Remote control safety?

During the TJ 13 courtroom podcast the other night (link here) I mentioned furtively that I did not think the “pit lane limiter” solution was going to be viable.

This of course led to the inevitable question on Twitter as to why.

I’ll admit that my comment the other night stemmed more from an inchoate sense of non-feasability than from any thinking (at all). So the question this morning, plus the fantastic Belgian coffee, led me to put a bit of flesh on those bones. Let’s have a go.

First of all, I think in the pit lane things are quite controlled, with relatively few dynamic constraints on car or driver. Basically, “all” he has to do is hit the button at the right time, avoid killing anyone stepping in front of him (unless we take that responsibility away from them too!), and stop his car at the correct garage (ahem . . .).

On the other hand, the on-circuit situation is by definition uncontrolled. In the same area of the circuit at the same time cars will be subjected to variable loadings – think back marker lifting and going off line, guys battling for position, etc. Now I’ve seen first-hand how violent the deceleration from “just” the pit lane limiter is, and that’s going in a straight line with none of the above constraints. And remember, we need to add to the above situational factors things like the state of tire wear, the weather, and visibility.

The next issue, and THIS is where it gets complicated, is a bit less obvious.

If we think a bit further about an “external assumption (or assertion?) of responsibility” solution, suppose someone (driver or other) got hurt, either despite of or because of such a system. Who would then be responsible – humanly, morally, and last but surely not least, legally? Race control? The FIA? The CoC?

Under the current situation (and I’m speaking purely theoretically, not in reference to any particular case), in the absence of mitigating circumstances, it is the driver’s responsibility to obey safety rules and injunctions. As a corollary, it is the driver’s “fault” when bad things happen as a result of failure to abide by said rules and injunctions!

To my way of thinking, this eliminates any quick-fix response that’s as simplistic as the current button (no, not Jenson, go back and read the above!). Any “imposed” response required of the car/driver would therefore have to be quite sophisticated. Using “deltas” is unacceptably one-size-fits-all, and equally unadapted to any given situation. We all know that there are tons of extremely smart people in F1; I’m sure they’ll figure this out if they need/want to, but it will not happen fast.

(By the way, this also raises fascinating questions about what’s going to happen when you’ll be able to buy a Google smart car, or switch on “smart” mode in your Merc S-class. Who is responsible when you crash into someone or something? The manufacturer? The guy who wrote the code? Who operates the servers? Damn it’s time to be a liability lawyer!)

Getting back to racing, I’m starting to think that moving forward, a few issues need to be addressed in terms of ensuring the safety of trackside workers (paramount concern, let’s not forget) and drivers (secondary, given the willing and paid assumption of risk).

  • Someone needs to gather statistics as to injuries in trackside personnel (including rallying, hill climb, drag racing, etc). The circumstances need to be elucidated as clearly as possible, in order to discern trends or patterns. Sid, Charlie and Max imposed this approach to safety improvement 20 years ago, and there’s no reason to change now.
  • Strong consideration should be given to quickly developing a policy as to leaving cars on the track side of the Armco under certain conditions. This was standard practice some years ago, and I daresay close scrutiny of the stats will confirm that current “clear-all” policies are responsible for more mayhem than previous, selective “leave ’em and flag ’em” policies.
  • For the future, very strong attention must be paid to reductions in trackside personnel to a strict minimum (it’s getting harder and harder to recruit anyway, never mind what’s going to happen to insurance rates!). There will always be a need for human eyes, ears and brains in the corners; that said, a fresh detailed analysis of roles and how to get them done with minimum risk is long overdue. I’m thinking that some of the FIA’s McLaren money (c’mon guys, it was £100 MILLION, surely there must be some left!) should be used to help to robotise a certain number of retrieval functions. This could almost be economically feasible at some point, with off-the-shelf solutions to piloting current retrieval equipment. Flagging is already somewhat, and can be further, “automated”. Again, competent human backup will of course always be necessary.
  • And as mentioned previously, we need to pretty urgently consider how to improve compatibility between competition machines and retrieval machines.

This wound up longer than I thought it would be. Thanks for the patience!

98 thoughts on “Remote control safety?

  1. I’m sure it won’t have anything new about his injury but Sabine is relaunching Michael’s website on Thursday. New statement today:

    ‘November 13, 1994, is a special day in the sporting life of Michael Schumacher –
    20 years ago he was the first German to ever win the Formula One world championship title, his first of seven titles.
    ‘To mark the 20th anniversary of his first world champion title we will reactivate Michael’s homepage. We hope to thus give the many fans from all over the world, whose sympathy is still unbroken after his accident, a home.
    ‘The newly designed homepage features many pictures and stories of Michael’s unparalleled career, all races, data and facts. There is also a fan-area where fans can send their twitter-messages to.
    ‘ will be online from Thursday 13 November 9am MEZ (8am BST) onwards.’

    • Thanks for this, Jane. What took the family so long, didn’t they realise the fans needs a “home” months ago? Somewhere we could go for information and connect with other fans to share our views and feelings. Luckily Dr Gary gave us that home and while I am pleased the MS website will up and running again tomorrow I won’t be moving anywhere anytime soon. Thanks Doctor

      • It is indeed part of the Saillant/Todt nexus. The three of them were all over French television scraping for contributions for it. I did a brief literature search last year, and there would appear to be a few papers originating there, but nothing like what was ballyhooed.

        This at the same time Saillant was named Medical Director of Qatar’s Aspetar Sports hospital (yes, the same Qatar hosting this year’s prize giving gala and World Motor Sport Council). I have heard from good sources that when he traveled to New York City to pursue an association with one of the City’s great ortho hospitals, he was asked only one question. “How can you run a hospital if you are only there one week every few months?”).

        The deal didn’t happen.

        Full disclosure: he no longer holds this post.

    • From the report giving four reasons for the collapse & financial difficulties faced by smaller f1 teams:

      “Thirdly, teams have to use Ecclestone’s freight but the costs of this are high. There used to be a £10m payment from the commercial rights holder to teams to support the freight costs but Ecclestone withdrew that two years ago”.

      Basically it seems that everyone on formula one have to use certain Ecclestone & related service companies who therefore have a monopoly over service prices.

