A weekend to remember and a family’s need for answers

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Words and thoughts from an oddball

Now that the glitz and glamour have arrived at Monaco we should remember that another story broke this weekend. The family of Jules Bianchi has now started legal action against the FIA, Formula One Management and the now defunct Marussia team over his death following his crash in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

The family wants answers (and who can blame them) about the decisions that were made that dreadful Sunday, from the decision to go ahead with the race despite discussions about postponement, to the decisions around the presence of a mobile crane operating at the side of the track.

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Bianchi died in July 2015, nine months after the accident in Suzuka which occurred when he lost control and smashed into a mobile crane that had been attempting to recover the previously shunted Sauber of Adrian Sutil.

The official 396-page FIA report, produced by the governing body’s accident panel, came to a number of conclusions with the main reason being that Jules had failed to slow sufficiently on the wet circuit and as he approached the corner where marshals were attempting to remove Sutil’s car under double waved yellow flags, he lost traction and struck the removal vehicle. These few lines don’t do justice to Jules and hide the failings of the track and promoters, but let us hope that the family can get closure from their own findings.

Bianchi’s father Philippe said: “We seek justice for Jules, and want to establish the truth about the decisions that led to our son’s crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014. As a family, we have so many unanswered questions and feel that Jules’ accident and death could have been avoided if a series of mistakes had not been made.”

Julian Chamberlayne, a partner at Stewarts Law, who is representing the Bianchi family has given further reasons for why they have decided to take action:
“Jules Bianchi’s death was avoidable. The FIA Panel Inquiry Report into this accident made numerous recommendations to improve safety in Formula 1 but failed to identify where errors had been made which led to Jules’ death.

It was surprising and distressing to the Bianchi family that the FIA panel in its conclusions, whilst noting a number of contributing factors, blamed Jules. The Bianchi family are determined that this legal process should require those involved to provide answers and to take responsibility for any failings. This is important if current and future drivers are to have confidence that safety in the sport will be put first. If this had been the case in Suzuka, Jules Bianchi would most likely still be alive and competing in the sport he loved today.”

Jules suffered a diffuse axonal injury in the crash and, after being removed from the car, he was taken to hospital in Japan before he was eventually transferred to France, but as we know he lost his fight last year.
He was only 25 years old at the time of his death and had achieved a best F1 result of ninth, which came at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, so this weekend has a special meaning for the family and I have no doubt that the timing of the action was to gain maximum exposure for the sport’s failings.

We don’t wish any harm to come to the drivers or teams from the sport that we all enjoy, and it takes something like this to highlight the failings of safety when it’s coupled with entertainment. They are two opposing forces but above all safety should win hands down.
My thoughts go out to the family and I hope that this action will stop anything like this happening again.

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22 responses to “A weekend to remember and a family’s need for answers

  1. Do you know why the Bianchi family are taking legal action against Marussia? Is the argument that they could have opted not to send the cars out or call the cars in without FAI instructions to do so?

    I would certainly buy the argument that the teams have just as much control over driver safety as the FIA as at any time conditions look undrivable they could withdraw their cars from the race. The counter argument might be that they wouldn’t want to be disadvantaged compared to teams who didn’t withdraw cars from very bad conditions but surely the drivers safety always trumps that?

    • That not made clear in the claim,i should imagine that it’s a blanket case covering all aspects of the accident but if someone with a tad more law experience can answer it might help.

    • As far as your thought on teams withdrawing …..I’d be surprised if the grasping, greedy little short-stop hasn’t punitive clauses written in to team contracts to ensure such can’t happen.

    • I remember some talk in the report about the inquiry having discovered that the car rear braking system was in breach of the rules, also remember that FERRARI confirmed that the system as supplied by them (power train) was altered by the team, this involved the harvesting system.

      • The Manor did have past history of brake problems,not sure if that was a contributing factor to the other accident during the off season involving the test driver

        • yes it was a contributing factor. try get your car to a dead stop with gear engaged/car in gear and engine idling at 4000rpm.
          as explained in the Jules Bianchi inquiry report at (6) the failsafe was not being activated. (system incompatible with failsafe settings).

      • Thats bullshit! There’s no way the car would’ve been allowed to even participate in the practice sessions if their brake system was in breech of the rules, much less allowed to race.

        And if that was the case, then both the FIA and Marussia, are indeed negligent and contributed to the accident, by knowingly allowing a car that did not comply with the rules, to race.

        • My response about the Marussia brakes was no bullshit at all, it was in response as to what was the possibility for pulling/naming the team into a possible court action.
          (6) during 2 seconds Bianchi’s car was leaving the track and traversing the run-off area, he applied both throttle and brake, using both feet, the failsafe 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 failsafe settings. the fact that failsafe did not disqualify the engine torque requested by the driver may have affected the impact velocity.
          Also and the most important (4) If drivers adhere to requirements of double yellow flags, as set out in appendix H, art 2.4.5.1.B, than neither competitors nor officials should be put in immediate or physical danger.

        • This was the incident and final report that could be fogging the issue
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-33248493
          In the last part it says the car was fighting the driver to stop but it did clear Manor of blame from a fault in the car,it just sounds like a strange system to bring to a halt and like you say,no way would it have made it to track if any infringement was present

    • Right reasons. 1: Under no circumstances should that race have been started. FIA were in breach of their own regulations re transport to hospital, as the helicopter wasn’t available and it was more than 20 minutes by ambulance to nearest medical center. Period.

      2: Full report never released to public. That alone is incredibly disturbing, given that the FIA used their summary to exonerate themselves and directly blame Bianchi, even tho he was driving within the limits imposed by F1.

