Pierre Gasly said he feared for his life amid a chaotic start to Sunday’s rain-shortened race after he narrowly avoided a collision with a crane which had been deployed to recover Carlos Sainz’s stricken car after the Ferrari driver spun out on the opening lap. 

While most of the field passed the recovery vehicle at slow speed behind the Safety Car, Gasly was trying to catch up with the back of the pack after making an early pit stop to repair damage to his AlphaTauri. 

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Gasly, who was penalised for speeding under the red-flag conditions, was joined by other F1 drivers in condemning race officials for a decision they called “unacceptable”

The incident happened at the same circuit where Jules Bianchi suffered fatal head injuries when he hit a tractor in similar conditions at the 2014 race. 

After the race, F1’s governing body announced a full investigation into the matter. 

“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,” an FIA statement read. 

“This is part of the common practice of debrief and analysis of all race incidents to ensure continual improvements of processes and procedures.”