  2. I can’t help but notice that friends and acquaintances with solid credentials as certifiable F1 addicts are stepping away from the sport. The signs: Many fewer Sunday F1 brunches, almost no forwarded F1 e-news, comments that they either fast-forward through or don’t watch races at all, and no more chats about various teams, drivers, etc. Their reasons are: 1. lack of interest because races are weighed down by infantile whining and squabbles, 2. it’s guided by an organization so rife with corruption that makes watching it akin to collusion with the Mafia, i.e., it’s so corrupt that races could easily be assumed to be ‘fixed’, 3. some drivers bring much more money than talent which undermines the sport’s value of the highly qualified young driver, 4. in any reasonable world a man like Ecclestone would be in jail; watching him blithely work the pre-race paddock stroll is “disgusting”.
    For much of last season and all of this one I’ve wondered if we are the only canaries in the F1 mine, but recently big media is addressing these issues. A few days ago this piece by John Burns (noted U.K. foreign correspondent and really smart guy) was published in The New York Times.
    From the article:
    “If Caterham and Marussia are to be saved, new investors will have to accept the challenge that has defeated the current owners: balancing the books in a sport where the lion’s share of the $1.5 billion in annual revenues is paid to outside investors led by London-based CVC Capital Partners. The firm has no long-term history in Formula One and a record, since gaining control in 2006, of absorbing billions in earnings while investing little in the sport.
    What remains of the sport’s profits are divided up among the race teams on terms set by Bernie Ecclestone, 84, who has recently resumed the commercial control that has made him the sport’s plenipotentiary since the 1970s.
    Ecclestone’s own wealth, a multibillion-dollar fortune built from a wheeler-dealer career in Formula One, was thrown into stark relief by his agreement to settle a long-running case of bribery in a German court this summer with a $100 million payment to the Bavarian authorities.”

    • Great post Lulu!
      I have long suspected a great deal of ‘fixing’ goes on in the sport …. and yes, I am too slowly losing interest because, as an avid ‘hard-core’ fan (and to a small extent actively involved for over 25 years) of F1, I feel I am being taken for a fool by those that run it because it is now by its own admission ‘entertainment’ … whose definition smacks of fixing and collusion rather than a true competitive championship.
      The last straw for me was the laughable and stupidly engineered ‘fallingl out” between Hamilton and Rosberg a few weeks ago, engineered in a rather amateur way by the Mercedes team for their own purposes. But the world was wholly taken it by it.
      Pity, but let’s be clear … F1 can do without fans like me, and maybe you – the ones who aren’t taken in by the obvious play acting that goes on, so we shouldn’t be under any illusion that much will change. The modern fan views the spectacle very differently from how we did in the past … you only have to look at the comments section underneath any GP report to see that.
      And before I am accused (with some justification) of being a grumpy old codger, I shall say goodnight! 🙂

      • Peter,
        I’m waiting for the F1 car sponsored by MONEY RULES. (for a little truth in sponsorship)

        At a recent NASCAR event (I hesitate calling those displays “races”) two of the participants got into a post-race brawl. Slugs were thrown, lips were bloodied, and, though the organizers gave them a mild tut tut, there was no actual discouragement because brawls sell Bud Lite and Chevrolets. Recently an article in the auto press analyzed this evolution of driver as gladiator and how it’s manifesting itself as a real crowd-pleaser. Perhaps we’ll soon see Massa vs Bottas in a little cage fighting. Wouldn’t that be fun?

      • I seem to remember when Hamilton was new into formula 1 he was being penalised left right and centre for his aggressive overtaking in a period of time when racing had been moving towards pedestrian start to finish single file processions. Following Hamilton’s treatment other drivers began to be penalised here and their not to make it seem like single driver targeting.

        I probably haven’t remembered it clearly and probable had a Hamilton bias (English media bias) – but that’s how it appeared at the time – results and championships determined by stewards decisions rather than out and out aggressive racing.

      • And this years Former One season will be decided by a wacky racing double or quits finale at Abu Dhabi.

        I think this season highlights there needs to be a greater points difference between first and second place.

    • How much goes into Bernie’s pocket? Those girls never worked a day in their lives but yet can afford 100 million dollar estates….and then renovate them. LOL Horrible

  3. On the subject of trashy tabloids, I have spent all week tracking the inaccurate Mail Online story quoting
    Gary on Michael Schumacher (which has been lifted without permission from this site) spread round the world. Last night it had reached Australia. I have tracked similar stories from Bild and RTL. For reasons which are far from clear to me they usually start on Sundays……

    I notice though that the Schumachers are quick to step in when they wish to stop a story. They came down very hard and quickly when Jean-Louis Moncet, a well-known French journalist appeared to quote an ‘off the record’ conversation with Mick Schumacher, Michael’s 15-year old son..

    The fact that more and more stories in trashy tabloids are mentioning how poor Michael’s recovery chances are suggests to me that the Schumachers could have been playing with words in their carefully worded statements. One aspect which is rather troubling is the rebuilding story – according to some accounts Michael is in the main part of the house rather than a new medical wing which means that no actual rebuilding has been necessary to accommodate him but it hardly inspires confidence in the accuracy of their statements.

    See information below which was tagged onto most recent statement when Michael moved.home in early Sept.

    “The following information is to be considered as background information only:
    – It should not be assumed that massive changes in his health status were the reasons for this move
    – There has not been any rebuilding on the private property to make this move possible.”

    • ı totally agree with you..unfortunately when it comes to bad news ,the schumacher side never takes action immediately..when it comes to good news they always deny..and legal represantatives denied the hospital building wing and someone who wants to replace legal represantatives made news on the tabloids there is hospital building and he is connected machines or other stuff..why would ı believe the news.there is a legal representation in one side and there is only one WHO wants to deny legal representation and Show themself on the is unfurtonately disgusting.bilateral media management hurts all of us.this is schumacher’s mistake.

      • Michael Schumacher now has a team of 15 medical experts treating him at a special clinic built in the grounds of his mansion home, in Switzerland.

        The tailored medical facilities also house a room for the driver’s father – who has moved from Germany to be close to his son.””

        the above quoted from a recent article

    • I saw a picture on the internet of the Schumacher compound. There is a building away from the main house that was mentioned as the facility that was built for MS. Also, a home was being built or was built for his father to be near him. According to what I read, MS is not rehabbing at the main house. Which I think is a good idea. It’s tough having that scenario around 24/7. If you’ve experienced it, you know you need to get away from it …..

