The Bianchi accident investigation panel

We’ve been given a summary of the Bianchi investigation, and the 300-some-odd page report has been condensed to what looks approximately like 1.5 A4 pages.

Over 300 pages to less than 2. Holy crap. Either there are a hell of a lot of wasted words in the full text, or someone has really mastered the art of the resumé.

I can’t say much about the reasons behind not releasing the full text of the report, but it is clear that the credibility of the conclusions, such as they are, is not helped by the absence of corroborating background.

In addition, when we look at the composition of the panel, we realise that fully HALF the members have a clear and unambiguous conflict of interest in any investigation. The current positions, and indeed future careers in motorsport, of those panel members who are not dear personal friends of the FIA president depend intimately on remaining in his good graces. Mind you, I am not impugning the integrity of anyone. That’s what’s so insidious with conflicts of interest. They only have to appear to exist to have their negative effects.

This of course rang alarm bells when the panel was formed, but courtesy, decorum and respect no doubt calmed the chuckling at the idea of a body investigating itself. I fear that chuckling was perfectly appropriate.

Let’s get a bit more specific.

The primary conclusion, that Jules was driving too fast, is, as I’ve said before, true by definition. I’m surprised at the reactions of those who feel that this is somehow unfair, unjust, or unkind. It is none of these. Young men make mistakes of judgement all the time, and some pay a grievous price for it. That is the case here. The technical details of BBW and FailSafe are just that – details.

I smiled when I read:

It is considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable. It is imperative to prevent a car ever hitting the crane and/or the marshals working near it.

Suppose they’d said that 60 years ago about Armco? We’d not have developed the know-how that led to 6-row tire barriers with conveyor belting, and we’d certainly not have Techpro. I wonder what would’ve happened to my friend Perez in Monaco a few years ago? Actually, I KNOW what would have happened to him. Ironic, isn’t it? Somehow both goals stated in that quote seem worthy of pursuit; neither do they appear mutually exclusive.

Now it gets a bit complicated. You see, the entire summary (and therefore presumably the report itself, but we have no way of knowing that) is focused on the events leading up to the accident. There would appear to be no attempt to look at those elements of the response that are there to mitigate the consequences AFTER the event has occurred. And now I start to get rather uncomfortable.

We are told:

All rescue and medical procedures were followed, and their expediency are considered to have contributed significantly to the saving of Bianchi’s life.

The first part of this statement is patently untrue. Egregiously. The self congratulatory second part, while certainly true, is inappropriate.

Bear with me, and struggle through this excerpt from the Appendix H of the FIA’s own International Sporting Code (that concerned with “Supervision of the Road and Rescue Services”).

An evacuation under intensive care by medically equipped ambulance (equipment and presence of a doctor proficient in resuscitation on board) with an escort may, however, be carried out, provided that the receiving hospital has been approved beforehand for the treatment presumed necessary according to the casualty’s condition and that it can be reached in approximately 20 minutes (except for serious burns), regardless of the weather and road traffic conditions (except in a case of force majeure). If these conditions are not satisfied, the timed session must be interrupted.

d) Unforseen circumstances, especially the weather, may prevent the arrival, departure or return of the helicopter. In such a case, and after consultation between:

– the Chief Medical Officer;
– the Race Director; and
– the FIA Medical Delegate;
an ongoing or interrupted timed session may perhaps continue or be resumed depending on the conditions of evacuation of a casualty under intensive care to one of the hospitals mentioned in the medical questionnaire for the event and approved by the FIA Medical Delegate.

We were told at the Sochi press conference that the evacuation took 40 minutes. Twice the 20 minute upper boundary that THE FORMULA ONE MEDICAL DELEGATE HIMSELF HAD WRITTEN INTO THE REGS.

We were also told at Sochi that Jules’ condition at the end of that waterlogged siren-punctuated ambulance ride to the hospital was exactly the same as when he left the circuit. Are you kidding me?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that my Japanese colleagues were indeed able to make sure that Jules’ blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, expired carbon dioxide, etc (the EXTERNAL parameters, the ones we measure easily) were unchanged over 40 minutes.

But find the nearest neurosurgeon and ask him if the brain of a patient who’s had a head injury with immediate coma is the same after 40 minutes of transport as after 20 minutes, and he’ll look at you like you were nuts. Because you are.

