Last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix saw drivers observe a minute’s silence for their friend and colleague Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman, 25, remains in critical condition following his horrific crash in the Japanese Grand Prix. The incident sent shockwaves across the motor sport world, with demands that the FIA address safety issues.
The Japanese Grand Prix arguably never should have taken place. Heavy rains and high winds from Typhoon Phanfone caused several safety car periods due to the sheer amount of standing water. On lap 43, Bianchi aquaplaned off the track and collided with a recovery vehicle. Bianchi was knocked unconscious and is suffering Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury.
Bianchi’s crash has raised questions over the safety of the sport, where drivers are racing at over 180 mph, in open cockpit cars. Prior to the Japanese race, the FIA had met to discuss moving the race 4 hours earlier, to avoid the heaviest of rainfall, but race promoters failed to support this idea. Yet the issue remains – should drivers be expected to race in such conditions?
The FIA are investigating the incident, raising the issue of whether safety cars should be issued whenever there are recovery vehicles and marshals on track. Sergio Perez, Force India driver stated: “In the future when there is a tractor…we need a safety car, no matter what the conditions.” Waved double yellow flags are not enough to slow down the cars and reduce the risk considerably.
For now, the F1 community has come together to pray for Jules Bianchi. Twenty years on from the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, Bianchi’s crash has highlighted the daily risks F1 drivers take. These drivers seek the thrill of driving fast cars, and are aware that the sport is dangerous. Yet the FIA needs to learn from Bianchi’s accident, acting to protect the drivers from unnecessary risks.