      • I’ve seen the same photo in Mail Online Mimi with the new building helpfully labelled in top left corner. I agree – perfectly sensible and logical but why, why do the Schumachers then need to pretend that no building work has taken place to accommodate Michael? They are pretending that this building is for his father. I don’t care one way or other – it’s the disinformation I hate.

      • Isn’t this getting boring? I mean, the tragedy and sadness of it are still real, especially for his family. But given the family’s rather extreme efforts to prevent Michael’s fans from knowing anything, I think it might be time to get the message, and leave this alone.

        If tabloid papers and other media sources feel the need to resurrect my words in ever-changing patterns and circumstances, so be it.

        We’re almost a year from the injury. However Michael is now, is, with near-certainty, how he will be until his death. Now any given reader may not like that, or he or she may not like that I say it, but that’s that person’s problem, not mine. Severely head injured patients rarely evolve favourably after one year.

        As I said, I’ve discussed the medical principles behind the acute phase of Michael’s injury. I’ve discussed some of the prognostic elements and statistics. The family clearly would be happier if his fans forgot he ever existed, or perhaps that they disappear entirely (they are, after all so disrespectful, all that talking about comas and minimally conscious states! The rabble! What do those sweaty heathens, dressed in Michael caps and Michael shirts deserve? DESERVE? Nothing at all!) Enough’s enough. I’m just not interested anymore. Let’s move on. And give the Schuey’s what they so fervently desire.

      • Amen to that!
        I am saddened that I spent so many years following Michael’s career, only to be let down by his families’ handling of the aftermath of his accident.
        I thought (and wrote) that maybe I was being unreasonable to expect some semblance of the truth from his agent at least (Corinna and others had better things to do) but now, in the light of how the Bianchi family have dealt with their son’s situation, they having been good enough to share the occasional glimpse of their anguish (anguish we all share) with his fans, I see it CAN be done differently without impinging on the grief and dignity of anyone.
        I have a pretty good idea of who is responsible for the wall of silence and it ain’t Corinna and it ain’t Sabine … but then there ain’t nothing we can do to change things.

      • ı really dont want to say something.first they said the bulding is for rolf schumacher then it is rumoured it is a hospital building..if they want fans forget Michael some of them should not be on the tabloids..and as ı know a couple of things they are aware of the press when they will press stories..ı dont like it and ı really dont wanna read any pity stories on the tabloids..ıt is unfair for fans also for Michael himself..

    • Just thanks Gary – and sorry for all the mindless abuse you get on twitter every time your words get distorted. Maybe I’m getting too old but I do feel that ability of some people to use their brains to search for truth beyond simplistic PR rubbish is in sad decline.

      • That readers attempt to minimise effort is pretty normal, I guess. That people who call themselves “journalists” work like that totally staggers me.

        My issue is actually more philosophical than practical. The Schumacher family has asked people to not speculate, write, speak, about the fall and its consequences. On the surface, it appears to be a reasonable request. After all, the tragedy is a personal one, and should no more be subject to public discussion than the case of any other, anonymous, patient with a severe head injury.

        But suppose Corinna had said “While Michael is recovering, we’d like to ask the public to refrain from talking about Bashar al Assad and the civil war in Syria. It upset him terribly, and we don’t want negative energy hampering his recovery”.

        My point is that private citizens CANNOT expect to muzzle other private citizens for personal convenience. That is one of the fundamental aspects of our society – the freedom to discuss things as long as truth is not disguised and the intent is not to harm. To even ASK people to not talk about something is either the summit of hubris, or an almost delusional failure to understand how speech and communications work in our society. In the case of the Schumacher family, it’s no doubt both, with a dose of disdain thrown in for good measure.

        With that as a starting point, to go on and to hear idiots (and they ARE idiots, by definition) accusing me of disrespect for the Schumachers is just too much. And so while I should just ignore the morons (I rather pity their devotion to people who clearly don’t give a shit about them, now that they are no longer contributing to the immense wealth THEY created for the family!), I sometimes find it so frustrating that they fail to actually understand the issues.

      • Gary,
        These recent Schumacher-related posts take me back to your blog’s Glory Days of Wacky (pre-moderated) when to even suggest that maybe there’s a reason the rock-strewn portion of a ski slope is marked ‘off-piste’ brought on an attack from the crazed pitchfork brigade! Social media introduces us to a whole other world of emotionally damaged humans. It’s sad and not a little creepy to think that so many people who can manage to type a sentence on a keyboard have so little understanding of themselves or the world they live in.

        As for Schumacher family itself, I can only think that Michael had assumed some deity-like stature that Corrina are feverishly trying to maintain to the public. Some wise voice on this blog called their response to his injuries “shame”, and I see that. I’ve wondered if there might be a tremendous anger within his close family circle because he did bring his demise on himself. It’s too bad for them, but there are a lot of things in the world that are too bad.

        I haven’t read these tweets-to-Gary, but I doubt there’s a lot of great literature there. I have observed the effect of addiction and the destabilized mind. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, celebrity brings with it an unhinging of rationality. Conversation ceases and is replaced by wild anger protecting his/her addiction.
        On a personal note, I’ve experienced this with a close friend addicted to pharmaceuticals. Eventually, all one can do is step away.

        The fact is [‘fact’ being my favorite F word], your blog attracts some really smart, thoughtful people for whom learning about and understanding a situation is deeply important. I do truly appreciate it.

      • Gary, yes it’s time to let it go. But sometimes curiosity gets the best of us. It could all be settled once and for all if the truth could really be known.

  4. ı know it is irrelevant to the subject which has been spoken here for long time..when there is no concrete facts but only gossips on the tabloids about one matter , ı really dont believe that matter is the truth..ı am a natural septic ı dont trust people ı dont trust internet news ,especially ı dont trust tabloid news..nowadays whoever wants to Show off on the press they always use tabloids.ıt is disgraceful…and when there is incredible contradiction on a matter , ı really dont believe whatever goes on the news about that . ı esteemed highly that guy but now when ı look at the news ı only pity on him..he never deserved that news he never deserved having news on the tabloids..ı hate is all but gossips..the people WHO is in charge with legal represantation never speaks..once legal represantatives deny the news ,after a while the other part of the story creating speculation or using unnamed friends to prove themself or just deny the legal represantatives.and why would ı believe this story is a whole pure truth..why would ı believe gossips why would ı believe people WHO always wants to advertise on the press how much Money they spend is useless and it is sad..ı know ı cant use english in the best way but at least ı try to say something that makes me sad.noone deserves such behaviours..neither fans deserve nor that guy deserves..bitter truth about the sad..and as long as ı read the news on the tabloids ım gonna feel the same way…nowadays someones is more important than the person of interest..someone likes to surpass him but ı will never admit this and ı will always oppose this..

