To cancel or continue

Picture: EPA

Picture: EPA

The past weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix has created a plethora of discussion on the web following the crash in which Jules Bianchi sustained serious head injuries.

Should the event have been postponed, cancelled or started earlier?

Some have criticised the FIA, others Bernie Ecclestone – in the latter case suggesting money and the television rights meant more than driver safety. Others have suggested the organisers did not want to disappoint the crowds.

Everyone concerned was watching the path of typhoon Phanfone and were aware at the very least the race would face strong winds and heavy rain – and the forecasters were correct.

Picture: EPA

Picture: EPA

Sunday’s race had to be started under the safety car, and after two laps was red-flagged – with the field being lined up in the pit lane until conditions improved. They did, and it was back out behind the safety car, which then allowed the race to start at the end of lap nine.

For 44 laps we were treated to some good racing, despite heavier rain towards the finish.

This led to Adrian Sutil spinning off at turn seven and colliding with the barrier. The race continued without the intervention of the safety car and the recovery team moved in to remove the damaged Sauber.

At this time, Bianchi emulated Sutil when his Marussia spun off at the same spot – but instead of a barrier collided with the mobile crane of the recovery team.

I do not believe we can fault the FIA, Ecclestone or the organisers for allowing the race to run.

Many of the drivers have said they have experienced far worse weather conditions.

Changing anything in the running of a modern grand prix is very difficult – and in this case I cannot find fault with any aspect of the timing and method of the start.

COMA. After brain surgery, Bianchi was in a medically induced coma this week.

COMA. After brain surgery, Bianchi was in a medically induced coma this week.

What really concerns me is the decision to allow a heavy recovery crane to enter the circuit run-off area without a safety car controlling the pack.

All the correct flags were being waved, but no signals can prevent aquaplaning. That’s a track condition no one controls, however large a piece of machinery is. So who authorised this deployment?

It brings back memories of a Brazilian Grand Prix some years back when water across the track created the most expensive breakers yard in the world, with the presence of a mobile crane in the mix, a situation that shocked us all – and not one I ever expected to witness again.

At the time of writing, Bianchi was out of the operating theatre but still in a critical condition. Hopefully when you read this there will be better news.

Sunday was similarly not a good day for F1 when it was announced Andre de Cesaris (55) had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Rome. Competing in 214 (and started 208) grand prix, the Italian had a very chequered career which, in the early years, earned him the “De Crasheris” nickname. Despite this, De Cesaris became a popular competitor in later years.

First appearing on the scene in 1980, De Cesaris drove for Alfa Romeo, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Jordan, Scuderia Italia, Tyrell, Sauber and McLaren.

He failed to finish in no fewer than 135 races but did achieve five podiums, his highest position being second in the 1983 German and South African grand prix. He retired in 1994 and became a successful currency trader.





today in print

today in print