F1: Jules Bianchi, Maria de Villota And The Lessons To Be Learned
The sad news that Jules Bianchi had succumbed to his Japanese Grand Prix injuries at the weekend was not altogether unexpected, but that didn't reduce the shock at all. Just like in May 1994 a whole generation of F1 fans who had grown up in a period where the sport was practically injury free got a wake up call. Those heroes that we worship week in and week out are just one tiny alignment of bad circumstances from being taken from us in the most violent manner.
As in 1994 those commentators who talked about Bianchi's death as being the first in the sport for over two decades gave no thought to a driver killed in testing. In 1994 it was Elio de Angeles, whose death was one of the most senseless in modern F1, this year it was Maria de Villota, who died as a consequence of injuries received fifteenth months previously in a 2012 accident that bore eerie similarities to Bianchi's.
Both were driving for the Marissa team, both struck course vehicles and both suffered neurological trauma that was to end their lives.
The lesson that service vehicles in the path of racing cars was a fatal combination should have been learned after that accident at Duxford. Instead it took Bianchi's Suzuka accident before changes were made. One wonders whether de Villota's accident was actually taken at all seriously by the FIA?
None of this will bring Jules back to us. As a sport we have lost a fine competitor and a potential World Champion; the Bianchi family have lost a son and a young man with his whole life ahead of him.
It is impossible to make F1 100% safe, however for a sport with the financial and technical resources that it musters, it is absolutely essential to review and model potential outcomes for any unusual accident and address any issues that are uncovered.
That should be the legacy of this sad weekend.