      • What kind of behavior? Not defending the press but because of the lack of information provided to them and the public they and everyone else are left to surmise.
        C’mon, no pictures, no updates so obviously the family is hiding him or something. What do you expect the press to do.
        It’s ok for the press to print when everything is peachy? But now when it’s not it’s not OK?
        I think some of you are being unfair.

    • Hi, Mimi. Thank you for your patronizing comment, that’s usually what changes my opinion on things…
      I have no false hopes or fantasies. I just want to see evidence for what some poeple here say. From what has been officially stated, Michael could be conscious or minimally conscious, both really could be the case. I just don’t claim to know sth that I don’t know. And neither does anyone here.

  5. On a separate note – having read PeterKirchems comment regarding the state of the business of F1. My view is that when we are told to think global (act local etc), when we have global issues to deal with (economics, climate change, sustainable development, ethics etc) – is it not about time global sporting bodies are brought to account and not allowed to run roughshod over global issues. I am thinking of FIFA, Formula One, The IOC. I think the IOC have cleaned up their shop to some extent … but FIFA and others have a long way to go.

    • But that’s precisely the problem. They are just that – global sporting bodies! Who is the world is going to bring them into line.
      They are run by the commercial equivalent of despots – men with no scruples other than ones that suit their own purposes who surround themselves with Yes-men and acolytes with vicious haircuts and go-faster sunglasses!
      The additional problem with F1 is that it is owned by CVC Capital Partners. Go take a look at their website and you will see EXACTLY why F1 is in such a mess.
      But hang on …. they’re actually NOT in a mess at all! They’re doing very well nicely … for CVC and their partners! They’re making a huge profits and paying dividends to their investors …. just not to the people WE the fans do actually care about (the likes of Caterham and Marussia, and HRT … and , and and…) but to Mercedes and Ferrari and that ilk. The ones who could afford to run in F1 without a dime of sponsorship and hand outs whatsoever.
      I enjoyed watching Marussia and Caterham race. They employ drivers that empathise with their fans, are loyal to their teams and get on and do their job without complaining. Damn you CVC and your capitalist partners for taking them away from me!

      • Peterkirchem

        Must disagree, if every businessman or woman who developed a product or brand, took it to market, carried a payroll, FAILED, and then expected a payout from his competition, well that would be a sorry state. Business is business and not F1 nor any business would be as innvoative in the presence of revenue sharing, cost caps, et al.

        I read about a man who worked fiercely to develop an innovative metering system, took it to market, Hell, the guy bootstrapped a business. Seriously doubt this guy would be intereted in financing my entry nor cushion my fall and I would never refer to this bright, risk taker as a despot.

        Under capped firms fail, Everywhere, everyday. FIA & F1 might want to take a look at the capitalization of the teams and make sure they have a big enough boat for a storm,,,or three or four or five is cheaper than two. Trust their is agreement on that one point.



      • Developed a Metering System!! Heck that’s what I do!! Do we know each other? 🙂
        The notion of running a business as a business is one I wholeheartedly agree with. I also agree that some sort of stress test on ANY business is a fundamental responsibility of its bankers and lenders. But it just doesn’t happen, though the criteria, at least on the lending side, has become more stringent since the last downturn.
        But in F1 – leaving aside the egos, crooks and chancers that pervade the sport (and I don’t write that simply to insult the people that permeate the sport at the highest levels, but if you Google some of team leaders, owners and personnel from the top down, you would be absolutely staggered what clear evidence of criminality you would find in their Non F1 past) – you have a problem we don’t normally find in mainstream business.
        That is the goalposts are constantly changing. Marussia, Lotus, Caterham and others (HRT for instance) came into the sport under the impression they were going to sign up a sport with cost-capping. Why? Because that was written into the charter by those that run the sport. They were going to spend about £40 million, they came in with that knowledge and (more or less) the funds to do so. We know what happened …. the rules got changed, without real consultation or for that matter logic (both important aspects of running a business) and they were buggered through no real fault of their own.
        The other thing is the apportionment of revenue throughout the teams. The Concorde Agreement. It is simply unfair. Mercedes Group turnover in 2013 was 118 Billion Euros … Fiat Revenue in 2013 83 Billion Euros …. Red Bull etc … I won’t bore you with any more figures, but these HUGE companies get the lions share of the revenues, whilst the smaller teams, already hugely disadvantaged by the said goalpost moving, get a relative pittance and that at the END of the season (let’s remember business is all about cash-flow) and the guy who comes last (but puts on a pretty good showing) get damn’all!
        You could argue (of course with some justification) that if the smaller teams can’t take the financial heat, they should stay out etc …. but to come into the sport under one set of rules, only to have those rules changed wholly and without compromise to your disadvantage and that without proper consultation would make anyone cry foul.
        My view is that if a team manages to get through the first 2 years in F1 … they should get a decent slice of the Concorde cake to help them move forward and stay in business and F1 would get back to being the world class show it used to be!
        But hey … what do I know. I just do metering systems! 🙂

  6. Marussia (Bianchi’s team) & Caterham in administration. Force India considering boycotting the Texas Grand Prix as the smaller teams are being forced out of Formula 1 due to costs and not enough income. Suggestions that larger teams may run a third car for 2015 …

      • A simple honest statement from the Schumachers would be so useful both for the fans and the Bianchis now. Something like ‘Michael is very slowly emerging from his minimally conscious state and we all hope that he will be fully conscious soon. We know that there is now very little chance of functional recovery but we are very grateful that Michael is still alive and we would like to thank everyone for their continuing support. We will of course let everyone know if there is any good news.’

      • I have to say the Doc Hartstein predicted things more or less spot on from the beginning regarding Schumacher. I suppose it reveals the importance of experience and statistics.