      3: As mentioned below, Failsafe was inoperative on his car due to unique BBW solution used by Marussia

  2. The death of Jules is most definitely a hug tragedy, but why make it worse by dragging it into courts. nothing will change other than family not ever having a chance of peaceful closure and healing- and some lawyers making good money from misleading the grief-stricken relatives to believe they are doing something meaningful, or that they won’t-other than to potentially revoke the immortalization of Jules Bianci’s memory.

    • From my own perspective I would have done the same as the family. The accident report painted a very poor view of Jules but failed to address the main points. His family held their head high while he was fighting but you could already see what was going to happen if the worst came around. I agree that the driver should and could have slowed further but should the race have gone ahead? The helicopter couldn’t fly and that in itself was a race stopping event couple this to the use of earth moving equipment rather than a crane and it was a perfect storm of misfortune.

  3. Yes the ex F1 DOC needs a lot of people to read his Embarked upon holly mission blog about anything to do with F1 which includes his open letter to the Bianchi’s family because if moves comes to shove he might be in need of a lot of help, like “crowd sourcing”.

  4. The FIA was not technically nor legally in breach of their own regulations as to it being safe to start the race and neither as to the availability of the medical helicopter.
    As mentioned Marussia’s brakes failsafe system was inoperative due to their unique BBW “solution” used.
    The driver did not slow down sufficiently under double yellow flags to avoid losing control.
    The above is my opinion only, an absolute minimum, this as a consequence of being told, after I have been repeatedly challenged too on another subject “Jesus Christ you never stop???!!!, but if anybody is interested in debating this subject and provided permission is granted, am more than happy to comply/oblige. this is supposed to be a discussion forum after all.

    • Actually the FIA were quite in breach as if you will bother to read carefully, in the event the helicopter was unavailable, the ambulance was required to be able to make the trip to hospital in 20 minutes. It took them 45. Race should not have been started.

  5. Moving forward the start of the Japanese GP from 3pm due to weather fears was discussed, but rejected by the organisers. The race start time is not a matter for the FIA. The FIA did suggest to the organisers that they might consider doing it earlier to get the race in, as forecast was worse than it turned out to be, yet they didn’t want to do that. the organisers were warned that the FIA would not run the race unless it was safe to run it. They, the organisers said no, they wanted to stick with 3pm start time.
    The medical helicopter being declared able to take off the race was started, up to the Bianchi accident and upon him being transferred to the on track medical hospital the helicopter was declared able to take off, it was only than that the helicopter pilot declared that while he was able to take off he had decided that he would not be able to land at the hospital were Bianchi were to be transported too.
    The FIA was not in breach of any regulations neither technically nor legally.

  6. You elide over the race start. The helicopter was returned prior to the start, but was not able to fly at the start of the GP. Therefore the race should not have been started. If the pilot falsely stated otherwise, then that is a separate area of litigation. Regardless, Whiting as Safety Delegate had ultimate responsibility to ensure that the helicopter could fly at the start of the race. In addition, the Medical Delgare also bears responsibility for ensuring that all the preparations, including transportation are properly accounted for. If the Medical delegate lacks the experience/judgement to do so properly, then that is still an area where the FIA bears liability.

    But even if the helicopter were available, the moment conditions became too bad for flying the race needed to have been red-flagged as clearly land transport was outside the 20 minute window specified in the regulations. If the FIA lacked mechanisms for dealing with this situation then once again it puts them in violation of their own regulations.

    As regards double waved yellows, Bianchi was within the limits Whiting set for observance. If those limits were incorrect or incorrectly conceived then once again, responsibility lies with him and the FIA.

  7. As I have explained, and I have absolutely NO DOUBT whatsoever about it, the race start was proceeded with after ascertaining that ALL RACE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS were meet, and that including not only the availability of the medical helicopter but its ability to TAKE OFF, I also have NO DOUBT whatsoever that if at any time during the race duration (time the race lasted) any of the race safety requirements which are constantly automatically updated were in any doubt, race control would have stopped the race, exactly like it did when the medical helicopter status was declared by the chief medical officer (Jean-Charles Piettte) who you and everybody on here can rest assured has the competence and experience for the post he holds, as BEING ABLE TO TAKE OFF, BUT NOT BEING ABLE TO LAND AT THE HOSPITAL.
    As regards double waved yellow flags (SLOW DOWN, DANGER AHEAD, BE PREPARED TO STOP) The driver was in total breach of the regulations, not only he was not prepared to stop, he Literally actually flow-off the race track.
    PS, My shouting (block capitals) are solely intended to highlight the importance of what is being talked about, this here subject we are discussing is a very serious subject indeed, for once away from the normal on here fanboyism and pique. Again, the above is only my opinion, of which I am totally and morally 100% convinced of.

    • Right well, I do have DOUBT, which the FIA’s total lack of transparency has not allayed. The race should not have been started without proper transportation to the hospital available. If, as you say, the helicopter was unable to transport Jules due to being unable to land in the words of Mosely, “if the helicopter can’t fly, the cars don’t run”. That the race was not red flagged once transport to hospital was no longer available was an oversight by the FIA, for which they are culpable. And if there were circumstances that might be extenuating, they have never released them.

      As far as waved double yellows go, without telemetry we have no idea what Bianchi’s throttle was doing but more to the point he was within the guidelines Charlie Whiting laid down, therefore, making Bianchi culpable seems callous in the extreme.

      Personally, and maybe it’s because my parents were scientists, I’m of the opinion to not really believe a thing the FIA says till they produce the paperwork. The fact that you believe otherwise is of course your choice.

      Finally, and most importantly, there has been no independent investigation of this incident. The current lawsuit seeks to redress that imbalance and given the circumstances, it seems entirely reasonable.

  8. Right of yours to doubt, as for me, I stand with all I said, FIA, helicopter, driver and all else.

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