On Friday ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, the FIA published its findings of a far-reaching review of several incidents that occurred at Suzuka and announced number of procedural recommendations that will be implemented. 

These included the timing and use of recovery vehicles and deployment of marshals in the wake of Carlos Sainz’s first-lap crash in wet conditions that prompted anger among the drivers and evoked memories of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, where Jules Bianchi suffered fatal head injuries when he hit a crane. 

Is Hamilton No Longer the Best Wet Weather Driver?

In response to concerns raised by several drivers including GPDA director George Russell and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, F1’s governing body noted that “in such conditions, a recovery vehicle should not be deployed unless all cars are aligned behind the Safety Car.” 

Gasly was catching the back of the train of cars behind the Safety Car after making an unscheduled pit stop to repair damage at the end of the opening lap. 

The review acknowledged the FIA does not have sufficient control over the cars elsewhere on track, and that the drivers have “an obligation to limit their speed according under Yellow Flag, Safety Car and Red Flag conditions” and should “apply common sense at all times.” 

Gasly was handed a post-race time penalty for travelling at speeds exceeding 200km/h before the scene of the Sainz accident. The FIA noted that Gasly had expressed his “regret” during the stewards hearing. 

The review determined that conditions were suitable enough to start the race from a standing start on time despite the rain, though it noted that heavier rain around the start meant that car control on intermediate tyres was “more challenging”. 

Pirelli’s wet weather tyres was also a topic of discussion, with analysis into their performance in extreme conditions ongoing between the FIA technical department and F1’s tyre manufacturer. 

The FIA said the issue of the fixing of advertising boards is constantly under review after one was dislodged in Sainz’s impact with the barrier and was subsequently picked up by Gasly, causing the damage which forced him to pit. 

Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing between the FIA and the circuit organisers on how circuit drainage can be improved at Suzuka. 

Measures to be implemented 

The FIA has announced that as of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, the following measures will be implemented: 

  • Information to be provided to the Teams by means of a message via the official messaging system and communicated via the FIA intercom system to notify teams that a recovery vehicle is on track with the obligation from the Teams to inform their Drivers.
  • Development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to display the status of all cars, on track, behind SC, in PITS to be used by Race Control and the ROC. 
  • Race Control Procedure Update to better define the allocation of tasks across the Race Control team (including delegation of monitoring tasks to ROC as required) under SC or VSC procedure. In specific relation to this review, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the Pit Lane under SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.
  • The FIA Race Director will hold a review of the incidents in Suzuka during the United States Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing to explain what solutions the FIA plans to introduce to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future and to remind the Drivers of the rules relating to Safety Cars and Red Flags.
  • Dynamic VSC: implementation of a new function that would change the delta speed required for the driver to follow before and in the sectors where there is an incident, this would aid the drivers to know where incidents have been declared.
  • In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to Yellow, Double Yellow, VSC and SC conditions will take place. 
  • Assessment of the current application of advertising boards, their construction, location and materials used to avoid the potential for them to being torn off and thrown on track.

Changes to race control and points distribution 

The FIA has also announced that for the remaining four races of the 2022 season, the system of rotating the role of race director will be scrapped. 

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas had been sharing the role this year following Michael Masi’s sacking, but Wittich will hold the position for the final races in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. 

There was huge confusion in the initial aftermath of the race as to whether Max Verstappen had won the world championship due to uncertainty over whether half points would be handed out with only 28 laps of the scheduled 53 completed. 

While the FIA insists the sporting regulations regarding race time limit and points distribution were applied correctly in Japan, the wording is set to be revisited “with a view to bringing further clarity”.