FIA fail to learn lessons from Bianchi’s death

Whilst it’s lovely that we live in a world so full of tolerance that everyone has a point of view and no one is to blame, the result of a lack of accountability will be that the same mistakes are made again and again.

TJ13 has suggested on a number of occasions that F1 race control should be reformed and the F1 race director replaced. It was unacceptable that Charlie Whiting as race director was in no way culpable for a number of decisions made both prior to the 2014 Japanese GP and during the race too.

Now it may be Whiting was told by Ecclestone ‘run the race – or else!!!’ – given the tens of millions at stake for FOM and CVC. Yet if this was the case, then the power of the race director should be redefined and reaffirmed. As safety delegate Whiting of course had the right to tell Ecclestone or anyone else to ‘do one’ – but chose not to. This merely serves to illustrate that the dual roles of Whiting as race director and F1 safety delegate as inappropriate.

Whatever were the detailed rights and wrongs of that fateful day in Suzuka, the simple fact was that a recovery vehicle was on a live circuit when the cars were circulating at an inappropriate speed to avoid what we all saw as the result.

During qualifying in China there was a radio message from Jenson Button which should have chilled anyone involved in F1 to the core. “There’s a car parked at the entrance to the pits. If we go off were going to hit it.”

It also appears as though there was a marshal stood to the left with no protection between him and the cars – and he’s looking away from the source of potential danger.

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At the end of qualifying Jenson questioned a second ‘safety’ incident when he commented: “I was surprised when we had a red flag at the end of the session for the Force India,” said Button. “He had pulled off and there was an opening for the car to be pulled back into, so that was a surprise to see a red flag. It was unusual to see that”. Hulkenberg had lost a wheel.

Button also referenced the earlier incident he called in on the radio, and did so in a tragic kind of ironic observation “But then we had the car parked at the pit entry, which was directly in the way of us, and there was no red flag. It wouldn’t have been my call.”

Have lessons from Bianchi’s death really been learned by the FIA? Well the FIA have delivered a virtual safety car which is not fit for purpose and does not comply with the original design brief. Further, we still have vehicles parked on live circuits where they shouldn’t be – and a race director/safety delegate who is either incompetent or plain negligent.

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them” – John C Maxwell

15 responses to “FIA fail to learn lessons from Bianchi’s death

    • “FIA fails to learn lessons from Bianchi’s death” Agree, also agree that “the lunatics are running the asylum” and yes race director should not only be replaced, but shouldn’t be there in the first place.
      The Bianchi accident was a chain of events that was pushed onto the Japanese race before the race took place.
      When Jean Totd took over the responsibility of the FIA I was surprised that he left in place key people that were known to “belong/are owned” by Bernie. Which leads me to repeat on here that, as long as Bernie has anything to do with F1 these things will not change, when Bernie is gone, most of F1 problems will follow him out the door.

    • I think that F1 is run by people who adopt the same hairstyle as Bernie Ecclestone. Every time i see Whiting I think, wow Bernie’s put on a few pounds, and then there’s the other F1 admin hangers on with the same 60s grey bob. Probably nothing to do with their official hiring/HR policy, but seemed weirdly coincidental to me. Maybe there’s a meme or promotional/merchandise angle on this. We could make a fortune selling Bernie wigs and the consequent employment opportunities in F1. No wonder no one likes Jean Todt.

  1. Let us not forget that they still tend to wait until something happens to someone before they even think of reacting. During the race there was debris on the track in China, and they didn’t throw a caution to rid the track of it until someone picked up a puncture from it. And immediately after that, they threw the flag. Why not do that before someone suffers? A inopportune puncture can cause an unexpected crash.

  2. Well said Judge, the more things change the more they stay the same. The whole weekend was a balls up in respect to the circuit. When will any major race series realise that they need a dedicated PAID team that can ensure a safe track to race on. Most tracks have a fantastic and knowable group they can call on for the race but with these new circuits the team that is assembled have zero experience and this is compromising driver/fans/staff safety. Did you see the three stooges clearing the track after the tyre fiasco?.. The netting was flapping in the wind and leaving more debris on the track than the initial incident. IMHO…MUPPETs!!!

  3. Like I said on Saturday, drivers should be less concerned about quali-rules-fuck-ups and more single-minded in demanding some solid rules and concrete change when it comes to a long, and dangerously, overdue modernising of the race procedures. Did Bianchi’s death even register? Do the FIA have to wait for another double fatality before taking serious steps to at least ensure that the safety delegate is free from pressure from the promoter/circuit owner…

    • at the Japanese GP in those conditions the drivers, all of them without exception and that includes Bianchi were grossly abusing the speed in SC sign section of the track.

