F1: Accident panel says Jules Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently” in Suzuka crash

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As part of today’s World Motor Sport Council meeting in Qatar, the FIA’s Accident Panel presented a 396-page report on the severe accident involving Marussia driver Jules Bianchi in October’s Japanese Grand Prix. A summary of the report has been released online.

With track conditions rapidly deteriorating due to rain, Bianchi went off-course at Turn 7 on Lap 43 of the event and slammed into a mobile crane that was recovering the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, which had crashed in the same area one lap before.

Bianchi suffered severe head injuries and only recently came out of an artificial coma. He has since been transported back to a hospital in his home country of France.

Among the conclusions found by the Accident Panel was that Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently” to avoid losing control at Turn 7 before the accident.

Additionally, it was found that in the two seconds where Bianchi was going through the run-off area before impact, he hit both the throttle and brake together.

The FailSafe algorithm designed to override the throttle and cut the engine was instead “inhibited” by a torque coordinator that controls the brake-by-wire system, and Marussia’s own brake-by-wire design proved incompatible with the FailSafe settings.

In closing its conclusions, the panel also noted that it was not feasible to mitigate injuries such as Bianchi’s by outfitting cranes with skirts or enclosing the cockpits of the cars:

“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 (78 mph). 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.”

As for recommendations, the panel proposed a new regulation regarding the use of double-yellow flags (“The Clerk of the Course will impose a speed limit in any section of track where double yellow flags are being displayed.”), as well as having a minimum of four hours between the start of the race and sunset or dusk except in the case of night-time events.

Also, the panel suggested that all newly Super Licensed drivers take a mandatory course and test on safety procedures and that tire manufacturer Pirelli is given provision to better develop and test its wet-weather tires between each season.