Before the reform frenzy starts

We’re just over 48 hours since Jules’ accident. Still hoping and praying for a good outcome. And of course, by now, the dust is settling, and discourse becomes less emotional, less intense, and more reasoned. I thought I’d take advantage of this period of relative calm to put a few thoughts out there.

The first thing I want to point out is that the three most severe accidents we’ve had since 1994 have all occurred through mechanisms that are not easily predictable. I’ll not go so far as to use the expression “freak accidents”, but being hit in the head with an 800 gm spring, driving into the lifting tailgate of a lorry, or aquaplaning into the exact spot a recovery unit is working are not your standard scenarios.

I say this because we need to have a bit of perspective here. Virtually every weekend we see, often with a quiet “ho hum”, accidents that in a not distant past would no doubt have been fatal. Basically, the things that used to kill and maim drivers have almost been engineered out of the system. Fire? (Williamson, Courage, Bandini to name a few)? We just don’t see it anymore (yes we had a few, but none with any significant consequences). Frontal collisions? (Rindt) We shrug off the most spectacular. Side impacts (Senna)? Ehhhhh… Flying rollovers? Shaken, but not stirred.

Not only do we almost have to invent bizarre ways to get hurt, but when someone DOES fall victim to an unusual accident, the governing body has shown itself fairly adept at acting appropriately. Felipe’s accident? Zylon visor reinforcements. Etc etc.

Jules’ accident was INCREDIBLY violent. It is a miracle he is alive, purely and simply. And this is a testimony to the entire system. Where should we look if we want to find out if there actually IS anything to change?

To start with, I’ll harken back to one of my pet peeves.

Those of you who saw the video no doubt were impressed by just how fast that Marussia was winging it as it streaked through the runoff area into the JCB. I surely was. And I was all the more impressed that:

  • Jules was certainly aware of the risk at that point of aquaplaning (and was no doubt told of SUT’s off)
  • there were double yellow flags displayed at one, and possibly two, upstream marshal posts.

For the sake of my sanity, I’ll point out again that double yellows mean that the track might be obstructed, that there are HUMAN BEINGS WORKING trackside of the Armco, and to BE PREPARED TO STOP.

I’ve been a passenger in an F1 car, and can confirm that the brakes are phenomenal. That said, given the water on the circuit, given the loading on the car through corners 6 and 7, and given the speed of that Marussia, it is indisputable that Jules carried MUCH TOO MUCH speed into that corner. By definition. He is instructed (by the flags) to slow enough to be able to stop, yet he was fast enough to aquaplane. Those are mutually exclusive options. Period.

I’ve been saying since 2010 that flag discipline is deteriorating, and it’s deteriorating fast. And no one is making properly vigorous efforts to re-establish it.

At every F1 drivers briefing, the drivers hound Charlie for a number – “how fast can i go under yellows?” or “how fast under double yellows?”. Or even, “will I be penalised if I do 0.2 sec less than the last time thru that sector…”

THEY’RE MISSING THE POINT. AND BECAUSE WE’RE NOT INSISTING ENOUGH ON THE RIGHT ANSWER, BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

The point is that the speed that’s appropriate under double yellows is variable. It’s not a speed limit, it’s a warning. Just ahead you might have nowhere to go. Or, just ahead someone’s uncle, brother, father is pushing one of your colleague’s cars off the circuit (remember the marshal whose legs you broke in Monaco Pastor? When you kept your foot in it through double yellows into Casino? I do).

I bet that the “appropriate” speed through T6-7 Sunday was probably something like 80-100 km/h – something like pit lane speed. Had drivers done that, the absurdity would have rapidly become apparent, and race control would have had little choice but to deploy the SC.

Disrespect for flag discipline is not a minor issue. It kills and injures people. If flags are respected, things get remarkably safer. If these flags had been respected, it is hard to imagine this accident happening, at least with this kind of energy.

Before we start changing everything, wrapping JCB’s in tech pro, putting SC’s out every time someone’s in the armco, let’s correctly apply the spectacularly effective safety system already in place. And let’s start by making sure drivers actually respect the SPIRIT (“be prepared to stop”) and not the LETTER (“how many tenths down do I have to be to not get a stop-go penalty?”) of the safety regulations.

Oh and one last thing: please Jules, get better fast.

