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Philippe Bianchi calls on FIA to “go further” than ‘Halo’

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Philippe Bianchi has called on the FIA to “go further” than the ‘Halo’ prototype in its bid to improve driver safety in Formula 1 and prevent serious head injuries.

Philippe’s son Jules Bianchi died last year from serious head injuries sustained in an accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix nine months earlier, where he collided with a recovery vehicle after going off track in wet conditions.

Bianchi’s death was followed by that of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was killed after being hit by debris during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 23.

In response to these deaths, the FIA has stepped up its bid to improve driver safety in F1 by inviting teams to submit possible designs to increase cockpit protection.

The Mercedes-designed ‘Halo’ prototype made its public debut in Barcelona on Thursday, and was greeted with a mixed response after being tested on Ferrari’s SF16-H car.

Speaking to French TV station Canal +, Bianchi Sr. said that although ‘Halo’ was a definite step in the right direction, more needs to be done as he doubts it would have saved either his son or Wilson.

“I consider that this is a step forward in term of security. It is obvious that in the case of when a wheel comes off, this system would be effective,” Bianchi said.

“However, in the case of small debris, as Felipe Massa and Justin Wilson had, that wouldn’t have changed anything. So this is a step forward, but it does not solve everything.

“For Jules, it would not have changed nothing, because it’s the extremely violent deceleration that caused the damage that we know to his brain.

“I think developments of the HANS system to better absorb big deceleration in a severe impact could help in this case.

“The FIA ​​wished to act after Jules’s and Justin’s accidents, but it must go further.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.