just 2.61 seconds later. The speed on impact was 126 kph.

Of course it was not speed that killed Jules Bianchi, or even the G Forces suffered by the car on impact, which were measured around 60G. It was the force at which Jules Helmet was deflected by the underside of the vehicle, now revealed to be 248G.

Peter Wright, head of the security commission explains to AMuS, “This scenario could not previously have been imagined. That’s why it was very important to really investigate this accident to the smallest detail. We have never invested so much time and effort in an analysis.”

“You can not eliminate all risks… If the whole race is run behind a safety car, Bianchi would not have been hurt. We need to find an acceptable risk thus why it went in the Bianchi-investigation. Was the risk acceptable?”

Wright admits that the possibility of a car colliding with the marshals or their equipment is not acceptable.

Yet this is what happened. The tools available to race director Charlie Whiting to ensure this did not happen was the use of a safety car or double waved yellow flags. The latter is an instruction to the drivers to ‘slow down, be prepared to change direction and even stop’.

The section of the track where Sutil had crashed was in fact under a double waved yellow caution.

However for years, the FIA race delegates have failed to ensure that double yellow waved flags are observed to the standard required by the World Motor Sport Council. A few races earlier, the final corner in the German GP was under double waved yellows, yet the cars were travelling unpunished for lap after lap at speeds in excess of 240Kmh.

Researcher Andy Mellor for the investigation explains, this is why the FIA and race director Charlie Whiting have devised the third tool in the safety armoury – the virtual safety car. This apparently according to Mellor has reduced the risk of such an event occurring again to almost zero.

Yet anyone watching the British GP this year, just three weeks ago, would have seen the impotence of this new tool. Under the VSC, the cars passed the stricken Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz as they exited the corner onto the old pit straight and the speeds at which they were travelling, were in excess of the impact speed Jules Manor car had in Suzuka. Further, marshals were again exposed.

As intended, the VSC should be slowing the cars to almost a standstill if required – for the short section of the circuit where marshals and their equipment is deployed.

Yet the technology and drivers inability to safely slow down appears to have thwarted the FIA and Whiting, and so now the VSC is operating like a full course yellow in Indy Car.

The huge problem is that under the VSC, the F1 drivers only have to meet and average speed restriction over several hundred metres of circuit. This means they are still at times driving flat out and then slowing to ensure they hit the correct average speed and time.

It is true, even had the safety car been deployed following Sutil’s accident, the time this takes to pick up the leaders may still have meant Jules and others were travelling too quickly whilst passing the marshals on track.

However, in a sport where over $1bn is spent each year on developing racing technology, there is no excuse for the FIA continuing to fail to police its own regulations properly – and make the cars where necessary ‘slow down, be prepared to change direction and stop.’

Until this matter is resolved, inevitably the next serious incident is just waiting to happen.

20 responses to “The details emerge of the accident report in Jules Bianchi crash

  1. The simple solution is a pit-lane type speed limiter. The speed would be pre-set before the race. A light on the steering wheel would indicate that it had to be deployed – a driver would have two seconds to activate it or a drive through penalty would incurred. As everyone would then be driving at a set speed no driver would gain or lose any time to any other driver. If conditions are so bad that you can’t use this method – you red flag the race.

  2. The answer is: slow zones. Like in le mans. Something happend in corner 4? OK from corner 3 to 5 you hit the pit limiter.

    • That’s something we’ve all been suggesting after the accident. F1 needs race stewards like those at Le Mans, any infringement of the rules especially on safety grounds and you’re guaranteed a penalty.

  3. Not that it matters so much, given the eventual outcome of the collision, but another site is reporting the FIA figures thus: “The force of the impact was recorded at 58.8G, according to the car, but the impact was made worse because of the angle. Bianchi’s earplugs recorded an impact of 92G, however reports they fell out at a critical moment and therefore gave a misleading reading haven’t been confirmed by the FIA.”

    Even the (possibly erroneous) figure of 92G is somewhat less than the 248G quoted above. As was the case with FA’s testing accident, there seems to be a difference here in the supposed ‘facts’ which no doubt will lead to argument. For clarity, please will the Judge show the extract from which he obtained his data ?


    • I find it hard to believe that his earplugs fell out. Each driver wears a balaclava over their heads before putting on their helmets. From what I’ve seen, these helmets have a somewhat close fit. So earplugs falling out seems highly unlikely.

      • And they wear perfectly fitted earplugs. Now I wear those at work and they don’t just drop out of your ear. They only come out if you make them turn the right way.