Why did Dr. Saillant not address the question of EXACTLY when the Medical Delegate (his personal appointee) knew that the helicopter could not land at the receiving hospital? Under difficult circumstances this often requires near real time communication with the helicopter crew. The delegate is up in race control with nothing else to do during the race. That’s why he’s there. Why was racing not stopped? This is far from a trivial issue, and is all the more dramatic that the FIA’s own regulations would appear to have been ignored by their author, the Medical Delegate.

This is a potentially grievous error, and it is all the more shocking that the question is not even addressed. And unfortunately this is precisely the kind of result one would expect with a panel studded with insiders.

 

 

79 thoughts on “The Bianchi accident investigation panel

  1. Pingback: RIP Jules Bianchi, 1989 – 2015 | Man's Fine Life

  2. Hi Gary ,
    So …. it seems Phillipe Streiff may have said something similar to yourself (I didn’t hear the Radio Interview) and he is now having Legal Action planned by the FIA president Jean Todt and medical chief Gerard Saillant …………….. so you get a visit to your Boss (Gestapo Style) but Phillipe gets Legal action…………… This should be fun… with a real Court of Law and some tricky questions being asked of the FIA ……… but at this current time ……(and this hasn’t actually come to pass) publicity can count for a lot these days whereas in Court Cases the winners do not actually come out of it best.

    Anyway as of today…. Friday 23rd Jan
    The FIA has announced that its president Jean Todt and medical commission boss Gerard Saillant are to take legal action for defamation against former F1 driver Philippe Streiff.

    …….Now I couldn’t actually say but the FIA will actually have to prove it’s good working practice and prove that Streiff’s statements are untrue ….. NOT THAT THEY CAN JUST STAND BEHIND THE FIA FINDINGS AND HAND THAT OVER TO A COURT AND INSTANTLY PROSECUTE STREIFF.

    ……..this all seems to point at the Medical Delegate (Saillant) (the Author of the 1.5pages A4) and his decisions at the Race Track and to get Jules to the Hospital and then at the Hospital were all perfect and that NO Conflict of Interest is taking place ……………….. ( Also one does have to question if he was at race control.)

    I question whether this supposed Legal Action will ever take place. ( Gestapo style leopards suddenly don’t change their spots) ….. Personally, I just see they have started a Court Case they will loose – therefore they will probably drop it, but muzzling persons (including yourself) and doing a Bernie to ensure it all goes away may be more difficult (presumably with open FIA Account books) but I’m not sure about French Law)

    Kindest Regards
    Rick
    Forza Jules

    • Too bad Streiff just decided to withdraw/retract all his criticism and offer an apology.

      Understandable given the overwhelming legal resources that FIA could call-upon in their attempt to shut-up one guy who is seriously disabled and probably not earning a few million a year…but disappointing nonetheless.

      One upside to the whole dust-up is Streisand Effect. Streiff may have apologized/retracted, but F1 fans the world over will have been motivated (perhaps) to look into what PS actually said, and try to figure out why (perhaps even landing here).

      • Analogy: everyone knows about the working practices of FIFA, but no-one does anything – probably because of its complexity and the fact a lot of people make a lot of money out of it. The system “works” although it does throw up some preposterous decisions. It’s interesting how monopolies tend to be purposely inefficient.

        Some interesting insights by RickeeBoy.

  3. I just read that several of MS’s sponsors are calling it quits with the ex F1 star. If sponsors start dropping off and the family is spending over 100 grand a month for rehab his millions won’t last forever. MS is a relatively young man.

    • You’re prayiing everyday he passes as soon as possible so that you can put up a party, aren’t you, mimi? It’s so blatant, and it’s been like this since the very beginning of this story.

  4. What I would really like to know and I’m sure will never be revealed is if it is possible that someone like the medical delegate saw the video of the accident, realised how bad it was and realised that a slow rescue might actually not be such a bad idea after all ……..

      • I would like a dispassionate look at the whole chain of events up to the present. I don’t think there is any blame to be attached but I think it is possible that the rescue was deliberately just slow enough to look as if they were trying to save his life. They could have been working on the assumption that the hospital would then not carry out any heroic surgery. I think this is where the sequence needs investigating. From the tone of Philippe Bianchi ‘s early statements I was sure he would die -maybe the hospital even expected this. Somehow he has survived when nobody really expected or wanted this.

