Sport Motorsport Was money responsible for Bianchi crash?

Was money responsible for Bianchi crash?

Jules Bianchi
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Anything more than a few drops of rain and tennis players will head to the chairs, pack up their rackets and wander back to the locker room.

In cricket the covers will be on quicker than you can blink once the skies open. Sometimes the umpires will just call a halt to proceedings because it’s cloudy, should they deem the light insufficient for the batsmen to handle quick bowling.

Yet somehow Formula One, a sport which routinely sees its best set speeds in excess of 340km per hour, has no issue with racing in torrential rain – and now a 25-year-old Frenchman is fighting for his life because of it.

Bianchi family at injured driver’s bedside 
F1 legend worried for schoolboy driver

Why was the race allowed to proceed under such poor conditions? Photo: Getty
Why was the race allowed to proceed under such poor conditions? Photo: Getty

Let’s get this straight – wet conditions are a great test of a driver’s mettle, and a little rain throws up a host of tactical adjustments to be made by teams and drivers alike.

But what we saw at Suzuka during the Japanese Grand Prix was not ‘a little rain’.

Sunday’s race was allowed to start despite conditions so treacherous – because of storms whipped up by the approaching typhoon Phanfone – that the safety car led the field into the first turn.

According to the BBC, the FIA – F1’s governing body – suggested on repeated occasions to organisers that the event should have started earlier than the scheduled start time of 3pm, before the heavens opened.

This advice was ignored.

On lap 43, with light fading and rain getting heavier, Jules Bianchi’s Marussia found water and aquaplaned off the track.

He struck a mobile crane that was being used to pick up the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, who had crashed moments before. Felipe Massa, driving for Williams, expressed grave concerns about the conditions shortly before Bianchi’s accident.

“I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track,” Massa said.

“They took a bit too long to bring out the safety car and it was dangerous.”

The crash left Bianchi with a severe head injury. He has since undergone surgery at Mie General Hospital and remains in a critical condition, fighting for life.

Like boxing, there’s an inherent risk accepted when you put on that helmet and the fire retardant clothing.

Surely the vast sums of money that change hands between TV networks and F1 chiefs cannot come before a man’s life, or his health, or his future ability to feed his family, or even have a family?

Grands prix are not games of basketball – they occur outside in the elements and involve speeds that make death and serious injury a very real risk.

In tennis, it is not uncommon for a grand slam final to be held over and finished a day later if the elements mean the match cannot be finished as originally scheduled.

Yes, a Formula One GP involves more people and would be a much bigger undertaking to reschedule, but lives are at stake.

The mobile crane Bianchi struck. Photo: Getty
The mobile crane Bianchi struck. Photo: Getty

F1 has always been a peculiar sport – full of money, playboys and places (like Monte Carlo) I’ll never visit.

Like boxing, there’s an inherent risk accepted when you put on that helmet and the fire retardant clothing and get behind the wheel, but the sport must make sure it does all it can to mitigate that risk.

In the 20 years since Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger died on the same weekend in San Marino, there has not been another grand prix fatality. Progress has been made.

But surely the sport needs to be more flexible in scheduling and less intimidated by its broadcast partners. If it had been, Jules Bianchi would be en route to Russia for his next race.

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