      • It is not clear if his plugs fell out or that the sensors malfunctioned. But when a helmet is deformed by a 248G force, some of that force will be transferred to a deformation of what is inside the helmet and a human skull can deform (which leads to problems like brain damage, internal bleeding, cracks and whatever). So it is not hard to image that a rapid deformation of the skull can force the earplugs out of year ear. I do not wish to go in to much detail about this.

        • No one is mentally surviving a 248g hit to the head. I’m shocked his brain didn’t sever from his spinal cord.

  4. I still can’t work out why this VSC is still a problem..if they just had a blanket VSC ,one that covers the whole track with a single command which slows every car on the entire track then there would not be a problem. The race would be neutralized and no driver would gain an advantage,They really do like to make things complicated(big shake of the head)
    As for JB crash,I have a feeling that the family will take this further. They remained silent while they focused on getting their son back but they do deserve answers and IMHO so they should. I am still not convinced by the FIA’s explanation and a closer look at this BBW system should be the focus followed by why the sport uses construction equipment to remove a beach or damaged car. Just because it’s always been that way does not mean its safe, if the equipment used on a race track is needed then why for gods sake isn’t it designed for the purpose, if they can spend over a hundred grand on wind tunnel use then why not a fleet of purpose built machines ,I know its expensive to ship and every track is different but even a limited number at hot spots would cut the risk or even some kind of wrap barrier around the existing units. I am aware we don’t hear the full minutes to the meeting but surely these simple measures have been put forward or would this cut into CVC’s profit?…god help them if this means they have to invest in the sport

  5. The FIA has for some years had a flagship policy of improving safety in Motorsport. Formula One fans will recognise the impact from a number of changes – including the large tarmac runoff areas that have replaced gravel.

    I must add that one of the contributory factors in Bianchi’s ferocious impact with the tractor was the absence of gravel. His car skid mostly on a tarmac escape road and into the nearest tractor (or marshal). This incident highlighted just how unsafe tarmac can be, especially in rain conditions. On the other hand, gravel actually does something to make cars slow down even when the car is veering uncontrollably (rain, no brakes, no tires, shot suspension, etc.).

    Jules lost control of his car at 213kph

    So the telemetry video wasn’t lying. Jules was indeed at 213kph when lost control. It’s important that he was immediately followed by Ericsson showing very similar (or higher) speed readings, and later by Chilton with (much) higher speed readings. At the same point where Bianchi started losing speed through Dunlop, Chilton was at ~225kph and rapidly accelerating (getting to ~245kph at one point). Surely Bianchi wasn’t “speeding”…

    • “Surely Bianchi wasn’t “speeding”…”

      Arguably they were all ‘speeding’. The problem with non-enforcement of yellow flag rules is that competitive drivers will pretty much be forced to sacrifice safety for speed, as otherwise other drivers will take advantage. We all know how harshly drivers are judged, so it is unreasonable to expect drivers to sacrifice their job prospects. Especially when drivers have limited information, so they can’t really judge the risks well.

      • Arguably they were all ‘speeding’.

        Indeed. Either all, or none. And in both cases the FIA being ultimately responsible. But singling out Bianchi, as FIA’s cack-handed 2-page summary “report” did, is disingenuous at best… It’s not like such “speeding” never ever happened before under yellow flags in F1.

  6. The most important safety item is always man. It is useless to issue rules and rules if they are ignored and, since nothing happens, they continue being ignored with impunity.
    Poor Bianchi ignored the double yellow flag precept and it costed him his life. However, others that also ignored their obligations ( enforcing said flags ) have got away with it ( at least… for the moment ).
    I would also like to remind that Bianchi was the driver whose car was fitted with the older tires, what could explain why he could not take the bend as other did.

  7. Surely the bottom line is that historically the double waved yellows have been allowed (by FIA) to just be a sign not to do your fastest sector in the area, nothing more. This has become custom and practice and the FIA have do nothing to change that. If that had not been the case then the accident may not have happened!!!!

  8. one thing that hasn’t been covered is the question of how many cars went through the same ‘waved double yellow’ flags section prior to bianchi’s arrival? how many of these cars actually aquaplaned, as did bianchi? did all the other cars slow down to safe speeds? where are the pit to car radio comms? why haven’t they been published? when viewing the published video showing the cars and their relative speeds it appeared to me as though bianchi actually increased his speed through that area?

    the FIA report is said to be 326pages long and all we’ve seen is a two page summary…why is that?

  9. This should not be viewed as a new issue. Martin Brundle had a very similar accident at the same spot many years ago and a Marshall was injured. We cannot have marshals and particularly heavy equipment on the racing side of the safety barriers while cars are circulating at speeds controlled by their drivers. Do not deploy the equipment till the safety car has everyone under control. VSC should only be used during the time it takes to get the safety car in position and during this time no tractors or marshals trackside. Quite easy really.

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