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FIA breaks silence on Bianchi accident – Considering ways to slow cars in crash zones
Posted By: Declan Quigley  |  10 Oct 2014   |  6:23 pm GMT  |  138 comments

The FIA has spoken for the first time since Jules’ Bianchi’s horrific accident in the Japanese Grand Prix last Sunday. They announced plans to find a new system for speed control through yellow flag caution zones, taking the decision to slow down away from the drivers. They will meet with teams to discuss the best means of imposing a speed control system.

Speaking at a special press conference chaired by FIA President Jean Todt in Sochi, FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting said that he would be consulting the teams on Saturday to discuss possible ways to implement speed control systems, including the possible use of safety car delta times for yellow flag sections.

In a wide ranging discussion with the media lasting over an hour and a half, Whiting also suggested the possibility of introducing protective skirting around the mobile cranes in use at F1 circuits and detailed ongoing research into the idea of closed cockpits.

They found that Bianchi had slowed down under the waved yellow flags, but he lost control of his car. He travelled by ambulance to hospital, taking 32 minutes to get there, 7 minutes more than he would have done by helicopter, which was not usable as it could not land at the hospital. Whiting said that the safety car was not necessary under the circumstances that presented themselves after Adrian Sutil’s initial accident which brought out the yellow flags, as the Sauber was well off the circuit against the barriers.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Chinese Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Shanghai, China

Whiting submitted his report into the events of Suzuka to the FIA this morning (Friday) and Todt has passed it on to a special panel recommended by Peter Wright, Chairman of the Safety Commission, to analyse.

The special panel will in turn present their report on the report to Todt and the Safety Commission and, if necessary, propose changes to safety.

In his report Whiting has indicated that some but not all drivers slowed for the yellow flag zone caused by Adrian Sutil’s crashed Sauber in Suzuka and by varying amounts.

However, Whiting insists that there was no necessity for the deployment of the safety car in the wake of Sutil’s crash, saying that the German’s car was not on or close enough to edge of the track to warrant its introduction.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Japanese Grand Prix - Race Day - Suzuka, Japan

In the meantime Whiting plans to develop a new system for speed control in caution areas, although not along the lines of the Slow Zone system used at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year to allow track workers to recover cars in a controlled environment without recourse to use of the Safety Car.

“We want to engage with all the teams and the drivers to make sure that we come up with good, sound and well thought through ideas,” said Whiting. “One of the most important things to learn here is that it is probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers.

“I think it’s better to try to put in place a system that is much clearer to everybody how much we think cars should slow down under similar circumstances. That’s what we’re working on starting tomorrow morning with a meeting with all the teams to discuss exactly that – a way to to impose, for want of a better expression, a speed limit. It probably won’t be a speed limit as such but there will be, I believe, a way of controlling the speed with complete certainty and complete clarity.”

The proposed speed limit idea is intended to ensure proper enforcement of yellow flags to achieve an appropriate reduction in speed. Other race series, including DTM, have different criteria but adopt a similar principle within their Sporting Regulations.

For the teams and drivers, whatever that reduction is, they will want to be as close to the limit as possible meaning that any test is likely to just be the first step in selecting and implementing the correct criteria for a rule change.

Adopting the Le Mans regulation entirely seems unlikely. Controlling the time loss in any such zone will be a factor and with it’s finer margins, shorter laps and shorter races F1 will be more sensitive to this than Le Mans.

The kind of measure proposed implies a three-tier yellow flag system including the Safety Car which will make the selection of the right measure more difficult. In Le-Mans again the lap length is the reason that Safety Cars are impractical.

Another consideration with enforcing a speed profile in a given area, is that certain cars will suffer less and others more which is why a limit based on time rather than speed well be preferable.

The suggested Safety Car Delta Time proposal is one that appeals to Whiting.

“We are meeting with all the teams tomorrow to discuss this. There are number of ideas out there and that’s one of them. What we could do is effectively to deploy the safety car but not send the safety car out. You do exactly what you do now. The drivers will all see the safety car delta displayed on their dashboard and they will follow that.