      • This has been the thing that has amazed me more than just about anything over the past 12 months. The yawning chasm that has existed between the likes of Gary and other specialists who know their stuff who, almost from day 1 have said the likelihood of Schumacher recovering to any extent from his injuries as almost zero, and the Press and so many members of the public who have indicated that a miracle is more than likely because “Schumacher is Schumacher” and that we can all expect him to be ambling around the paddock sometime in the near future.
        Even today (Sunday) there is an article in the Mail in which people comment in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary to the effect that ‘don’t worry, “Schuey” will be back just as he was, inferring that this is just another race for him to win!
        Oh, and another aspect of the early part of the story was the “speed” at which Schumacher was skiing. I saw reports of him “doing 100kph”, some doing 70 kph …. once again extraordinary, as if every aspect of his life was done at high speed just because he was a racing driver.
        It is really a form of naiveté which amazes and rather appalls me.

      • Talking about updates….I just read three little articles about the current status of MS. Doesn’t sound very promising.
        The effort being put into keeping everything so private, like confiscating cell phones etc. of caregivers, means to me there is something they don’t want anyone to see.
        Btw, Gary is quoted in one of the articles….

      • I have basically one question: What are you people talking about?

        @Jane How would an update on Michael help the Bianchis? These are two completely different head injuries and now in two different stages. If there is any way the Schumachers can help the Bianchis and they wish to, they’ll probably do it without the world knowing.

        @peterkirchem “In face of overwhelming evidence”? What evidence? Please, do show me evidence! Oh, but there is no evidence. A yellow piece of trash in the dailymail is not evidence. A statistic based on Gary’s speculation about a minimally conscious state IS NOT evidence. You are surprised that people who know nothing about Michael (Gary, other experts and the media) have a difference in opinion? I don’t know, maybe it’s because they know NOTHING about Michael’s condition. There’s a chance it could be that.

        @peter “I have to say the Doc Hartstein predicted things more or less spot on from the beginning regarding Schumacher.” You all seem to have access to sth that I don’t. More or less spot on? MORE or LESS??? So you know what spot on would be? Please, tell us, let us know what is you know!

        @Astro No one mentioned a full recovery. I can only guess you mean Todt and Payen. They don’t mention a full recovery. What they said (in French) can be looked up.

        Gary, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to offend you by saying that you know nothing about Michael’s condition, it’s just that that’s the truth. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s not meant to offend.

      • There is only one more thing that I would like to add to this. If the Schumachers have contacted the Bianchis privately – fine, provided they have been totally honest. But if the Bianchis are hanging onto false hope based on false information about potential recovery for Michael fueled by lies and misunderstanding then I think it is cruel beyond measure.

        Jules’ injury is admittedly totally different but is medically quite likely worse (see Gary’s earlier posts this year on the prospects for someone in an unsedated coma approximately the same time after injury as Jules is now) At the beginning of this year I knew virtually nothing about recovery from prolonged disorders of consciousness, like most people on this site. I have spent a lot of time this year reading medical papers which back Gary up entirely. Optimism is one thing but reality is another …..

  7. Terms of art or science? Off topic.

    I have recently read that Jules is “critical but stable” and that Michael may “fully recover”. In my mind this is the equal to a psychiatrist deeming a patient “insane” as a clinical matter.

    Do these pronouncements have any foundation in a clinical setting? Are they really the status or prognosis from a physician? If they are, is this testimony beneficial to the patient, the family, the friends and yes, the fans and the medical professional. Finally, what does it mean; “critical but stable” and “full recovery”?

    Thanks Doc.

    COTA & Gene, America still dreams big. Let the show begin.

  8. Terms of art or science? Off topic.

    I have recently read that Jules is “critical but stable” and that Michael may “fully recover”. In my mind this is the equal to a psychiatrist deeming a patient “insane” as a clinical matter.

    Do these pronouncements have any foundation in a clinical setting? Are they really the status or prognosis from a physician? If they are, is this testimony beneficial to the patient, the family, the friends and yes, the fans and the medical professional. Finally, what does it mean; “critical but stable” md “full recovery”?

    Thanks Doc.

    COTA & Gene, America still dreams big. Let the show begin.

    • Critical but stable indeed has some foundation in clinical reality. Alas . . .

      An easy way to put this together is to consider the word “critical” to mean that the patient depends on external support for one VITAL system, or more than one less critical system. Stable means that those needs are neither increasing nor decreasing.

      In Jules’ case, this with no doubt means that he depends on a respirator (a vital system) to breathe.

      In other patients, this could mean, for example, requiring dialysis for acute renal failure AND requiring transfusion support for anemia, or low platelets, or low white cells.

      As to Michael’s “full recovery”, most experts on prolonged disorders of consciousness are in agreement that patient status at one year post injury is (unfortunately) an extremely reliable predictor of future status. Insistence on the “full recovery thing is either delusional, intentionally misleading, or based on facts that have been scrupulously hidden from the public.

      Hope this helps.

      • It is what it is with MS. The guy is done as we have known him. Those who believe he is “coming back” obviously have not researched his brain injury.
        Give up, folks. There is no miracle coming. Miracles exist in your mind only. There is no concrete evidence of what he is like right now and if there were it probably would scare the beejeesus out of most of us.

  9. Sticking to the topic at hand, the doctor brings up several good points. With regards to the remote speed limiter idea, it sounds great on the face of it. However, that’s not taking into account the dynamics involved. Deceleration of a car creates a shift in balance from the rear to the front. In other words, weight will be taken off the rear of the car and transferred to the front, the end result being that the rear tires will lose a certain amount of grip while the fronts will gain grip. This is why, at racing schools, we tell you not to brake or lift off the power in a corner, as it will likely precipitate a spin. We use this phenomenon to control a car’s cornering attitude in a four wheel drift when all four tires have exceeded their cornering limits. A slight lift will step the rear end out and tuck the car into the corner. When it’s pointing in the direction you want it, you get your foot down again to increase the load on the rear again and set it. The idea of some official sitting in race control with the power to remotely decelerate my car, necessarily affecting its dynamic balance is terrifying, and frankly I would refuse to race a car in those circumstances. A badly timed push of the button is going to send a car pirouetting off the track with an unpleasantly surprised driver along for the ride!

    The second point, is that this phenomenon of snatch vehicles is a relatively new thing. It used to be that disabled cars were left in place unless they were judged to be in a dangerous position. The whole point of the advent of the safety car was to allow for the removal of dangerously located cars without the need to red flag the race. Given the choice, as a driver, I would much rather take my chances hitting a similar, disabled car than a bloody great tractor! I recall testing days in years gone by when I, in a single seater, shared the track with touring or GT cars, and I absolutely hated it, because as I sat eye level with their bumpers, I knew that a coming together would have much more dire consequences for me than them.

