AUSTIN, Texas (AP)Formula One’s sanctioning body said Friday a review of the rainy Japanese Grand Prix found race control should have delayed sending a recovery crane onto the track after a first-lap crash in poor weather conditions.
The FIA found that race control did not account for Pierre Gasly’s speeding car in a sweeping review of a scary incident that angered teams and drivers, who noted it came on the same course where Jules Bianchi crashed in a similar situation in 2014 and later died.
Although other drivers passed by the crane at slow speed, Gasly had come out of pit lane and was rushing to catch the pack in poor visibility when he came upon the safety crew. He sped past the crane and a safety worker who was standing on the track.
Gasly fumed and and 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 race procedures were followed” at the Oct. 9 race in Japan, but also noted that considering the Bianchi’s fatal crash, ”in hindsight, as the weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track.”
It also said a recovery vehicle ”should not be deployed unless all cars are aligned behind the safety car” and that Gasly’s car was not immediately detected coming out of pit lane.
But, the review also called Gasly’s driving ”reckless.”
Gasly was penalized after the race for not slowing under 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 remained comatose with a head injury for nine months before he died at age 25. Bianchi’s death was the first from an on-track incident in F1 since Ayrton Senna’s fatal accident in 1994.
In addressing Gasly’s driving at the race this year, the FIA noted that ”drivers are further obliged to apply common sense at all times.”
Race data showed that Gasly had been driving at high speeds even after driving past the wrecked car of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. The review noted he later apologized.
”This the second time that Gasly had passed in front of the incidents. So, he was aware that a car had crashed and that marshals might be clearing the track,” the report said.
The FIA said it would implement several new safety features starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas, including:
– Improved messaging over official channels and intercom to tell teams when a recovery vehicle is on the track so they can warn their drives over radio.
– Development of a live safety car and virtual safety car monitoring window for race control to display the status of all cars on the track, behind the safety car and in pit lane.
– A review of punishments for drivers who don’t respect rules for driving 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 on intermediate tires and the FIA said it would conduct an analysis of tire performance in wet conditions with manufacturer Pirelli.
The FIA also said the practice of rotating race directors will be abandoned for the rest of the season. Niels Wittich will be race director at the U.S. Grand Prix, Mexico City, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
And the FIA said it would clarify the rules language over race time and points distribution. Although the FIA said the rules were properly followed in Japan when the race was stopped for two hours, and only 28 of 53 scheduled laps were completed.
Most of the paddock expected only half points to be awarded, but the FIA ruled that full points were granted to race winner Max Verstappen. That decision, coupled with a penalty that dropped Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to third, granted the Red Bull driver his second consecutive season championship. —
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