      • That is beyond insane and tends to the frankly delusional. It might be a good idea for you to take today’s medicine.

        I’m not expressing (out)rage at this absurd suggestion simply because I choose to ignore what it implies about how medical and rescue personnel approach accident victims.

      • I would like to add the parable of the good Samaritan. On a separate note I think rationalism is great but it can lead to some interesting moral systems of which history has revealed plenty of examples.

      • Yes – it’s ethics Mimi. Would it be kinder to the Bianchis if my ludicrous, insane scenario (which I don’t really believe myself) was true? Who can stand before God and say that he has nothing to hide? Does anyone really believe that the current position is kind or the best outcome?

      • Gary, Jane was merely stating a theory. Hypothetical at best. Shit happens. Who knows. To the best of my knowledge medical personnel always do what they have to do to save a life. They give CPR to animals, why wouldn’t they do everything possible to save a life regardless of the outcome. But she does raise a question, one that makes us with no medical background think.

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to explain this so clearly Gary. It has helped me to see this spelt out in a public forum and I hope that it may help others too.

    • Sorry, but that is the most absurd comment I have ever seen on any blog any where. Utterly beyond belief such a thought can cross someone’s mind. theory or no theory.
      Anyone who looked at the video of the crash can see the urgency with which all the medical personnel responded to the accident.
      Jules Bianchi was and continues to be in great hands.

      • And you know that how? You’re statement that he was and is now in good hands is just as absurd as Jane’s theory. Neither one of you have proof of what you are telling us. Am I right, Peter?

        BTW, as I am not a F1 aficionado is it common for a red or white flag to be used during a race? I know it is in other forms of auto racing. Don’t know about F1.
        If the racing conditions were atrocious and there had just been a very serious accident why not stop the race or white flag it? Seems to me there are a lot of folks at fault her. JMO.

      • Please excuse the couple of spelling errors. It seems my mind is going a little faster than my fingers.
        It should read “your” And “here” and not her.

      • I am going by what I have heard said and read about the Mie General Hospital in Japan, and going on the reputation of, and my own direct experience with the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice where a friend was taken not so long ago after a car crash.
        I am also going on the words of Jules Bianchi’s family who have had nothing but praise for all aspects of their son’s treatment.
        Oh, and please let’s not go down the ‘well, they would, wouldn’t they’ avenue.
        Anyway, if you will excuse me, I will now butt out of this particular thread.

      • A red flag is waved to stop a race .. a white flag is waved by Nico Rosberg when Lewis Hamilton gets too far ahead!
        No, sorry, that’s a joke …. a white flag is waved when something other than a racing car is on the track (I think)

      • Peter – I want to make it absolutely clear that that my absurd theory was one very remote and unlikely explanation for why they might have taken 40 minutes and not 20 to get him to hospital. The original response is nothing to do with it. This is documented to be as speedy and efficient as anyone could possibly expect.

        I do not in any way believe that this happened. All I am saying is that it is one scenario which is impossible to eliminate.

        I stand entirely by my position that the current outcome is extremely cruel to the Bianchis and helps no-one.

      • “I stand entirely by my position that the current outcome is extremely cruel to the Bianchis and helps no-one.”

        It is my opinion that this statement itself helps no-one. I mean how can this statement be helpful to anyone? Given the current reality of the situation it offers no solace to the Bianchi family. So what is the point of the statement? I suspect the point of the statement is to support an argument for the withdrawal of emergency medical care at accident sites.

      • Ps I am not questioning your compassion Jane. Your comments clearly originate from a sense of compassion. I am just questioning the helpfulness of one or two of your statements. Personally I don’t think the suggestion is practical. There is also a legal dimension to your suggestion.

      • It appears to me that the point at which both stories could have been changed is when the doctors, knowing that the odds of a good outcome were extremely small, suggested heroic surgery to grieving families who must have been far too traumatised to consider the odds rationally and understand what they were consenting to. Both families would have seen their normal, healthy successful loved ones only hours earlier – how could they then refuse to consent to operations which were the only chance to save their lives? Did the doctors stop and think about what they were asking of the families by shifting the responsibility to people who could not possibly be expected to know anything about prolonged disorders of consciousness? I think that the first operation in the Bianchi case and the second operation in Michael Schumacher’s case are the points when ethics come into question.