 

174 thoughts on “Before the reform frenzy starts

  1. I know nobody wants to see this happen in F1 as it will become more like NASCAR, but virtual full course yellows (cars restricted to pit lane speed limit electronically & simultaneously / no safety car) anytime recovery equipment and/or people (including drivers leaving stranded cars) are inside the racing envelope are seemingly a great way to mitigate this type of incident. These are Racing Drivers, paid to go as fast as possible under the prevailing conditions, whatever they may be, while pushing the rules as far as they can without incurring the wrath of officials. No driver is going to willingly give up even tenths of a second slowing for flags when they know other drivers aren’t slowing more than they absolutely HAVE too either. So, we could asses extremely subjective penalties for “speeding” through a yellow flag area that would vary from corner to corner, track to track, with infinite possible outcomes/judgement levels sure to spur accusations of favoritism at each and every race. Let’s face it, anything subjective or requiring judgement calls is not going to work well. So, let’s take the judgement out of it and make it a simple rule with simple implementation. This would have the side benefit of making the racing closer, ala NASCAR, which will be both a positive and a negative depending upon your viewpoint.

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  7. Having read many comments and articles since my previous comment I think that while you can have a f1 specific regulation, in this case it needs to be solved by something that largely fits all motorsport.

    1) A second lifting point on single seaters above the gearbox should make lifts a lot simpler.

    2) Use a stationary yellow to indicate the end of an incident zone. Any driver found to accelerate prior to that will be DQ’d. For single waved yellow nothing changes. So a green is shown the post after a single waved yellow OR a stationary yellow. So in Bianchis case you would see a stationary yellow at the post.

    3) Drivers must pass through an double yellow zone at a speed slow enough to stop within the visual distance they have. If on a straight then if they can see the incident is off track then holding speed is sufficient.

    I.e. For Bianchi’s accident he should have slowed massively, probably to half normal racing speed as a guide.

    If a car has, for instance, pulled off on Hanger straight with Marshals in attendance, simply holding speed and passing the incident single file, on the opposite side of the tarmac to the incident would be sufficient.

  8. Have to wait for a track report but Sergio Perez has been quoted by the BBC saying that double yellow flags are not enough because no one pays attention to them:

    The crash that left Jules Bianchi with severe head injuries was “totally unacceptable” and could have been avoided, says Sergio Perez. … “We have to look for answers from the FIA on what happened in this tragic accident. We have to make sure they hear us.” “In the future when there is a tractor coming up to pick up the car, we need a safety car, no matter what the conditions,” he said. “Those situations are very difficult,” he said. “You expect the tractor to come quickly but in my opinion yellow flags were not enough to clear up the accident because of the situation on the track at that moment.” “You know you have to show a lift of the throttle to the FIA,” Perez said. “But if we are honest we know we want to lift as little as possible and go as fast as possible. “It is something that in those conditions probably doesn’t work.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/29551563

    My thoughts are that if every time a stopped racing car is moved the race is closed up using a safety car that would be the end to racing for that track. That is the track should be taken out of the F1 racing circuit. However I understand the issue that under yellow flag conditions are a lot of time can be gained by having one driver still racing while everyone else slows down. So there is an issue to look into maybe.

    • Reading further into Perez comments – he says “It is something that in those conditions probably doesn’t work.” – so he is basically saying in conditions of aquaplaning (very wet conditions) double yellows are not enough – in that case the comment is fair. That is for most conditions stick with the double yellow flags with penalties if they are not being adhered to … but under very wet conditions where there is a risk of aquaplaning go for a safety car instead of double yellow – in that case maybe that is the way to go.

    • But I think this has to be debated because we could end up with no wet weather racing – most people were racing on intermediates at that point – there was still the full wets that could have been used. It’s a tricky set of circumstances.

  9. Yes, I know this is my second post after saying I wasn’t going to post any more… but I thought this mIght be an appropriate bookend.

    Posted yesterday by V8 Supercars, ahead of this weekend’s iconic BATHURST 1000http://youtu.be/F07F8bBFR7Y

    • UGH…. sorry Gary…. my browser borked my last post…

      Yes, I know this is my second post after saying I wasn’t going to post any more… but I thought this mIght be an appropriate bookend.

      Posted yesterday by V8 Supercars, ahead of this weekend’s iconic BATHURST 1000 endurance race.