    The fundamental point that needs to be remembered is that Bianchi hit a tractor, and THAT is what caused his grievous injuries. Should the race have been run earlier…or later…or the next day…or the next month? Maybe. But the same exact circumstance may have presented itself, wet or dry. Should Bianchi have slowed more? Perhaps. Would that have made a difference? Maybe. But bear in mind, in slowing down, you lose downforce, at which point you’re driving a car that is over sprung, which on a wet track is exactly what you don’t want. The fact is, he hit a tractor. If he had hit Sutil’s car, hit the barriers, buried himself in the gravel, hell, even somersaulted over the barriers, chances are, he’d be worrying about next season’s drive rather than fighting for his life.

    If any vehicle other than a racing car needs to be trackside, it should be done under a safety car or a red flag, period!

  10. What a dignified, friendly and illuminating update from the Bianchi family.
    The Schumachers simply handled it, and continue to handle it wrong.

    • I agree Peter and yet I am sure that the fact that Schumacher is still alive is inspiring them to continue to fight against all the odds..

    • The Bianchi’s know that fans are everything. Celebrities need to know that once they step into that limelight they give up a lot of their privacy. Surprised the Schumachers never learned that.

      • I almost have the impression that Mr. and Mrs. Bianchi realise intuitively that in situations like this, all lovers of the sport become fellow humans, able to throw their energy and good will into the fight . . . for what it’s worth. It’s their humanity that shines through their words, and it’s at a human level that we react.

  11. Thanks to Peter’s inspiration I have spent the last few days inventing a new family-friendly subcategory of motor racing which is both spectacular and useful. It has plenty of crashes to keep everyone happy but no humans are involved and so no-one gets hurt. It even generates useful data to help with road safety.
    1. All normal sized F1 cars are remote controlled and driven by robots. Drivers sit in a safe enclosure well away from the track entertaining the crowds whilst controlling the cars.
    2. The robots wear helmets and full monitoring gear so that head injuries and other injuries can be simulated. In this way any crash data can be analysed to help with real-world safety.
    3. All marshalls are also robots.
    4. Hazards are welcome as no-one can get hurt. Cars can crash into cranes/marshalls in pit lanes or even pedestrians crossing the track but as all are robots this will be fun to watch for all the family.
    5. It will totally eliminate the need for overpaid, spoilt, childish drivers so the engineers will be the heroes.

    • Gary’s original safety topic seems to have been somewhat left behind – I apologise for the part I have played in that, probably in part caused by the events at Marussia and Caterham in the meantime and in part by the fact that our (certainly my!) specialist knowledge on the topic and thus ability to comments coherently is probably rather limited.
      I have however a point to raise and ask whether someone would care to comment.
      Running a business, whether a company selling Widgets or running a Formula 1 team is all about cash-flow. Day to day funds to pay the day to days bills. Salaries, parts, repairs, testing etc.
      Why then do the teams have to wait til the END of the season to get the enormous bonuses that seems to exist in payouts from Bernie Ecclestone’s organisation – F1M?
      I understand that Marussia are in line to get a payout of (is it?) $40 million which would go a long way to resolve their present problems, but the teams need the money now and not in November or December when everyone has gone home … which brings me to the next point which is, why do the teams last in the championship get NO money at all from the bonus pool?
      I would have thought that especially these days, those plucky enough to fight on against all the odds should be rewarded the most.
      Mercedes, Ferrari don’t need the money as much as the back markers and it strikes me that if the apportionment of prize and bonus money were a little fairer, and in these hard times maybe even weighted a little more towards the back of the grid, Formula 1 would still be in the business of entertaining its fans, instead of the cringe-worthy antics we are having to suffer at the moment.
      Running up losses of £20 million here (WIlliams) “Many millions” there (Lotus) … and with Peter Sauber clearly in difficulties too since UBS left … as Max Moseley says, just cannot be the way forward.
      Last point … why does F1 continue to shoot itself further in the foot by allowing all these shady characters – Bulgarian footballers, dodgy Swiss Arab investment companies that slope off into the night when the going gets tough, sheikhs and fakirs by the dozen, here today, gone tomorrow – into the fold? I am sure (indeed I know for a fact!) there are reputable people trying to get into the game, but they are being put off by the Del Boy (sorry Americans, you’ll just have to Google that one) characters that litter the sport!
      Maybe Gene Haas maybe will help lead the way back … who knows. He’s making a pretty solid impression so far!

      • Bernie and his daughters make me sick. I am so tired of them flaunting their money on 100 million dollar mansions, parading around hot spots half naked, make that 99% naked with their money grabber husbands/boyfriends etc. etc. The Italian was bad this guy, IMO, is worse.

      • I’m mercifully insulated (I assume by the mix of media I absorb) from their antics. Rather clear that that’s a whole ‘nother world out there, a world where the usual standards of decorum and propriety would appear not to hold. Happy never to have been part of that!

  12. I know this is going to sound sexist because it is: WOMEN SHOULD RUN FORMULA 1 (for the good of everyone). Move over Mr. Todt!
    1. There is a place for brooms: get out there and sweep up after a crash. Good housekeeping counts for a lot.
    2. Be certain the track is safe for the drivers, course marshalls, and others (everyone is someone’s child) by not running races when there is standing water. If you have to wear your Wellies then it’s too damned wet. Use your heads!
    3. When you’ve hired people because they are as fast and as ruthless as they can get away with, respect that. Don’t start tut-tutting because someone got out of line. Expect it. (Just be certain you’ve prepared a safe sandbox by adhering to Rules #1 and #2)
    4. Don’t whine. No-one wants to listen to a whining child and I’m afraid there are a few too many in the sport right now. Man-up guys.
    5. Everyone: Be polite. Drivers: Don’t complain about your fellow drivers. There are 22 of you which is a statistical anomaly in a world of 6 billion people. You share more than most spouses. Keep your gobs shut and show a little grace.
    6. Be happy. Be grateful. Don’t take candy from strangers.

  13. You need to only look as far as America for the solution to your issue …. They do full coarse yellows (pace car to those across the big pond) to remove crashed cars or dangerous debris. It is an interruption but it minimizes injury and death to the drivers and corner workers.