      • Neither Jules’ only, nor Michael’s second, surgeries, were elective in any way. Because outcome is FAR from clear enough at this stage to recommend therapeutic de-escalation, treatment is undertaken.

        You speak with the glibness of one who has never, at 2 AM, sat facing parents to explain that the kid who left the house earlier that evening is now comatose. That glibness, while possibly unintended, is not only vastly annoying, but insulting to health professionals, ignorant of how care is rendered and of the PROPER application of medical ethics, and potentially frightening and unhelpful for those unfortunate readers who might find themselves in this situation in the future.

        That will be the last comment with this idiocy as a subject to be approved.

  5. This reminds me of the recent FIFA report on corruption. Sure it’s fine to give out a summary for those who can’t be bothered to read the entire report, however it should be published alongside the full report otherwise they will always be open to the accusation of a coverup and the omission of key details.

  6. Working on layman’s logic it would clearly have been better to have an independent panel (equivalent to an English jury) judging the full report. Only then would it be possible to know if the delay identified by Gary and the failure to follow their own procedures made any difference to the outcome.

    They could then publish conclusions and recommendations which everyone could have more confidence in.

  7. The message coming through the media is a clear ‘Jules was at fault’. While he was undoubtedly going to fast, I still fail to see why that is Jules fault – all the drivers were at a level of risk due to the speed they were carrying, and they carried that speed because they are in a sport that is only ever about pushing as much as possible. Some slowed more and some slowed less – Charlie was very careful to say it ‘was a matter of degree’ – but my question is would any of them have been able to avoid that accident simply by virtue of having less speed?

    I guess what I mean is – don’t blame the guy in the coma, couldn’t it be more likely that we go forward positively by stating that the nature of the sport allowed all drivers to operate in that particular scenario with too high a level of risk, which will now be controlled for them by a Virtual Safety Car. I find the blaming of an individual driver for an incident that )as far as the tiny amount of the report we have available indicates) could have happened to any of them on that particular day given the circumstances, as repugnant as those people who have said that there was nothing we could learn from the accident, that it’s just part of the risk of motorsport.

    • We live in a blame culture and therefore are obsessed with finding someone to blame … why!!?
      “Motorsport is dangerous” …. it says so on the ticket thousands of people pay for every year …. the drivers know it … the organisers know it.
      Jules knew it too and was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, at the wrong corner, at the wrong speed, in the wrong weather conditions, just after Adrian Sutil had had an accident … I could go on for ever.
      It was a tragic accident …. but there is no one to BLAME here …. just lessons to be learned.

    • I still don’t get why anyone would send a crane out onto a track where cars are moving at speeds close to 200/mph. That is insane. Couldn’t they just push the gd car off the track?

      • If the marshals chose to push the car from the accident scene we would now have several dead marshals instead of one seriously injured racing driver.

  8. Now that Bianchi has been unconscious for 2 months it’s pretty clear to people who have been following Gary’s blog where this is heading. There is another aspect of both Bianchi’s and Schumacher’s stories which I wish would be investigated. I know that vegetative state was originally named and described in 1956, way before ventilators and intensive care. In the early days these patients obviously were able to breathe for themselves and thus their survival was more likely from the start. What worries me about the modern stories is the involvement of neurosurgeons. I read an excellent book this year, ‘Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’ by Henry Marsh a British neurosurgeon (who incidently has worked extensively in Ukraine). He said that as he got older and more experienced he got far more cautious about carrying out risky operations when the prognosis was obviously dire. This is a lesson which I think could well be learnt from these 2 high profile sad examples.

      • It’s fascinating I think Mimi. The first English reference to what we now call vegetative dates from 1956 and was described by Sabina Strich in Oxford – she described patients who had what we would now call the severe form of diffuse axonal injury. There is an even earlier German description of apallic syndrome in 1940. All these patients could breathe normally from the start.

        What worries me is that doctors may be increasing the numbers of such patients by operating on people who would previously have died.

