3 December 2014
F1 Accident Panel: ‘Bianchi did not slow sufficiently’
The Accident Panel set up by the FIA to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jules Bianchi's crash in the Japanese Grand Prix says one of the key issues was Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently”
The Accident Panel set up by the FIA to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jules Bianchi's crash in the Japanese Grand Prix says one of the key issues was that Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently”.
Bianchi left the track at high speed and hit a mobile crane which was recovering Adrian Sutil's Sauber, sustaining severe head injuries. The Accident Panel – set up by the FIA and made up of 10 members including Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali – delivered its report at the World Motor Sport Council [WMSC] meeting in Doha on Wednesday and said: “The review of the events leading up to Bianchi's accident indicate that a number of key issues occurred, which may have contributed to the accident, though none alone caused it”.
The full list of conclusions from the panel are as follows:
1. The semi-dry racing line at T 7 was abruptly narrowed by water draining onto the track and flowing downhill along it. Both Sutil, and Bianchi one lap later, lost control at this point in T 7.
2. Sutil's car was in the process of being recovered by mobile crane when Bianchi approached Sectors 7 and 8, which include the part of T 7 where the recovery was taking place. Sectors 7 and 8 were subject to double yellow flags.
3. Bianchi did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control at the same point on the track as Sutil.
4. If drivers adhere to the requirements of double yellow flags, as set out in Appendix H, Art. 220.127.116.11.b, then neither competitors nor officials should be put in immediate or physical danger.
5. The actions taken following Sutil's accident were consistent with the regulations, and their interpretation following 384 incidents in the preceding 8 years. Without the benefit of hindsight, there is no apparent reason why the Safety Car should have been deployed either before or after Sutil's accident.
6. Bianchi over-controlled the oversteering car, such that he left the track earlier than Sutil, and headed towards a point “up-stream” along the barrier. Unfortunately, the mobile crane was in front of this part of the barrier, and he struck and under-ran the rear of it at high speed.
7. During the 2 seconds Bianchi's car was leaving the track and traversing the run-off area, he applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet. The FailSafe algorithm is designed to over-ride the throttle and cut the engine, but was inhibited by the Torque Coordinator, which controls the rear Brake-by-Wire system. Bianchi's Marussia has a unique design of BBW, which proved to be incompatible with the FailSafe settings.
8. The fact that the FailSafe did not disqualify the engine torque requested by the driver may have affected the impact velocity; it has not been possible to reliably quantify this. However, it may be that Bianchi was distracted by what was happening and the fact that his front wheels had locked, and been unable to steer the car such that it missed the crane.
9. Bianchi's helmet struck the sloping underside of the crane. The magnitude of the blow and the glancing nature of it caused massive head deceleration and angular acceleration, leading to his severe injuries.
10. All rescue and medical procedures were followed, and their expediency are considered to have contributed significantly to the saving of Bianchi's life.
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.
The panel also made a number of recommendations as a result of the report, including a review of safety critical software and suggesting that a rule be introduced that says a race must start at least four hours before either sunset or dusk, with the exception of night races.
While saying that “the characteristics of the wet weather tyres provided by Pirelli did not influence Bianchi's accident or its outcome in any significant way”, the panel also recommended that provision is made for the tyre supplier to test wet weather tyres between seasons.
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