      Posted after this year’s Australian F1 Grand Prix

  10. I will disagree in one point: If one car aquaplanes off a certain point of the track, chances are relatively high another one will follow. We’ve seen that at the Austin WEC 6 hours race, thankfully without consequences. One race car hitting a stationary (relatively light and also low slung) race car, is spectacular but not that worrying. Any car aquaplaning into something massive (ANY heavy vehicle under which the race car can slip) definitely IS a problem and needs to be addressed. Besides, if big cranes can be put around the Monaco street circuit, they sure can be put around any other circuit. I think we owe Jules, who just might – or not – have his own share of fault in his fate, that it will be looked into by the FIA and that lessons will be learned in order to potentially save lives n the future – as it happened after the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

  11. Accidents, offs, excursions will happen regardless of the amount of flag waving or anything else.

    My observation is that the height of the recovery vehicle rear end made a head injury almost inevitable if a F1 car contacted the vehicle at almost any angle. A skirt type fender or bumper on any trackside vehicles wouldn’t stop an accident but it would have made the impact mode closer to the expectations of the chassis designers.

    • Which means, correctly, that the double-yellow applies until AFTER the station displaying the green, which was down-track from the accident, and MUCH farther down track than where Jules lost control.

    • The Green flag was deployed beyond the incident, as per the rules, to say the track was clear from that point and racing may resume. The double waved yellows would have been shown on the flag point before the obstruction and a single waved yellow on the point before that to tell the drives to slow down and expect to stop, also to forbid overtaking. These yellow flags give the drivers plenty of warning and indicate the sector where there is likely to be danger to themselves or to marshals who are likely to be in harms way.

    • Bravo.
      Exactly what I have said on other forums.
      Actually, double waved green flags, if I recall.
      The flag stand is just before Sutil’s car.
      If it was after, then, maybe.
      Add the fact those tractors should have some sort of skirt.

  12. I think you should review the video footage: just before Jules Bianchi accident the marshall was waving the GREEN FLAG….

    Don’t blame the racer, blame the GP Principal and the poorly trained marshalls instead.

    • The green flag was waving at the corner station at the time of the accident. I am not sure who decides what flag should be displayed at the corner station but it was green.

    • The green flag is to indicate that after that post the track is clear. It does not mean that corner was under green. In fact, Bianchi spun from an area where it was double yellow flag. In fact, the green flag shows there had to be yellow before that. While you’re not the only one with that misconception, it might be worth reading up on such things before shouting marshals are to blame. You’re not the first to say this, and therefore not the first one to get a reply about why that green flag is in exactly the correct spot.

    • The Green flag was deployed beyond the incident, as per the rules, to say the track was clear from that point and racing may resume. The double waved yellows would have been shown on the flag point before the obstruction and a single waved yellow on the point before that to tell the drives to slow down and expect to stop, also to forbid overtaking. These yellow flags give the drivers plenty of warning and indicate the sector where there is likely to be danger to themselves or to marshals who are likely to be in harms way.

  13. I totally agree that drivers should slow down more under waved yellow flags. I was wondering, given the plethora or technology in F1, whether it would be possible to require cars to travel at a pre-determined sensible speed in zones covered by waved yellows or even engage the pit-lane speed limiters. This would mean a level playing field, which I guess drivers would welcome, and mean that the “gaps” between racers were preserved in some way. Also after the waved yellow zone they would be back on it. Introducing this automatically would mean that there would be no decision process beyond the decision to introduce the waved flags. Travelling at the speed of the pit limiters would mean that drivers were going slowly enough to stop if needed. The thing that would need to be taken into account is that there was no risk of running into the back to a competitor ahead. If drivers or teams tried to circumvent this (such as engaging neutral or such) then there would have to be penalties, (stop-go, grid places at the next race etc.). It would remain the drivers’ responsibility to comply with the rules.

    • Telling a Driver to slow down for anything is like asking the Pope to stop praying. The bottom line is every driver makes their own choices when it comes to speed and position, regardless of what flag is being waved or conditions they are driving in. They will crash at times and the timing of this one was bad. A vehicle like this should never be exposed to cars at speed. A safety car should have the field slowed before a piece of equipment like this is deployed because the drivers will not slow to a safe speed on their own. The use of the safety car was instituted to protect the driver’s from themselves and it was not used in this case.

      • Another practical, easy to implement possibility. Just needs to be discussed and evaluated as to potential effectiveness, then made policy. If that’s the way they want to go.

