Skip to main content

F1: Bianchi Accident Report Rejects Closed Cockpits

The panel setup by the FIA to investigate the accident which befell Jules Bianchi at the Japanese Grand Prix, has made its report to the World Motor Sports Council, and manages to make sensible recommendations without resorting to the kind of knee-jerk responses which proliferate the modern world.

On the cause of the accident, the panel found that Bianchi had not slowed sufficiently on approaching the double waved yellow flag zone covering the recovery of Adrian Sutil's Sauber. Also, an incompatibility between the Marussia's brake-by-wire system and the engine management system prevented the engine shutdown which should have been activated when Bianchi hit both the brakes and throttle as he left the track. A combination of this, locked wheels and wet surface meant that the Marussia hit the crane at a speed of 126kph - around 78mph.

The panel found that Bianchi's brain injury was caused by a massive deceleration caused by the impact between helmet and crane, added to an angular acceleration caused by the sloping underside of the recovery vehicle. The panel found that neither closed cockpits nor skirts on the recovery vehicle would have mitigated Bianchi's injuries and noted that there was insufficient deforming structure on an F1 car to resist this kind of accident without causing a failure of the survival cell or causing a 'non-survivable' deceleration.

Presented with the facts it appears that once the set of circumstances had placed Bianchi, Sutil and the recovery crane in their respective positions there was nothing that could have prevented Bianchi's injuries.

But what about preventing the situation from occurring. As ever, with hindsight, it's easy to suggest what might have been changed. Most people, myself included, were shocked that a safety car wasn't deployed when the crane was sent to recover Sutil's car. The panel notes that the decision not to do so was consistent with the rules and the 384 previous incidents. It fails to note, however, that Bianchi's incident was a near replica of Martin Brundle's in 1994 - with the Englishman just missing the crane and crashing into a group of marshals in near identical conditions. Knowledge of that incident should have informed a decision to deploy the safety car.

The late start of the race was a factor too - in the descending gloom it's unclear how much visibility Bianchi had approaching the incident. The panel suggested a new rule preventing a race starting within four hours of sunset (unless it's a floodlit dusk or night race).

Finally there was the failure of the fail-safe system, which instead of killing the engine may have actually contributed to the high speed of the impact. The FIA should ensure that these technical safety measures aren't being rendered useless by the interaction between systems on these highly complex cars.


Popular posts from this blog

F1: Robert Kubica Impresses In Renault Test Run

The car may be old but its the performance of the driver that's the story here. Robert Kubica returned to F1, after a fashion, earlier this week with an extensive test run in a 2012 Lotus Renault F1 car at Valencia.
The age of the car and the circuit were likely determined by F1's current rules which ban testing, but the reason for Kubica being in the car is far more interesting. Considered by many to be a potential World Champion and certainly one of the fastest drivers of his generation, Kubica's F1 career seemed to be over after a 2011 crash whilst driving in the Rally of Andora. His Skoda Fabia was penetrated by a guardrail in the high speed accident partially severing his right arm.
Up until last year Kubica has been competing in rallying, with the expectation that the limited movement in his repaired arm would prohibit a return to single seater racing.
So this week's test is both interesting and confusing. Interesting because Kubica completed 115 laps of the ret…

F1: Robert Kubica's Williams Test Asks More Questions Than It Answers

Comparing driver's times at a tyre evaluation test like last week's Abu Dhabi event is difficult at the best of times, but when trying to assess the performance of a driver who has been out of the sport for six years, that difficulty level is raised even higher.
On the face of it Robert Kubica's test for Williams was a success. Fastest of the three Williams drivers present the headlines look promising. However, taking into consideration the different tyres used to set those times muddies the water considerably.
Kubica ran a three lap qualifying simulation on the new 'hyper-soft' tyre - which should have given him a two-second advantage. Correcting for tyres it would appear that Kubica was significantly slower than Sergei Sorotkin - who was on the harder 'soft' tyre - and marginally quicker than Lance Stroll, the team's only contracted driver.

Stroll's family fortune currently funds Williams, so there' no chance that he will be anywhere but in a…

Panos Panay's Defence Of Microsoft Surface Hardware Sounds Eerily Familiar

This weekend I went out with my ten year old daughter to select a laptop for her school year beginning in January. The schools requirements are quite specific, requiring a Windows 10 device, with a preference for a touchscreen and a stylus. She chose a Surface Pro, after trying a large number of different options. Having seen the way I use my own Surface Pro - and tried it herself there was only ever going to be two options - and the other was a Surface Laptop.
I tell you this so that you understand I am a buyer of Microsoft's products through choice, not compulsion. I'm on my third Surface device now. 
So when Panos Panay dismissed reports of the death of the Surface hardware line, I was very interested to see exactly how strong these denials were. Especially how they reflect what has gone before. To whit: Windows 10 Mobile.
Panay claimed that Microsoft is in hardware for the long haul. Almost exactly mirroring the words of Terry Myerson, when he claimed Windows Mobile was g…