    • Difference there the nature of tracks in the US is 95% oval so recovery vehicles are well placed to get in/out fast thus limiting the duration of the yellow. Watching a recent NASCAR race, it was easy for them to stop all cars at turn 4 while the front straight is cleared before resuming the race. For similar procedures to take place in F1, you would require lengthy pace car periods, although with the new “standing start” procedures that could be tweaked to accommodate clean ups.

      • Somewhat ignorant question, but what do they do on Non oval tracks (Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca etc)? Full course yellows still? Or what? Seems to me full course yellows IS still a great idea.

  14. I have read a number of comments across different media from personnel involved in F1 (past and present) regarding their thoughts on recovery safety, many of whom say they’ve been talking about it for years. That got me thinking, has it actually been an official FIA or F1 focus prior to this? So much effort has been put to good use increasing car/driver/track safety over the years that it seems strange that nothing has changed in the way cars are removed. In fact, the last real changes made in this area have been that cars are actually removed now where before they were left unless in a high risk spot.

    Given comments by certain drivers (current and ex) about how they deal with yellow zone speed limits, my concern is that too much focus is going to be on making sure the drivers slow down enough (enter the “remote” limit) and not enough on looking at alternatives to mobile cranes more suited to a construction site. Having someone in race control push “zone 5 limit” button as a driver in that zone is overtaking a back marker while negotiating a corner in changing conditions could just as easily cause another incident.

  15. It’s quite surprising how with the present recovery vehicles the marshals have to spend time to balance the car, run by its side and guide the recovery vehicle driver backwards. Surely a smaller recovery vehicle can be designed – it would have side protectors and a race car can be easily lifted onto it by a simple “clamp – on” system mentioned above. Surely it can’t be THAT complicated knowing that FIA can dedicate a lot of resources for the sake of safety. We don’t need recovery vehicles that are designed to lift much higher loads for construction businesses.

    Alternatively the driver should sit in the survival cell after signalling that he / she’s OK and the car can get clamped and pulled back into the safety recovery gap between the barriers. Of course there could be different measures taken according to where the crashed car stops in the bend, the condition of the car, the speed in that area, whether its outside the racing line or not, etc etc

  16. Peter,

    You say “Formula 1 has gone feral … the people who run it, the teams, the FIA to allow it to go on in its present form.”
    I agree. Here in the U.S. we get to read that Bernie’s daughters are the ‘new young billionaires’ as they swan around the globe snatching up $100,000,000 estates.
    Their billion$ (for which they did nothing) spread amongst the teams (who are actually contributing something to the sport) seems fair.

    The corruption in Formula 1 is killing it.

    • … and you Lulu, and F1 fans in general, are about to be robbed of 2 colourful teams, integral to the action even if they make up the numbers, in your home GP in Austin.
      Why? Because the teams in question (Caterham and Marussia) ‘can’t afford’ to go there and race.
      Their drivers (no names, no pack drill, but one of whom I am reasonably well acquainted with) have their season, and possibly their careers suspended or terminated through no fault of their own, their long suffering employees told to sod off home til matters improve and some other rich fool has been duped … sorry, brought about aboard with a load of meaningless promises, whilst the grotesque merry-go-round of champagne swilling fakirs and chancers at the front continue to swan around the world in Private Jets and stay at swanky hotels.
      And I see the latest wheeze to for the big teams to lend the small teams a ‘third’ car. Am I dreaming? …. is it April Fools Day? … have Pigs finally learn to hoist themselves aloft? Imagine that in any other sport … oh, other than maybe Football or Darts!
      We’re going to lend you a car … it’s an XXX but you can pretend its one of yours … a YYY. No one will notice … and if they do we’ll just tell them they’re wrong!! Hilarious! Do hey take us for fool …. oh! Silly me!

    • Lulu, I totally agree and it’s sad. But again, their is corruption in many sports. It’s up to those at the top to remedy it. Problem with F1 is that it is very mainstream and consequently it is put out there for all to see.

  17. as someone who has been marshalling and involved in rescue and exrication for this my 30th year a simple addition to post equipment. A rope. as his car was next to a gap the rope would be attached to the car then the vehilcle which is still in the gap, the vehicle reverses and pulls car into gap like trap door spider. we used to use cranes (birmingham super prix), the unimog is a tall vehicle also the jib would have to get over the high fencing,

    • Totally agree that we should be equipped and have policies that ensure that default response need not necessarily involve people off the bank. And any and all efforts must be made to ensure retrieval, when necessary, doesn’t require anything or anyone out of position.

  18. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we do away with the racing cars. No, I mean it! Have the drivers run round the circuit for a couple of hours. Just think … No Marshalls to kill (we could have pretty nurses located strategically round the perimeter waving multi coloured flags .. Just for fun) No “Farm equipment” to head butt… Instead they could put old bicycles decorated with pretty flowers around the circuit, a little like they did here in Surrey during the Olympic Games … And the drivers could even use them when they get tired.
    We could also make it more exciting by giving the drivers a huge sign with BLAME ME written in it, that they have to pass around til the music stops, a bit like musical chairs, and the driver left holding the sign gets pointed at by all the others for 5 seconds, then has to burst into tears and ‘retire’. The spectators could join in, pointing and shouting LOOOOSER aggressively at Silverstone or Las Vegas, or PERDANT at Spa and الخاسر at Abu Dhabi!
    Honestly, I can’t believe what I’m reading these days in F1. The upshot of a freak accident in Japan, the Caterham debacle, teams who can’t afford to race being let off doing so, everyone blaming someone for everything. I’m off to watch MOTO GP … They even might have a girl racing soon too apparently!

    • I’ve just read that Marussia applied to the High Court to go into Administration with losses of £140.6 MILLION pounds.
      Just say that slowly … One..hundred …and…forty … six… MILLION pounds! That’s huge … absolutely massive amounts of money they haven’t paid people!
      They owe that one assumes to suppliers (I used to supply Tyrrell with stuff years back …. I got paid by the back room boys when I delivered and if they weren’t there I remember an occasion when the book keeper dropped off a cheque on his way home, so keen were they to keep on good terms with their suppliers!) the Revenue and the F1 authorities.
      Who in their right mind supplies an F1 team these days, unless they are a registered charity who don’t need to be paid or seem to think there is some sort of perverted kudos involved in being owed millions by a F1 team!
      No, Formula 1 has gone feral … the people who run it, the teams, the FIA to allow it to go on in its present form.
      Some sort of fiscal regulator needs to step in and take a look … it smells to me of thuggery. Of fraud and malpractice on a grand scale.