  14. Oh dear – it seems someone has spread a link to Gary’s blog around.

    My last word here will be… ALL NORMAL FLAG PROCEDURES, ACCORDING TO THE TRAINING AND REGULATIONS OF THE FLAG MARSHALS, OCCURRED.

    And no, there was no GREEN FLAG prior to the incident (and the only reason they would have displayed a green flag at that point would be because the previous point was showing yellow or double yellow).

    #ForzaJules
    #PraiseTheMarshals

    • The marshall at station 12 can clearly be seen waving the green flag BEFORE AND AFTER Jules’ crash. The recovery vehicle he hit is still on the track. I have HEARD of the double yellow for Sutil’s shunt, but have not personally seen or heard any evidence of that.

      So let’s see (A scenario): Jules sees the yellow (or Double Yellow) and should have slowed; Then he sees the green at station 12, accelerates, aquaplanes, and wrecks. As the good doctor points out. drivers take flags with a grain of salt, but there also seems to be evidence of flag mismanagement here. In NASCAR racing, a yellow flag applies to the entire track, controlled by NASCAR. There is no such thing as local yellows. In F1, as I understand it, a local yellow is discretionary for the local marshall. NASCAR also employs lights along the entire track for instantaneous full track yellows. It’s not perfect, but I think it does a lot to reduce accidents immediately following a prior event. And F1 seems to have zones where flags apply?

      So, in my humble opinion, there is more than enough blame to spread around between drivers, marshalls, and F1 management.

      • “I have HEARD of the double yellow for Sutil’s shunt, but have not personally seen or heard any evidence of that.”

        The evidence is in front of you. The only reason a green flag would be displayed would be because the previous point was displaying yellow.

        NASCAR goes full-course yellow because there is no run-off on the outside of the track (so crashed cars are often ON the track) and because it only takes a small amount of time to do a lap of the track.

        Have you read the FIA motorsport regulations/manual? Have you competed in road course racing? Have you officiated at a major national/international road course race?

        See Gary – I am getting grumpy🙂

      • Very cool, Mr Drifter (and very civilised), thank you.

        I have been dodging F1 and other cars (and bits of cars) at flag points for many years – and I drive, too (not F1 cars).

        We need to be careful we don’t assume that people know what we know.

      • PS: I did attempt to read the salient points of the manual, but the “zones” thing didn’t click for me. I was an off-road driver (SCORE, HDRA) but the flag system is different from F1 in so far as zones are concerned. So, as I now understand it, if a driver is proceeding under a yellow, he can’t speed up until he passes the station displaying the green?

        BTW, I’m feeling grumpy today also – packing to move, lol.

      • And there can be green on two consecutive posts? I think that I’ve seen that, but by what you say, that may not be correct.

      • Other than errors by the flag marshals, the only time that greens are displayed at consecutive stations is the first lap of each practice session, the first race lap (usually the formation lap for F1) and the first lap after full course yellows.

      • Who makes the decision to display yellow, double yellow and red flags? Is the decision by race control, who then communicate to marshals? Or do marshals decide and then communicate the incident back to race control?

      • Yellow flags are decided by the flag marshal himself. Their immediacy is one aspect that makes them so useful. In F1 the order for blue flags comes from race control. Red flags ALWAYS come from race control. And of course, full course yellows + SC boards are a RC decision.

        If you look carefully, you’ll see that at each flag position there are at least two, and often three, marshals working. One looks in the direction cars are coming from – he signals what’s up in his sector, and puts out the yellow if something happens. He’s also looking at the marshal post UPSTREAM. Why? Because if THAT post puts out a yellow, his post, the next clear sector, automatically puts out a green.

        Classical (but unfortunately no longer F1) flagging also distinguishes a waved from a stationary yellow. A waved yellow is shown when there is an incident in the sector displaying it. The marshal post UPSTREAM of the incident immediately then shows a stationary yellow, to warn the drivers that an incident sector is upcoming. This is why one marshal is always looking “down” the circuit to the next marshal post. If they show a waved yellow, this guy puts out a stationary flag.

        Hope that helps.

  15. “slow enough to be able to stop, yet he was fast enough to aquaplane. Those are mutually exclusive options”

    I’d just to point out something mentioned by Martin Bundle at the beginning of the race in response to Vettle complaining over the radio about aquaplaning at 80 kph.