      • Jane, you make a lot of sense. Saving these folks for a life of a vegetative state is almost cruel. I have always believed where there is life there is hope but that is not true for artificial life. Are doctors creating a whole society of folks in a vegetative state due to cutting edge technology?

    • Jane, Doctors may also nowadays help some people to a meaningful life by operating. But it is impossible to know who they are beforehand, I think, those who return to a meaningful life.

      • This is undoubtedly true but in the early days they didn’t have CT scans to help with diagnosis and so it was inevitable that there would be late operations on people who had a lucid interval and then deteriorated (like Schumacher). I also think that operations have always been more fashionable/popular in Europe. In one early study of 62 patients with apallic syndrome 31 of the patients were children and they tended to do better and were more likely to have functional recovery. 6 out of 32 children in another study had a lucid interval.

        It would be nice to think we have learnt something from 50 years of statistics and could at least make a stab at guessing who is likely to have a bad outcome. I know that doctors are less prepared to recommend for themselves a risky operation they might recommend for their own patients.

  9. Dr. Hartstein, thank you for sharing your reaction. As a mere fan of F1, I’m frustrated at the lack of transparency of this investigation, so I can’t imagine how frustrated you must be to have no more than a 2-page summary to read.

    All discussions of corruption and conflicts of interest aside, do the FIA really not see how tone-deaf it is to release this paltry “executive summary” without making the full report available? It makes one wonder whether setting up the accident panel was a cynical move to quell public appetite for a thorough examination of this tragedy, done halfheartedly and with little sincerity. I’m also aware that I may be looking at the summary through s***-colored lenses, as a 25-year old is still comatose 2 months post-accident, and the entire sport seems to be in a financial and PR pickle. It’s been a gloomy year on multiple fronts.

    • No, no MiniYY … it’s been the “BEST” and “MOST SUCCESSFUL” year in F1 for years!! The big boys have spent their millions … 2 upstart teams that should never have been there in the first place, have been despatched and are now dead … though DAMN and DRATT … one looks like it’s still alive and may come back and PESTER us for another year …. but the other one … the one we all rather liked and who had a tragic event in Japan has GONE for good …. hurrah!!!
      All the teams say it was a fantastic … Bernie E says so …. even LEWIS says so …. and who are we to assume differently …. and we have forgotten about the fact the cars now sound like angry wasps instead of racing cars …. and the drivers on the whole have the characters of a lobotomised goat ….
      Yeah … it’s been a good year … or maybe that should be GOODYEAR …. because they might give us sow more dose for saying so …. !🙂

  10. And of course the race director mr. Whithing is not blamed, but should be. There is one smple way of making sure racing car does not hit crane (or a marshall, for that matter) at 126 kph: dont send it out unil everyone on the track is at safe speed. And that’s not complicated: it’s called Safety Car. But od course, you have to have at least a bit of a working brain to realise that. And Mr. Whithing and panel members obviously don’t have it.
    I really, reallly hope tha Bianchi family sues him for compensation and also starts criminal procedure against him and gets him jailed. That’s where he belongs.

    • How often do you se a crane come in on the track during rcing a recover a car? Quite often, it happens every race. How often do you se racecars hitting it? Not very often.

      The issue at hand, imo, is to have the drivers respect the yellow flags. How many cars passed that yellow flag zone before and after Jules? How many of them ended up under the crane?

  11. I don’t even pretend to understand the technicalities but paragraph below makes perfect sense to me – this didn’t look like a survivable accident from the video as it appeared that Bianchi’s helmet lifted the crane and I don’t see why anyone should even wish to survive such an impact. Peter’s point that it would be better not to have cranes on track as it is better to hit another car makes perfect sense to me.

    11. It is not feasible to mitigate the injuries Bianchi suffered by either enclosing the driver’s cockpit, or fitting skirts to the crane. Neither approach is practical due to the very large forces involved in the accident between a 700kg car striking a 6500kg crane at a speed of 126kph. There is simply insufficient impact structure on a F1 car to absorb the energy of such an impact without either destroying the driver’s survival cell, or generating non-survivable decelerations.

    It is considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable. It is imperative to prevent a car ever hitting the crane and/or the marshals working near it.

  12. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever been more disgusted with the sport than when I read this “report”. I have a bit of a different take on it: it would seem to me that 300 some odd pages is a hell of a lot of paper to use to say “nothing to see here, move along”.