    • This is such a fantastic post Peter. I saw an item on the future of racing on BBC a couple of weeks ago – it’s school kids in electric cars and guess what – lots of girls were involved in building them and so it was getting girls into engineering! Or we can have big electric remote controlled cars with spectacular crashes but the most wonderful thing is that the drivers will be robots so no-one can possibly get hurt.

      If you want a bit of glamour and excitement try mountain climbing (not skiing!) or high tightrope walking. It certainly won’t be found in F1. A few years ago I saw a fantastic Jeremy Clarkson programme called ‘Speed’ in which he identified the 10% of extreme risk takers who had to risk death to get the adrenalin buzz. They are the ones who have to look for unregulated sports now that most sports are so safe.

      I do feel that the fact that Jean Todt is so close to Schumacher and his son, Nicolas Todt manages Bianchi will have a large effect on F1 next year making it even more boring to watch than this year.

      • The 2 most sensible and down to earth statements I’ve seen come out of F1 in the past 12 months are the statements from the Administrators (or Receivers as we used to call them in the old days) of both Marussia and Caterham.
        Basically they are saying “with the money to pay suppliers and staff we’ll carry on …. without, we won’t”
        The people that run both teams must be stunned …. a lesson in good business practise …. OMG! we can’t be doing with that!

      • Brilliant Jane!!! You have just provided a glimpse into the future of F1 as well as a raison d’être for ‘driverless’ cars (why you would want a car driving itself around is quite beyond me, but hey …!)
        But image … driverless F1 cars!
        The drivers could all sit in a little box somewhere twiddling controls (after all, that’s all they do these days anyway), making hilarious comments over the loudspeakers as they twiddle … and the cars could roar round a track empty!
        Audi have just had a car go 140mph round a test track … a few more buttons on the controls and they could probably go a lot faster. They crash … who cares? No one gets injured … do away with inflated drivers salaries but keep the Constructors Championship. Even I’d go and watch that!! 🙂

  19. I’m afraid I disagree with your starting point, Gary, though not with all of your conclusions. It would be quite simple to program into the car’s systems or require in the specifications for the ECUs that they have a mode that is automatically triggered by double-waved yellows status (already information displayed on the steering wheels) that retards the accelerator to a specific percentage of full throttle, as a maximum accepted input level, at whatever is deemed a safe rate of deceleration. The latter rate could either be a fixed value for all conditions, or – through the use of the rain light – you could program different rates for wet and dry conditions. This would (a) slow the cars at a safe rate rather than the sudden deceleration experienced using the pitlane speed limiter, and (b) not take total control, simply limit the maximum acceptable speed while in the double-yellow zone. The driver would still be able to brake to a slower speed than the mandated maximum, eg if he needed to do so in order to take a corner; this simply restricts the maximum speed to an acceptable value, while dictating that the rate of change from current speed (on entry to the double yellow zone) is also at what is considered a safe zone. It would not be difficult to implement .such a system at all.

    • Don’t get me wrong – I agree that any number of attack and decay modes could be programmed, based on any number of parameters. That said, I have a strong suspicion (back to suspicions, I agree) that in order for a system to actually control speeds to those necessary under any and all circumstances it will perforce be dangerous under quite a number of them. Or it will be by intent less effective. If so, I’d say there’s no need for the added complication.

  20. “Damn it’s time to be a liability lawyer!”
    Haven’t you been living in Europe long enough to realize we don’t practice law the way you do in the U.S.? 😜

  21. Gary,
    It’s the responsibility of the track owner to provide a venue that complies with FIA regulations. Suzuka did not. There was standing water on the track, cars aquaplaned. Had the race been held two hours earlier, as FIA wanted, Sutil wouldn’t have aquaplaned, the tractor would not have been needed, Bianchi wouldn’t have aquaplaned in the same flooded area and crashed into the tractor.

    • The race was stopped after 1hr 51mins. Take 2hrs off the start time, add the time completed and check the weather. Even allowing for the time spent between the red flag and restart, it was still going to be raining. Depending on your thoughts about “Fate”, it may not have solved anything at all.

      • As I said in the podcast, the start time is a total non issue. Period. Rain is not an issue. A typhoon may have been, turned out not to be.

        Because if rain IS an issue, then it goes far beyond the question of start times, and needs to include unfathomable “logic” behind safety car starts in the rain. And would of necessity extend to the acceptability of driving in the rain at all. If yes, then unambiguous criteria need to be developed (including adherence, aquaplaning, visibility, etc) for allowing competition to continue.

  22. Very interesting point about responsibility allocation if there would be a pit-limiter system that everyone is talking about now. But the same problem would occur if robots were used to wave flags or move cars. Robots are computers and computers can and will crash. Who would be responsible if a computer waved a green flag when yellow was needed? Or if it accidentally drove on track when removing a car? Would it be the FIA, the manufacturer of the system, the computer programmer?

    There are some interesting parallels with current development and use of military robots. Current robots still require human input, but scientists are developing so-called “killer robots” that could autonomously locate and shoot human targets. Legal scholars are discussing what this would mean for responsibility and accountability, but technology is evolving way faster than legal norms or ethics. (If anyone is interested, Peter Singer’s “Wired for War” is a good starting point.)

    But we all want soldiers to be as safe as possible in war, just as we want track marshals to be as safe as possible during a race. So the use of robots makes sense and it probably will happen, if overarching organisations are willing to put money into it.

  23. All vehicles that operate between the race track and the barrier must be modified to prevent racecars from sliding under them. Now, when a car hits a non-F1 vehicle, it slides under it and the first ‘object’ that hits the retrieval (or other) vehicle is the pilots helmet….
    Get the A-team, weld some plates around the retrieval vehicle and there is less chance that a drivers head will be injured by hitting the retrieval vehicle.

  24. ‘Nail on the head’ again Gary, farm / construction machinery must not be trackside, under any circumstances during ‘live’ racing conditions, surely a small vehicle say, Unimog with a mid mounted extendable jib /arm positioned behind barrier could reach out and pick up a damaged car, maybe a modification to cars roll hoop to allow a clamp on system, these ‘snatch’ vehicles could be flown to each race with the Merc safety cars (Merc own Unimog)

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