    Lower speed reduces down force which can increase the chances of aquaplaning.

    There’s no argument that the car was going too fast and that more caution should’ve been used if that section of track had become so wet that one car had already aquaplaned off.. but perhaps the driver was caught out by reduced down force at a reduced speed.

  16. In the footage, you can clearly see a green flag being waved, in a position that appears to be *before the site of the incident. What is this about? There is alot of talk about double waved yellows, so why can we see a green flag waving? This is very important for the investigation, but I do not see any discussion about it.

    • Glenn; this is *after* the site of the incident, relative to the direction of travel. The yellows go in and get replaced by a green because the Sauber gets moved by the JCB to a position before that flag post. The track after that post is clear and therefore green flag is correct (providing no SC is out).

      Gary’s key point above is that there would *still* have been double yellow flags displayed at at least one of the prior flag posts.

      There is a lot of confusion online about the green flag in this video, not helped, I’m afraid, by the sensationalised headlines of the gutter press, who ignore important things like direction of travel and prior flag posts for a cheap headline.

    • That is because that marshal post is AFTER the incident, and flags apply after the point where the flag is waved, not from where it is visible. It’s not being discussed because it is of no relevance – the incident occurred under yellows, and the green flag is a red herring.

  17. Gary, watch this video and your opinion may change. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=662523893846353&set=vb.225941417504605&type=2&theater At 1:00 in, the double yellows have been replaced by a GREEN flag … and may have been waved before that because the tower is not included in the shot for the previous few seconds. The accident occurs at 1:11. Its pretty clear to me that someone screwed up and Bianchi had every reason to be taking that corner at speed, knowing the risk that he would lose control.

    • The yellows at t12 were initially waved because the tractor and marshals dealing with sutils car were working alongside/beyond T12, and as it moved back, they were withdrawn and the green floor. Regardless he would have driven through at least 3 post with yellow flags/lights and his steering wheel would also have indicated the situation ahead. So no he didn’t have every reason to be taking the corner at speed.

    • The green flag you’ve spotted comes in as early as 1:04, and only counts for the section after that marshal post. The whole fact that it’s a green flag shows the section before it has to have some kind of yellow, else green isn’t required. It became green because the car and tractor had come far enough back for the next section to be clear. The section Bianchi has spun in was still under yellow, double waved I’d assume (though we have no image of it, of course. I would like to reiterate though that we know there was at the very least some kind of yellow, else there wouldn’t be a green flag at that post). Don’t worry though, a lot of people didn’t understand that from the video🙂

      • The one point I would make here, and it’s in no way blaming the marshals or Bianchi…

        If you’re driving in (for example) a 30mph speed limit, and up ahead you see a sign that says ‘National Speed Limit applies” (in the UK) or “55” or “65” in the US… do YOU wait till you pass the sign before accelerating?

        I’d hazard a guess that it’s human nature not to wait, and equally, analagously, human nature to accelerate as soon as you SEE the green flag, even if you’re not in the area it covers yet.

      • Well, for one the yellow lights would still be on your steeringwheel until you’re out of the section. Secondly this isn’t casual driving along the English countryside. Drivers are aware that only when you pass the green flag, the dangerous situation is behind you, so just seeing the green flag isn’t enough. It’s a sense of knowing what you can expect from the marshals and the other drivers. This is different in normal every day traffic, unfortunately. It’s the same way with for instance speeding in pitlane. If you sped anywhere in pitlane, it doesn’t matter that you slowed down later on, or even slowed down further so the average was the same or worse. It doesn’t matter you think you can just coast in or accelerate a bit earlier. The line is the line and between pit entrance and pit exit, you abide by the speed limit. In racing it’s very binary in that respect. No grey areas regarding where you are almost there, so might as well start accelerating. On top of that, as pointed out before, a safe speed would’ve been so slow he couldn’t have had that speed crashing, even if he started accelerating a bit too early, or simply aquaplaned off anyway, or spun because of the amount of engine braking. While I’m not keen on saying Bianchi was to blame, especially in his current condition, it does indicate he was traveling too fast in a double waved yellow flag zone at the point where he left the track. Whether it was his fault I think we shouldn’t answer right now, but it definitely wasn’t the fault of the flags waved at that post.

      • ” No grey areas regarding where you are almost there, so might as well start accelerating.”

