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Several drivers have spoken out against the FIA over an incident that saw a recovery vehicle perilously close to full-speed F1 cars.
Conditions at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix were treacherous. Cars slid off the circuit, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz an early casualty spinning out. He then crashed into the barriers, hitting an advertising board in the process.
Pierre Gasly attempting to make up ground after starting from the pit lane encountered debris from an advertising board and the barriers, hitting it and requiring a new nose.
The debris caused a red flag. This did not stop Gasly from encountering a recovery vehicle and marshal on his way back to the pits. Gasly missed him by centimetres.
Drivers are livid having seen the footage. The incident brought back memories of the tragic 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when Jules Bianchi died after hitting a recovery vehicle. Gasly himself stated that the incident was “unacceptable” over the team radio: “What is this tractor on track?” “I passed next to it. This is unacceptable. Remember what has happened. Can’t believe this.”
Taking to Twitter once he had seen the footage, Norris was blunt in his rebuke of the situation. Calling out the risks to the drivers in the dangerous conditions, he referenced Jules Bianchi’s accident:
Wtf. How’s this happened!? We lost a life in this situation years ago. We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. We wanna race. But this… Unacceptable.”
Other drivers echoed the British driver’s sentiment, with Sergio Perez also taking to Twitter. He too also called out Jules Bianchi’s accident in his rebuttal of race control:
How can we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on track? “We lost Jules because of that mistake. “What happened today is totally unacceptable!!!!! “I hope this is the last time ever I see a crane on track!”
"That should never, ever happen"
Christian Horner gives his thoughts on the incident involving the recovery vehicle entering the track. pic.twitter.com/yOAl8Wz6b8
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 9, 2022
Carlos Sainz was equally angry when shown the footage by Autosport. Calling out the lack of visibility in the appalling conditions, Sainz said the risk of a collision with a recovery vehicle is very real:
What people don’t understand is that even behind the safety car going 100, 150kph, we don’t see anything,”
“So even if there’s a crane on track and we are behind the safety car going 100kph, one driver could do a small mistake, a stupid mistake, go a bit offline, not remember that there’s a tractor there, and crash into a tractor. So why even risk it? I guess this is more our point.”
Team Principals push for investigation
Red Bull Team Principal also raised his concerns over the incident. Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Horner highlighted that the invention of the Virtual Safety Car was a direct result of the accident in 2014, and reiterated that drivers had zero visibility due to the spray:
We lost Jules Bianchi here. This should never ever happen. Checo (Sergio Perez) reported to us visibility was zero,”
“The VSC was brought in for a reason. It just needs to be a full investigation as to why that vehicle [tractor] was on track.
McLaren Team Principal was also concerned by the FIA’s actions, but wants to work with the FIA “behind closed doors” to analyse the events, telling Sky Sports:
“Its clear what happened there absolutely ,must not happen’ no doubt. But at the same time, that’s for me, a discussion, we have behind closed doors with the FIA and race directors because that’s the right way to work together in a constructive way.
That’s why I want to keep it like that”
"It's clear what happened there, absolutely must not happen"
Andreas Seidl gives his thoughts on the incident involving the recovery vehicle on track. pic.twitter.com/NPtXzj6itz
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) October 9, 2022
The FIA has been quick to respond. Reported by Fox Sports, the FIA has laid the blame on Gasly, stating the Frenchman was travelling too fast under red flag conditions. Gasly has since been given a 20-second time penalty and awarded two penalty points for speeding under a red flag.
“In relation to the recovery of the incident on Lap 3, the Safety Car had been deployed and the race neutralised. Car 10, which had collected damage and pitted behind the Safety Car, was then driving at high speed to catch up to the field,”
“As conditions were deteriorating, the Red Flag was shown before Car 10 passed the location of the incident where it had been damaged the previous lap.”
Feature Image Credit:@DailyStar on Twitter