FIA To Launch Investigation Into Tractor Incident At Japan GP

The Japanese Grand Prix was a mess and nowhere was that clearer than during the first lap. When Carlos Sainz aquaplaned into a wall, there was nothing he could do except hope that no one hit him. When officials went to move Sainz’ car, a recovery vehicle was on track when it shouldn’t have been. This has caused almost everyone in the paddock to be in an uproar over what has been called a “totally unacceptable” breach in safety.

Several drivers voiced their concerns over the recovery vehicle being on track at that time, but none more so than Pierre Gasly. During the incident, Gasly radioed his team:

“What is this tractor on track? I passed next to it. This is unacceptable. Remember what has happened. Can’t believe this!”

The incident Gasly is referring to is the tragic death of Jules Bianchi. During the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, Bianchi slid off the track during wet conditions and hit a tractor operating in the run-off area.

This has become a bipartisan issue in the paddock with Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, saying: “It is totally unacceptable. We lost Jules Bianchi here and that should never, ever happen, so there needs to be a full investigation as to why there was a recovery vehicle on the circuit. Checo [Sergio Perez] reported it to us and in those horrendous conditions where visibility was zero, extremely dangerous.”

Carlos Sainz explained after his crash why even starting the race in these extremely wet conditions is such an issue: 

“What people don't understand is that even behind the safety car going 100, 150kph, we don't see anything. So even if there's a crane on track and we are behind the safety car going 100kph, one driver could do a small mistake, a stupid mistake, go a bit offline, not remember that there's a tractor there, and crash into a tractor. So why even risk it? I guess this is more our point.”

The FIA in response blamed Gasly for “speeding under red flag conditions” and handed him a drive through penalty (20s added to race time) and two penalty points.

Sainz was critical of this decision: “I think you don’t need to leave it to the luck of the driver. I think you are going to red flag the race anyway, why send a vehicle out? Maybe wait a bit to bunch the field up, I don’t know, and go really slow. The driver is always going to in an extreme, try to put a bit of temperature in, in case the race gets restarted. It’s a tricky one, but yeah, quite risky.”

As a result of all this, the FIA is launching a full investigation:

“While it is normal practice to recover cars under Safety Car and Red Flag conditions, due to the particular circumstances and also taking into account feedback from of a number of drivers, the FIA has launched a thorough review of the events involving the deployment of recovery vehicles during the Japanese Grand Prix. This is part of the common practice of debrief & analysis of all race incidents to ensure continual improvements of processes and procedures.”

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