        Equally true of speed limit signs – place a copper with a speed gun 20 yards before the hypothetical sign in question, and a) he’d make a mint, and b) he’d have you bang to rights to the letter of the law.

      • While I agree with you that you should always abide by the speed limit that is current, and there are technically no grey areas, I believe in my country (the Netherlands), the police is not allowed to have speed cameras or otherwise measure your speed with the goal of fining you if you speed within 100 meters of a speed limit change, if I’m correct. Not that it matters to me, I do actually abide by the speed limit as much as possible and try and reach it before the actual sign, while most other drivers seem to just slow down a bit and wait until the next traffic light to really bring the speed down, but hey.

        Point is that the drivers know how to tell where a yellow flag situation begins and ends and that there is no grey area. The moment they see yellow there is something going on that might be dangerous at any point on the track ahead and that only clears when you have >passed< a green flag.

      • Indeed, and it applies to the section after that flag post. The yellow flag was removed because Sutil and the tractor left that part of the track, as they pulled up next to the post, at which point the problem was in the section before that flag post, warranting said flag post to show the green flag, indicating the next section was clear.

  18. Racers will race. It’s what they do. So those that do the policing need to enforce it. It cannot be left to the drivers, or nothing will change.

  19. drivers are getting younger and younger, too much money, too much “entourage”, this complicates things. at 20 yo the majority just don`t give a funk, they floor it, there is no conscience of risk, life, death… and the elders just aren`t there offering advice or simply they are not listened. i think that the tech is there to use, put remote speed limiters in the cars, no human option. i would hate to see this happening but when the humans act un-human sooner or later they`ll be replaced with some form of automatization.

      • It’s a wildly different case, as the track was green (as in, no yellow flags at that point). I feel that issue was mostly a result of the track no longer punishing the driver. Of course we don’t want to see injury invoking crashes, but drivers have admitted they feel they can take more risks when attacking a corner when a corner has tarmac and astroturf instead of grass and gravel. When they go off, most of the times (apart from that one crash of Kimi), they can rejoin the track without much time loss. In some cases it’s even faster. I’ve seen Alonso driving over the curbs at the exit of the chicane every single lap in Korea (Keep in mind the white line indicating tracklimits always runs between the tarmac you’re allowed to race on and the curbstones. The curbstones are off-limit, which means you always have to have 2 wheels on the tarmac). I feel it’s unfair to judge Kimi for getting into an accident driving the same way every other driver does, just flooring it when you go off and get back on track. Blaming him for not conducting a track inspection is foolish, for we’ve seen similar crashes from Glock and Petrov in the past where they launched their car when they went off, where by this logic they could’ve known they’d hit a bump if they tried to steer their car there when getting back on track (and they both did have the opportunity to drive around it, even if they were trying to recover from a mistake). Again a case of drivers being more worried about how fast they’re allowed to go without getting a penalty, rather than focusing on why you shouldn’t want to do it in the first place.

  20. What if you get only 50% throttle when you get in a double waved zone? In fact even 80% for yellow. Also there could be a requirement for decreasing apex speed by 20 or 50%.
    Of course everything should be strictly policed and I believe it can be very easily done with automatic software notifications.
    Drivers are very inventive crooks behind the wheel. I bet some of them speed up when they see the green flag, not when they pass the marshal post.

  21. What bothers me most about this is that had Jules spun himself into the tire wall alongside the recovery vehicle and walked away instead of being carried away I doubt we would be having this conversation at all.

    • Actually I think he would be investigated for ignoring yellow flags. They’d want telemetry from the team showing he lifted, and then try and judge if he lifted enough. Some people suggest he spun out because he slowed down, which is possible, and then he would likely not be penalized. Then we have the case where he might have not lifted at all and injured or killed a marshal, in which case we might see him banned from the event like Pastor was (until that was reversed). I think the reason there’s no call for penalty is because he was seriously hurt.

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  23. At the end of the day, racecars and construction vehicles just don’t mix.

    We have seen great circuits sterilized to excess, and new circuits designed around absurd standards (so that they in no way resemble what might be called ‘natural terrain road courses) yet drivers are incongruously put into position to have an impact with with a multi-ton vehicle. This accident has been a long time coming I’m afraid – there have been dicey incidents in the past, and seeing large machinery near the circuit has always been cringeworthy even the to most hardened to and accepting of realities of motorsport.

