FIA review says recovery crane in Japan should have waited
By JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Journalist
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Formula One’s sanctioning body said Friday that a review of the rainy Japanese Grand Prix found race control should have delayed dispatching a recovery crane to the track after a crash on the first lap in poor weather conditions.
The FIA has found race control failed to take into account the speed of Pierre Gasly’s car in a thorough review of a frightening incident which has angered teams and drivers, who noted it had happened on the same course where Jules Bianchi crashed in a similar situation in 2014 and later died.
Although other drivers passed the crane at reduced speed, Gasly had come out of the pit lane and was racing to catch up with the peloton in poor visibility when he ran into the safety team. He passed the crane and a security guard standing in the way.
A furious Gasly and the teams demanded an investigation. The FIA’s review of the incident was released ahead of the United States Grand Prix.
The FIA determined that “all racing procedures were followed” during the Oct. 9 race in Japan, but also noted that given the Bianchi’s fatal accident, “in hindsight, as the weather conditions changed , it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of recovery vehicles on the tracks.
He also said a recovery vehicle ‘should not be deployed unless all the cars are lined up behind the safety car’ and Gasly’s car was not immediately detected coming out of the pit lane .
But, the review also called Gasly’s conduct “reckless.”
Gasly was penalized after the race for not slowing down in red flag conditions, but the Frenchman and other drivers and teams were infuriated by the incident and demanded an investigation.
Bianchi in 2014 lost control of his car in wet conditions on the same track and collided with a recovery vehicle. He lay in a coma with a head injury for nine months before dying at age 25. Bianchi’s death was the first of an on-track incident in F1 since Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash in 1994.
Addressing Gasly’s conduct at the race this year, the FIA noted that “drivers are further obliged to exercise common sense at all times”.
Race data showed Gasly drove at high speeds even after passing Ferrari’s crashed car Carlos Sainz. The review noted that he later apologized.
“This is the second time that Gasly has passed in front of the incidents. So he knew a car had crashed and the marshals could clear the track,” the report said.
The FIA said it will be implementing several new safety features starting this week at the United States Grand Prix in Texas, including:
— Improved messaging via official channels and intercom to notify teams when a recovery vehicle is on the track so they can notify their drivers via radio.
— Development of a live safety car and a virtual safety car monitoring window for race control to display the status of all cars on the track, behind the safety car and in the pit lane.
— A review of penalties for drivers who fail to comply with driving rules under yellow flags, safety cars and other conditions.
The review also found that despite the extreme wet conditions in Japan, they were “suitable enough” to start the race from a standing start. All teams started with intermediate tires and the FIA said it would conduct an analysis of tire performance in wet conditions with tire manufacturer Pirelli.
The FIA has also said the practice of rotating race directors will be dropped for the remainder of the season. Niels Wittich will be race director at the United States Grand Prix, Mexico City, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
And the FIA said it would clarify the language of the rules on race time and points distribution. Although the FIA said the rules were followed correctly in Japan when the race was stopped for two hours, and only 28 of the scheduled 53 laps were completed.
Most of the paddock expected only half the points to be awarded, but the FIA decided that all points went to race winner Max Verstappen. The decision, coupled with a penalty that dropped Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to third place, handed the Red Bull driver his second consecutive championship. ___
More AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.