“They have to follow that and keep positive to the safety car delta at the Safety Car 1 line, which is the SC line before the pit entrance. As long as they are positive by that point then they are legal. What we are thinking of doing is to extend that requirement so that driver has to be positive allt he way through the double yellow sector.

“Taking Suzuka as an example, from Turn Six he would have to be positive all the way through those two yellow sectors. That’s one of a number of ways we are considering.”

Several drivers including Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have called for more research into the idea of closed cockpit Formula One cars and Whiting detailed the ongoing work on the topic.

“Skirts on tractors, I can’t remember the last time they discussed but it has been discussed in the past, though it would have been a long time ago. Canopies and protection forward of the driver’s head is something far more recent and is ongoing.

“Following Felipe’s accident in Budapest in 2009 and Henry Surtees’ accident,0wWe have done a lot of research into roll structures, quite substantial structures in front of the driver, as well as fighter canopies. The purpose of these tests was to protect a driver against a wheel, which in the case of Henry Surtees, was the cause of his fatality. That research goes on.

“It’s very difficult to find something that is strong enough to stop a wheel and drive a car without being adversely affected by the presence of this structure in front of him. One of the things that surprised us during this research by throwing a wheel through a cannon onto the roll structure, you’d think it would immediately bounce off but it doesn’t.

“Because of the tyre deflection it takes a long time to take upward motion beyond where it hits the roll structure. That’s the reason we found the structure has to be so high. We found it has to be 20cm higher than the driver’s head, which makes it a substantial structure.

“It’s not simple but research is still going on and in fact is on the agenda of technical meeting next Thursday and will continue to be so until we find a solution.”

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Why not put gravel traps on the bends that are infamously dangerous it will slow the cars immediately they leave the track !


Whiting’s verdict seems a little disingenuous. It’s clear that Sutil’s car

was out if the way, but the crane wasn’t. To have a piece of heavy

machinery on a run off area in increasing rain was mad

– as an amateur enthusiast I thought it while I watched.

It feels that there’s a conspiracy of silence in the media

that avoids the issue.


I have been suggesting a virtual safey car for about 12 years, ever since Alonso did this:


Experts and media types who attend races have all been saying ‘don’t do anything knee-jerk’ and don’t point fingers but the fact remains that the FIA are going to implement the very things we fans were suggesting as soon as Jules hit that JCB, aren’t they?

if he is a vegetable, or seriously injured, or unable to drive again, as an 100% foreseeable and avoidable accident, the FIA are 100% to blame. Todt and his inertness could well kill somebody one day, he has to go.


I’ve read some good suggestions. If I were Charlie Whiting I would surely order extreme wets for everyone and full low downforce for front wing. If it is possible I would impose it on rear wing as well but if I’m not mistaken it takes some time to do it (similar to the problem of tyre change in motogp). Lower gears, safety cars, speed limiters are all good. Unfortunately a young promising driver was sacrificed. Good luck Jules.


Skirts on tractors is an easy and cheap solution. They could simply attach a net full of exercise balls around the vehicles to absorb the impact.


Best idea yet Danny, it could even be sponsored by Adidas?! Why don’t they use one of those cloud recovery trucks from MarioKart instead though?!


Wow…this is a detail that chilling. Not exactly and endorsement and something to think about as everyone sticks these things to their helmets without thought of consequences.

“The problem for Michael was not the hit, but the mounting of the Go-Pro (camera) that he had on his helmet that injured his brain,” he said.


Whilst it’s correct that all safety measures are reviewed as a result of Jules accident his injury was if I understand correctly the result of rapid deceleration, that can happen under many circumstances.

I’m not sure if some individuals are more susceptible than others to this type of injury, David Purley for instance whilst not uninjured didn’t suffer brain injury from his rapid deceleration crash in 1977.

Perhaps it’s possible to check for this but what then? Prevent individuals at higher risk competing, who know, maybe half the grid could show up to be high risk.


Was there any mention of the poor light conditions? This was also a factor, in my opinion.