  13. An interpretation that Jules inability to slow the car down could be laid at Murussia door, hence they filed for administration the day after, possibly to deflect any litigation to the administrators ?

    • I very Much doubt it, The team cannot tell a driver to push during yellow flags and especially double yellows. Have this had happened I would imagine that serious action would be taken. I would Imagine that Law suits would be filed and Marussia held fully acountable. However this is just the opinion of a meer observer and may not represent the actual actions that would be taken. Although I may be putting to much faith in a Corrupt FIA

      • And ultimately, I can easily imagine that jurisprudentially no matter the instructions from the pit lane, the driver is the “pilot in command” and the safety of his vehicle is ultimately his responsibility.

    • Interesting point.
      It struck me as odd that Marussia didn’t find a buyer and if you remember 2 lots of people went public in expressing optimism about their hopes for buying the team.
      Libel laws probably preclude us though from speculating any more … ! 🙂

  14. Hi Gary,
    Thanks for posting your thoughts. I’m intrigued by your interpretation of the evacuation regs, and specifically the comment

    ” We were told at the Sochi press conference that the evacuation took 40 minutes. Twice the 20 minute upper boundary that THE FORMULA ONE MEDICAL DELEGATE HIMSELF HAD WRITTEN INTO THE REGS.”

    This suggests the drive MUST be transferred to a medical facility within 20 minutes. If that were the case, what would happen if the patient was not medically stable, and moving them was contra-indicated? Wouldn’t that effectively take the clinical decision about treatment out of the hands of the medical officer in charge? Or worse, force the medical team to move a patient because the clock was ticking?

    The wording of the reg is terrible, but could a different interpretation be: it must be logistically possible for a driver to be evacuated to the hospital within 20 minutes of the incident. This would deal with the proximity of the hospital and suitable modes of transport, but would not override the clinical judgement of the medical officer as to whether it was safe to transfer the driver.

    • Hi Emma – thanks for commenting.

      Actually, while I’m pretty sure I understand your comment, I think the reg is unambiguous (but then I’ve been reading this thing as it’s evolved since 1990!).

      It goes without saying that it is impossible, practically, medically, ethically, and legally, to regulate actual clinical care. The goal with the regulation (again, I was present at the Medical Commission meetings where these changes were presented) has always been to define an upper limit to evac times. Remember, organisers will, and have, use any subterfuge, lie, scheme, and conspiracy to save the often massive costs of a medical helicopter on standby. The regulatory body must ensure that, regardless of circumstances, the patient arrives at the primary receiving centre in an acceptable timeframe. This is all the more important now, as the standard of prehospital care is moving more and more to expedited transfer of the most severely injured.

      The case of a patient with isolated severe head injury managed on-scene by a highly skilled teams, is the perfect example of a situation where the added value of even STOPPING at the medical centre is questionable. My informal polling of a number of motorsport medicine colleagues (with a few centuries of accumulated experience!) all accept that direct transfer from scene to hospital would have been a perfectly logical, and perhaps desirable, strategy.

      This is not to question the decisions made at Suzuka, but rather to illustrate that the definition of an upper limit of 20 minutes is not a sterile exercise. When respected, the patient benefits. When ignored, bad stuff gets worse.

    • My interpretation of this is that the scenario must be capable of achieving a 20-minute transport, not that the 20-minute time is an actual limit.

  15. The report is 396 pages long, one assumes of A4. That’s not a report … Thats a blockbuster!!
    A report 396 pages long on an incident that lasted a few seconds and where the patient was delivered to hospital, and so was effectively over within 40 minutes.
    And then they condense it down to 2 and tell us it was all the driver’s fault, And then won’t release the other eh …. 394 pages!
    They really do take us for utter fools.

    • Given the space taken up with technical considerations (brake by wire, Fail Safe, etc) in the summary, I’d think a huge amount of the full report is a full consideration of the software workings, and a consideration of whether Jules was actually in control of his throttle . . . or something like that.

      • It might depend on how much evidence is included – raw data, photos, copies of regulations, etc. For all we know, the report could be mostly appendices with only a few pages of text!

    • Perhaps the report includes personal medical information on Bianchi and/or information that is commercial-in-confidence? It would have to be heavily redacted to be made public, and even then, some parties might have strong objections.

