At the recent Japanese GP the spectre of the events surrounding the 2014 event was invoked. 8 years ago the weather in Japan was driven by a tropical class storm ‘Phantone’ and the wet conditions for the race were terrible. Yet the cars were sent out on track with eventual tragic circumstances.
The race commenced under the safety car but was red flagged after just 2 laps and resumed 20 minutes later.
Adrian Sutil lost control of his Sauber leaving the circuit on lap 42 crashing into the barrier. The race director decided to manage the issue under yellow flags only and the safety car was not deployed.
The spectre of Bianchi’s tragedy revived
One lap later Jules Bianchi also lost control at the same place as Sutil, but crashed into the tractor crane recovering the stricken Sauber.
Jules was rendered unconscious and despite expert medical treatment died on 17 July 2015, aged 25, from injuries sustained at the time of his accident in Suzuka nine months earlier.
The 2022 GP was delayed by heavy rain but eventually one of F1’s two race directors this season, Eduardo Freitas, decided the track conditions had improved enough for a standing start.
This allowed the teams to fit the intermediate wet tyre which is substantially quicker than the more appropriate extreme wet Pirelli rubber.
Vettel said race control got it wrong
Vettel later admitted a rolling start behind the safety car would have been the right decision as this forces the teams to fit the extreme wet tyre.
At turn 12 on lap one Carlos Sainz hit standing water and crashed into the barrier ending his race. The race director deployed the safety car and a tractor crane to recover Sainz’s Ferrari. Yet due to Pierre Gasly pitting at the end of lap one, the French driver raced at speeds in excess of 250kph to catch up the train of cars behind the safety car.
As Gasly approached the tractor recovery Crane he flew by in soaking wet conditions within 2 metres of the vehicle, which was the same model of tractor Bianchi collided with 8 years earlier.
FIA immediate review of race control decisions
The FIA promised the furious divers a review of the decisions made by race control in Japan this year. The initial findings of the review have now been revealed.
The review panel have concluded that proper procedures were followed, but that changes need to be made.
The first of these is the return to just one F1 race director to improve consistent decisions and Neils Wittich has been appointed for the 4 remaining F1 events of 2022.
The panel agreed the given the conditions the decision to allow the tractor crane onto the circuits was wrong.
Review Panel’s conclusions
“Even though it is common practice to deploy recovery vehicles once a race has been neutralised, the review panel discussed whether the entry of the recovery vehicle at Suzuka to retrieve the stricken Ferrari or Carlos Sainz was premature given the prevailing conditions,” read the review panel’s conclusion.
“The review panel acknowledged that having recovery cranes on track at Suzuka during the weather conditions is a sensitive matter in view of the tragic incidents of the past. The panel determined that in hindsight, as the weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track.”
Going forward, race control will now be responsible for informing the teams when a recovery vehicle has been deployed. Further, the system by which race control determines where all cars are positioned on track at any moment in time is to be improved.
Freitas sacked as race director
The apparent sacking of Eduardo Freitas for some is surprising, given he has world championship race director experience at Le Mans and for the World Endurance Championship.
Neils Wittich history has been mostly associated with the German national touring car series called DTM.
Yet the teams and drivers have persistently complained over the all new FIA’s decision to use different F1 race directors during the season. Despite defending the move, FIA prudent Mohammed Ben Sulyaem has had his hand forced by the perilous circumstances F1 race control allowed during the 2022 Japanese GP.
READ MORE:Ricciardo announcement imminent
Antonio Giovinazzi spins into the wall at Turn 6! We have a red flag 🚩 pic.twitter.com/jHNn367rED
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 21, 2022
The rotation practice has ended only for this season rather than for good, though, to be precise.
It’s likely they’ve suspended it for a reason – and won’t return to the much criticised rotation for 2023. Though yes, this has not yet been announced.
I think everyone in the FIA should be sacked! It only takes 1 person to stand and say NO CONDITIONS TOO BAD!!! Not one of you did. As expected you are all behind RED BULL is a total disgrace in motor sport now. You all have left this sport of lossing thousands of fans due to your conversation with REDBULL behind every teams in F1. Shame on you all.
One high viz jacket wearer being sacked by another is nothing new in any managerial situation, the need to find a fall guy being the immediate response to any criticism. Finding the right team is going to be the problem.