A race can only last 4hrs maximum. Races should never start after 4hrs before sundown.


In the past the FIA view of the recovery vehicle being exposed to race cars was obviously deemed extremely unlikely, but the Bianchi accident happened on a corner where the frequency of “offs” by drivers in general was quite high which their safety regulations have taken little account of particularly as drivers only back off slightly because of the double yellow. Well it’s rather like as in engineering that says if it can happen, it will happen so account needs to be taken of it. I suppose it’s easy to be critical in retrospect, but it is clearly a failing on their part to cover all the bases properly. I think the idea of reduced speed delta under the double yellow is good, but in the event a safety car is released then that speed needs to be low enough to be safe, yet high enough to allow cars to form up behind the safety car. It is typical of the human condition that we learn by our mistakes rather than proactively implementing change to avoid these incidents in the first place.


I feel the problem is not clearly identified here. Once the crane, tractor, etc. enters the track, the safety apparatus available (tire walls, Tecpro barriers, etc) instantly become void. Unless those skirts are placed on the cranes and tractors, the threat would remain. No cranes, tractors on the track is a better proposition. Charlie says no safety car, because Sutil’s car was not in a dangerous position, but he completely missed the tractor, itself. That’s heavy metal; not shock absorbers, and it stands in the way of the barriers designed for safety. Cranes are designed to lift, not help dissipate force.

F1 safety is very good. One just needs to look at Robert Kubica’s crash in 2007. Imagine if each barrier he hit were made of the same material as what the cranes are.

The lowered speed being proposed can likely make the tires and brakes cool down too much. Maybe the drivers will compensate that by weaving more heavily, which can cause the car to go off in an aquaplaning situation. Let’s say then don’t weave. So, after the speed delta time is over, there would have to be a few more laps of higher speed delta to warm the tires and brakes. That essentially prolongs the yellow flag periods and/or safety car periods. The solution to a problem shouldn’t ideally create another problem.

I’d say work on drainage, so that there’s no standing water at any given point on the track. Refurbish old tracks, perhaps. A bit of camber here and there should get that water flowing away from surface drainage. Then, get rid of those cranes from the track. If the cranes have to come in, the track isn’t safe; don’t race there.


One other point that needs to be answered is, how many cars passed sutil’s beached car safely prior to bianchi?

looking at the preliminary FIA report it is primarily based on ‘causality’ and obviously predicated on one car that was travelling at a speed that was far in excess of what the regulations consider appropriate under the circumstances that existed at that particular time.

yes, the flow on effect was quite horrendous and it is appropriate to discuss what steps need to be taken in the future but despite all of this the fact remains that the drivers have exploited the ‘waved double yellow flag’ rules and the FIA have been complicit having failed to intervene with non negotiable enforcement. this is called contributary negligence. i am equally certain that there are, technically possible, methods to enforce these rules. they should be implemented prior to the very next race as it appears that there are solutions available. whatever they are, any further infringements should automatically trigger a black flag. then watch just how careful drivers will be……


So nice to hear from all these experts who have spent years analyzing safety in Motorsport. Please save your false indignation and calls for resignation until you have some idea how far all Motorsport and vehicle safety has come in the past 20 years thanks to the FIA!!!


At least one good thing will come out of Bianchi’s accident, so long as they actually implement these measures.

I think they will – This is not one of those things where they can say that they’ll do something and then sweep it under the carpet while hoping we’ll forget about it.

No-one’s going to forget.


May be a button on the steering wheel which will limit the car at a certain speed at the yellow flag zone. A bit like that for pitstops. The way to police it could be the telemetry which FIA can check with the driver as activated that speed limit or not.


How can Charlie say the accident wasn’t close enough to the edge of the track to pose a problem when events proved otherwise? I mean, it obviously was. Not to mention that this was in the rain and poor light. All things considered, I do think the safety car should have been deployed.

Andrew Huntley-Jacobs

@Robb. Agreed. When we spend an hour fixing a panel at Silverstone….



11:25 -12:40

Hindsight is a wonderful thing when you apply it and not just say it.