      • This is certainly a consideration, but such redaction is quite common. It is also, as you mentioned, totally conceivable that much of the full report consists of page after page of software code and raw data. As do many full reports that are released by various investigating body.

  16. Hola Dr. H, you’re the expert but it appears to me they are saying that a Formula one car is incapable of withstanding a frontal impact @ 126 kph (which is the speed Bianchi’s car impacted the JCB) without fatal injury to the driver. Does that seem right to you? Or did I miss something?

      • The problem may be the question. I don’t think the point is whether or not an F1 car can withstand the impact. I think the question is if the driver’s helmet can withstand in the impact. In a collision such as this one, there’s nothing to prevent a direct blow to the driver’s helmet as a result of the nature of the open-wheel/open cockpit design. It is an inherent flaw of the design itself that it does not protect a driver’s head from a frontal impact or an impact to either side of the head forward of the main roll hoop. That’s the nature of the car. So, it’s not about the car. It’s about the helmet.

        To argue that this shouldn’t be tolerated is a slippery slope given that this design has been in place for over 100 years.

      • It’s not the helmet in this case, it’s the head inside the helmet that could not withstand the G forces connected with a collision with a hard object such as a tractor at 128kph!
        Nothing on earth could have prevented Jules’ injury being as bad as it was, other than the tractor not being where it was in the first place.
        I come back to the point I made some weeks ago. WHY do we need to remove cars that are off the track by some distance? It is better to collide with a beached racing car which is designed to disintegrate on impact rather than with the tractor removing it, which is not.
        It’s not rocket science!

  17. Doc,

    I only recently discovered your blog but have become an enthusiastic fan; thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge – excellent educational and thought provoking stuff. I am a much more informed F1 fan. Please keep writing! 🙂 By which I mean to say, the following minor complaint is meant as friendly fire.

    You are usually very diligent in being precise and accurate. However, you castigate the report for not addressing the issue of when the delegate knew the whirly-bird couldn’t land at the receiving hospital. With all due respect, unless you know what the investigators asked or didn’t ask the relevant individuals, or you have read the report in its entirety, then you cant be sure the issue isn’t addressed in the report but was left out of the “summary” that has been released.

    Your criticism without the facts does smack a bit of “axe-grinding.”

    Of course, if was not addressed then you are quite right and should keep the pressure on. And if it is addressed in the report then leaving such an important issue out of the summary begs all sorts of other questions having nothing but unsavory answers, to be sure (lawyers be damned!). Transparency, especially when it comes to safety, may be a virtue but since when has F1 ever been considered virtuous?

    Thanks again for the time you share with us,

    • Thanks for the comment, Michael. I did make it clear that I’d have preferred to base any comments on a reading of the full document, and will of course edit my comments when and if the full text becomes available.

      As to axe-grinding. When I was the Medical Delegate, I was always aware that every action, every decision, would be subject to comment, criticism, and discussion. A good part of the delays at THAT race at Fuji were down to weather-related helicopter issues that were MY decision. I was prepared to defend and discuss any and all decisions and actions I carried out. These guys need to expect that too, of course.

  18. WOW, definitely an eye opener seeing analysis from someone who’s an expert and knowledgeable from the inside.

    I’m an Incident and Startline marshall and have attended an incident where a Car has hit, head on, a tyre barrier at similar speed to Bianchi.. the different of course being that Bianchi’s car stopped in a shorter and more violent time than a Porsche 911 (variant – think it was a 933 but was definitely a 911 style shell) than Bianchi’s..

    So I saw the incident and thought the Marshall’s were spot-on..
    Similarly as a motor racing driver, all be it one who races using iRacing rather than in the real world, I knew Jules speed was massively excessive, I’ve driven that corner many times in the sim world, and know he should have been backing off WAY more than he did. He was probably travelling 90-95% of flat out AND accelerating, when perhaps 50-60% was more appropriate.

    So as a result the summaries I read made sense and I was pretty happy with them; with one exception that being the fact that Post 10 showed green. In the Club racing world we ALWAYS fly single waved at the post prior to doubles and I think that should be mandatory.