      • That may be true, but there have been endless discussions, here and elsewhere, regarding the context of their ‘maximising’ of the yellow flag regulations:
        -the over-relaxed enforcement of said regulations;
        -the arrested development of improvements to the trackside recovery vehicles;
        -the conflict of interests regarding Charlie Whiting’s many roles, and his utter lack of backbone since Sid Watkins’ retirement;
        -unacceptable influence over the safety decision making process by the promoter/circuit owners;.
        The list goes on, but you get my point.
        The drivers weren’t alone, indeed, nor the instigators of the ongoing culture of ‘laissez-faire’ regarding several important areas of the governance of the sport that are long overdue for a major overhaul. Procrastination is, unfortunately, to be expected when it comes to updating the rules regarding governance, technical direction, and distribution of revenues. It is, however, completely unacceptable when dealing with issues of safety.
        How differently would all of this have played out had Jules died at the track, instead of quietly slipping away months later, or if it had happened in a country where the public prosecutor were not so acquiescent and happy to let the FIA conduct its own (unaccountable) investigation, rather than, for instance, in the case of Senna’s death the Italian authorities conducting a lengthy, independent, public investigation, leading to them taking Williams to court, as well as the circuit owner, circuit director, and race director, which only concluded in 2005.
        I can only imagine the furious deals, negotiations, threats, and desperation behind the scenes to ensure that Bernie, Charlie, Honda, et all were spared the indignity of having to go to court, and the inconvenience of having to take responsibility for their decisions/actions.

        • Now that the Senna accident at the Italian GP has been brought up.
          The Bianchi accident wouldn’t have made any difference if it happened anywhere else, as evidenced by the interference with anything to do with the FIA/FI rules/regulations.
          Such interference can sometimes provide much better benefit in the form of obligations than money can.
          Anybody remember the black boxes being promptly handed to Williams when by Italian law the car was supposed to be impounded as a result of loss of life?.

  4. Well said Judge. A mighty fine piece with truth in every line.

    Now, the trouble is, we have no way of knowing how high up the foodchain your writings reach…..

  5. I’m not convinced that Charlie Whiting is the reason for the bizarre safety-related decisions in the Chinese Grand Prix. The marshals in China didn’t do anything that a bit of training from their more experienced Japanese and Malaysian colleagues would not correct. Paying marshals won’t fix this issue since they’re already doing their best (Chinese racing series don’t allow cars to be parked in the . It’s simply that China didn’t get the initial marshal training Bahrain and Singapore got for its members (due to China having a racing scene of note prior to the Grand Prix), and continues to show it in its actions.

    However, the way similar incidents occur almost without comment in other FIA-based series (and not just ones occurring on F1’s undercard, like GP2 and GP3) make me think this is more to do with the regulations the FIA asks its race directors to use in the first place. Charlie’s perfectly entitled to tell Bernie to go away and count his money, but that doesn’t help if Charlie’s own bosses and their rules are telling Charlie to act as he does, and Bernie is (knowingly or not) merely concurring with them. For example, the whole “let’s start the race and flag it according to conditions on the fly” is a requirement of every FIA series. The cancellation step isn’t available without taking every possible postponement first, and each of those can only be done by getting to the timeslot the session was due to occur in and assessing conditions at that point (Bahrain 2011 was a special case, and required, among other things, presidential permission). No “ooh, running at that time is a blatantly stupid idea, let’s not bother” is allowed by the FIA regulations, even when it’s a matter of physics (such as trying to run a race without lights when it’s almost pitch-black).

    The most dangerous part, really, is the reactivity. Yes, it’s necessary to be primed to respond quickly to the unexpected. However, this does not excuse those with the power to forestall obvious trouble from doing so. Why anyone was surprised that masses of debris would result in a puncture is a mystery, and it’s not like China can cite Japan’s defence of the marshals being so experienced and skilled that they have autonomy over flag/SC decisions. (If they can, we can safely assume the problem is higher up than Charlie, because as far as I know, it’s not Charlie’s call to decide when a marshalling team is ready to make autonomous decisions)…

    • Well put. I still argue that a paid team of impartial marshals is needed at any top level event,one team that is totally shielded from the pressure of the business and are totally separate from the show. CVC,and to a larger extent the FIA , have always staffed tracks with unpaid local help and this works in a fashion.The system starts to break down when we land at a new track in a previously motor sport limited country. Not to be blunt but just to point out as an example.. India GP, here we had a brand new track set in a tropical heaven but the locals had very little exposure to F1 or track racing, they live on around £30 a year wage and the greatest car they had probably seen was a 1950’s design Austin. Suddenly this circus arrived for a week,splashing money left right and centre and said,’we need someone to police the race,all you need to do is push things off the track and wave a flag when we say’ they really didn’t have a clue and we see mistakes happen. Inho its just wrong and needs a major rethink but we all know that CVC won’t invest in the business, it would cost a lot more than a injury claim.

      • Or how about a independent ‘supervising marshal’ plus translator, at each marshal post to direct operations.

  6. I was staggered that there was no immediate red flag in Q1 for the vehicle on the pit entry. It should have been an immediate red flag in my opinion. I can’t believe a marshal actually did that.

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