Shame FIA Shame Charlie Whiting


For what it’s worth I think Charlie Whiting and the FIA have played this just about right. One car going off in a wet race is not usually a Safety car in this sort of situation. Nevertheless, all the things that should be looked at are to be looked at, in particular what drivers must do under double waved yellows and what to do about tractors on the track. A considered calm approach is what we want and what we have got. Felipe and his screaming down the radio is definitely NOT what we want. When most of the drivers are on inters and even changing to new inters I’m afraid Felipe is way out of order on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but you can’t take him seriously when he mouths off like this. For his sake, I hope he wasn’t one of the drivers that didn’t slow down under the waved yellows.


How many silly solutions is it possible to invent?

It’s as simple as to engage pit- limiter from double waved yellows to green.

It’s as safe as it could get, it’s easy to police, it doesn’t cost a dime, and it could be done already from this sunday.


why not modify the recovery vehicles to have barriers around them so the f1 cars can not go under.

So is short they can be mobile barriers that can also be used to protect the marchells

Forms Julie’s.


The yellow flag rule is designed to prevent injury/death of any person(s) attending formula one events.

The drivers, FIA and teams are all responsible for this and other incidents.

The drivers do not adhere to the rule of a (double waved) yellow flag situation.

The FIA does not enforce the rule of a (double waved) yellow flag situation.

The teams do not punish their drivers for disobeying the rule of a (double waved) yellow flag situation.

The marshalls, fans and families of anybody attending these events want/deserve rules created to increase safety to be enforced.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Jules, they have been severly let down. We can only hope Jules makes a full and swift recovery.

As importantly, I hope that essential lessons have been learned.


as soon as the safety car or yellows are waved, each driver must press their button within 5s or incur a penalty.


slowing the cars remotely is not a good idea as it can be abused to influence the outcome of a race.they have a speed limit button for the pit lane, they should use the same for yellow flags and the safety car.


could be very simple. Mount a yellow and red light in a designated place on the car. Even the steering wheel would do. For double yellow flags, the yellow flashes. Expecting the drivers to see a flag waving marshal with the massive amount of spray is 40 years ago.

In wet conditions the Safety Car should be deployed immediately for any car off the track. I feel this is a serious oversight and it is Charlies job. Any driver ignoring the double yellow flag should be black flagged


The f1 cars already have this, and lights at trackside. There was no problem with drivers seeing the signals, its just that there is so much pressure is to lose as little time as possible.


Didn’t know they had lights in the car, therefore when the light comes on with all the electronics on the car it would be pretty easy to determine a yellow and double yellow speed limit that would reduce the power and slow the car safely to a predetermined speed ruling. It would keep the drivers honest. Mind you I’m not assigning blame on any driver for Jules accident. FIA rules concerning the yellow flag(s) seems to be vague. No race driver ever wants to slow down voluntarily. As a fan of most forms of racing, cars, boats, aircraft the last thing I want to see is accidents, especially if there are serious injuries as a result.

Be safe



Simply measure the rainfall in centimeters. And the percentage of visibility from a driver’s helmet cam. If above certain centimeters, and visibility below, we know it will cause aquaplaning and crashes. Stop the race till the rainfall does not get below certain centimeters.


LOL…..you have a BA.


LMAO…..he even says simply!


Something I’ve been wondering about…

I haven’t seen much discussion about the FIA making the cars harder and harder to drive (removing active suspension, traction control, left/right brake balance, FRIC), and not expecting crashes to happen more often, especially in the wet.

I wondered, in July (when FRIC was banned mid-season), how long would it be until the FIA made the cars so unsafe to drive that someone got seriously injured.


That is a very good point grat, making the cars harder to drive isn’t compatible with reducing accident risk. However the cars and tracks are now extraordinarily safe, so I think if they can find ways to manage the ‘random’ risks – stopped or crashed cars, track marshals and vehicles onthe track, then the resulting accidents shouldn’t result in harm to the drivers, track workers or spectators, but it will make f1 more expensive ( more broken cars).

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