    Villeneuve and Brundle seem to know the story…

    • Thank you, SD! Having driven in F/F, F/Atlantic and Vintage racing for years, I find it unconscionable that a large piece of construction equipment was allowed anywhere near the racing surface or its environs, particularly in those conditions. I object to the idea that this incident involves a driver or flagging error. Simply put, what was a large backhoe doing on a racecourse? I cannot imagine such a situation occurring anywhere in this country under any circumstances, never mind a heavily compromised (inundated) track surface. Jules paid a terrible price for an incredible lapse of judgement on the part of race and safety officials, whatever flag was hanging out.

      • ” I cannot imagine such a situation occurring anywhere in this country under any circumstances…”

        Which country is that? Because it must be a country where F1 (at least) doesn’t currently run – and hasn’t run.

        We need to think pretty hard and smart before any extreme, knee jerk, reformist zeal overtakes us… like instituting some American oval track or Indy/CHAMP car full course yellows for every off-track excursion or recovery.

        We generally are able to recover a vehicle (even from the middle of a significant kitty litter patch) within a lap or two with cars at race speed except for the crash sector.

        There have been other incidents but when you consider the number of “hot” recoveries we do in every season, the number of actual incidents like Jules’ – or even close calls – have been VERY few over many years.

        We need to take a deep breath before ruining the pinnacle of Motorsport.

        Sheesh – look at the ongoing reaction to the quieter engines!! If we went under Safety Car every ten or twenty laps it would be disastrous for the sport.

      • Ummm you do know it’s common practice – right?

        Not all tracks have live snatch facilities but plenty do including my local tracks and the number of times a car hits a snatch vehicle (Telehandler in the case of Donington Park) is minimal. Indeed it’s possibly generally safer than alternatives because drivers ‘should’ be respecting the yellows (which in club racing usually have the added protection of a waved yellow prior to the double) and thus the risk to going off is minimal – and less marshals out in the kitty litter the better.

        Without Snatch capabilities cars have to be left in the gravel if the marshals can’t move them by man-power or a SC/Red flag called – both of which ruin racing – your faced with a perminent caution zone for the rest of the race, hardly ideal!!

  24. Great article. The problem being without a clear definition, competitive humans will push the limits, the ‘spirit’ of the rule.

    Double Yellows needs to have a defined speed limit. 80kph imo. Display the flags 3 to 4 flag points before the incident, and drivers must be below 80kph by the second point these are displayed, or BIG penalty. I suggest instant race disqualification. Let’s see them push that limit!

    Once passed the incident, flags go green again, foot to the floor time… Simples!

  25. Before commenting on Gary’s post, let me wish Jules a full recovery. This must be dreadful for his family and also for the Marussia team, who already lost Maria de Villota under very similar tragic circumstances. I have not seen any official reports yet, but assuming that Jules did not go off because of a mechanical failure, Gary’s point about waved double yellows is very valid. However, I believe Jules had a point to prove – with the ongoing speculation about Alonso’s exit in recent weeks he must have fancied his chances of replacing him at Ferrari, and then suddenly, on the eve of the Japanese race he was confronted with the gutting news that Seb Vettel was taking the coveted seat. If I had been in his shoes I would have started the race in a very combative mood to show Ferrari that they made the wrong choice…

  26. A simple idea but why not make drivers select the pit lane speed limiter before waved double yellows? I’m sure it could be established exactly where they were on track when the limiter was engaged.

      • Sorry, the IPad decided to let let me post without letting me finish typing my user name.

        Anyway, I just wanted to say what a wonderful thought provoking article that was provided by the Dr, and I totally agree with you Ian Rycraft and just wish I said it first….

    • The pit lane speed limiter is activated at an exactly known place. It will be difficult to select an exact zone where this can be activated on track so it could cause the driver behind to crash / spin; resulting in further consequences. Well policed lifting off the throttle is the best solution in my opinion. Well policed with very harsh penalties of course.

      • Just a thought, maybe someone with more knowledge could comment on how practical this is: during the race, when warning flags come out, the driver also receives a warning light in his cockpit. So when the yellow flags come out, a yellow light flashes in the cockpit. If it’s possible to send signals like this to the driver, would it not be possible to send an “engage speed limiter” signal. If this was sent after the first set of double waved yellows, then drivers should already be on the alert for slow moving traffic, so having the car in front engage the speed limiter should not cause problems.

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