    I guess I didn’t expect my idea to be even thought of but personally I think that the post AFTER a double yellow should show a single yellow. Cars can then accelerate immediately passing that point, as I do think drivers habitually see green and accelarate.. normally not a big issue, within probably an hour of Bianchi’s accident I was pushing a MX-5 clear on the inside of Old Hall at Donington under waved yellows. We were a good 150 yards from the next flag post ( Starkeys Bridge) so the oncoming traffic would be past the danger zone before seeing the green and accelerating, however it’s still yellow right up to the flag post.. and in Bianchi’s case he accelerated habitually too early.

    Putting a single stationary yellow at Post 10, might have negated that as he’d still see yellow and might be less inclined to get on with racing.

    • I’d stopped with “flag gate” long ago, as the green that came out as Adrien’s car was towed across the marshal tower. On the other hand, you make sense that if an incident merits double waved flags, perhaps even if the next sector is clear, some caution is still in order.

      Obviously this implies that they actually RESPECT the flags in the first place. But the panel recommends a course for them before getting a superlicense. I’m pretty sure that karting, FRenault, FR3.5, F3, GP3, GP2 etc actually ARE courses. It’s up to the teachers of those courses (i.e. the Stewards) to teach the right lessons.

      • Well part of the problem surely is that some drivers are coming into F1 with compartively minimal racing experience. In the sim race scene (where blues are often advisory) I often see drivers complaining about drivers not ‘jumping out of the way’, this continues into actually racing other cars. Due to the mechanisms in sim racing it’s not uncommon to see a patently faster driver racing for position with a noticeably slower driver. They practice like mad solo, but don’t know how to race, don’t know how to overtake, don’t understand the rules.

        I wonder if a similar thing is happening in racing, drivers with talent are powering into F1.. but not learning race craft, ettiquete or the rules properly – because they’re not given the time to actually LEARN how to race. Sure they can driver quickly – but passing is a different issue.

        Heck Vettel is a great example of this, he was able to get into a great car quickly, and coupled with innate decent speed, never had to actually overtake.. when he did he struggled and honestly I’d argue overall he still does.

        F1 drivers need more time to understand the racing scene properly.. not be powered into F1.

    • I marshalled in the 70s and 80s and ‘back then’ the flag system for National and International races was steady yellow, waved yellow, steady yellow, green, for club racing the second steady yellow was omitted. I don’t know why and when it was changed as I had break from circuit racing for a number of years in the 90s. Why the second yellow is still not used after double waved, I can see no reason. It was a good system then and it worked. Why not bring it back?

    • While I appreciate your experience as a marshall and sim racer (and perhaps real car racer, was unclear), Hormonal Woman, but extrapolating from iRacing is not appropriate, in my opinion. For the record, I’m not a doctor or a racer.

      If you look at the telemetry data that is out there [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DS33TY50CU], you can get a feel for what some select others were doing. Immediately at the start (0:01) Sutil and Bianchi are at around 200+ kph on the curve in question. Sutil goes off and Bianchi continues. Ericsson follows around 0:10 at 200+ kph with a green sector indicated. Chilton comes by at 0:34 at 190-200+ kph with two yellow sectors indicated (to be fair they may not have actually been waving the flags yet). Oddly, after Chilton, all the speed indicators on the cars disappear. Not sure why. Then they focus on Bianchi as he’s coming around and about the 2:00 mark he is at or above 200 kph according to the telemetry.

      I’m not saying that the data in the link is 100% without fault, but if it’s reasonably accurate, there were at least two other cars going the same or very similar speed. Even Bianchi was going the same speed as Sutil the very lap before.

      So to Gary’s earlier point, I’m sure that Jules’ speed did play a factor. But it can’t be just that. Where’s the in-depth discussion of the rationale for no safety car? The response to at least Massa’s claim that he was pleading for the race to be stopped? Among many other questions.

  19. Gary

    Thanks for your initial thoughts; I hope that you will write more as your professional insight is truly of great interest.

    I, too, was interested in the reasons why the full report remains unpublished…

    This very brief summary really needs to be fleshed out if accusations of ‘protectionism’ and ‘self interest’ are to be avoided.

    For the sake of all future competitors I believe that there should be an independent enquiry into all aspects of the accident: before, during, and after.

    I hope to read more of your thoughts about the accident and subsequent enquiry.

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