Multiple drivers and team bosses criticized the “unacceptable” situation that resulted in a recovery crane being on track in wet conditions prior to a red flag in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Pierre Gasly was catching the back of the field under Safety Car and passed the crane at high speed as it was removing Carlos Sainz’s car from the run to Spoon, after the Ferrari driver aquaplaned on the opening lap in wet conditions.
Just as Gasly passed the final light panel before the incident, the race was red flagged, giving him little warning to slow further and leading to an angry radio message from the Frenchman.
Other drivers such as Sergio Perez also referenced the crane on team radio, with it conjuring up memories of the accident that ultimately claimed Jules Bianchi’s life at the same Suzuka circuit back in 2014.
“I don’t know if people understand but even behind the Safety Car we are going at 100 or 150kph and still at those speeds we don’t see anything, even behind the Safety Car,” Carlos Sainz said. “So if one driver decides to go a bit off the racing line or has small aquaplaning or has to change a switch on the steering wheel and gets a bit out of line and hits a tractor, it’s over, no?
“So I still don’t know why in these conditions we keep risking having a tractor on track because it’s just worthless. You were going to red flag it anyway, so why risk it?”
Sainz’s former teammate Lando Norris was similarly angry, taking to social media to give his opinion.
“Wtf (what the f***),” Norris tweeted. “How’s this happened!? We lost a life in this situation years ago. We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. We wanna race. But this… Unacceptable.”
Wtf. How’s this happened!? We lost a life in this situation years ago. We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. We wanna race. But this… Unacceptable.
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) October 9, 2022
Alex Albon said the drivers had a discussion with the FIA about the topic of recovery vehicles on track due to a similar situation in Singapore, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner wants the FIA to investigate itself after summoning Gasly for speeding under red flags.
“Totally unacceptable,” Horner said. “We lost Jules Bianchi here – what was it, five or six years ago – and that should never, ever happen. There needs to be a full investigation into why there was a recovery vehicle on the circuit. Checo reported it to us, and of course in those horrendous conditions where visibility is zero, extremely dangerous.”
The FIA simply stated an explanation of events, with the red flag being thrown just as Gasly was approaching the crane.
“In relation to the recovery of the incident on Lap 3, the Safety Car had been deployed and the race neutralized,” an FIA spokesperson said. “Car 10, which had collected damage and pitted behind the Safety Car, was then driving at high speed to catch up to the field.
“As conditions were deteriorating, the Red Flag was shown before Car 10 passed the location of the incident where it had been damaged the previous lap.”