The FIA has committed to implementing new safety procedures in F1 following Pierre Gasly’s close call with a recovery vehicle at the Japanese GP and said that the decision to bring the tractor on track was “premature”.
The vehicle was in the gravel recovering the car of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz after he lost control in the wet conditions on Lap 1 at Suzuka under the safety car when Gasly, who was attempting to catch up with the pack, went near by at high speed.
Gasly was eventually found to have driven faster than necessary by the Stewards given the saftey car and handed a penalty, but the incident was widely condemned given that Jules Bianci died in an accident in similar circumstances at the same track in 2014.
Following an investigation into the incident, the FIA has now admitted that the decision to deploy the vehicle given previous accidents while the drivers were still on track was inappropriate.
“After his Pit Stop, Gasly rejoined the track and drove to his Safety Car delta time in an effort to catch the pack. When he reached the incident in Turn 12 for the second time, marshals were working with a crane on track,” the FIA said in a statement.
“Even though it is common practice to deploy recovery vehicles once a race has been neutralised, the review panel discussed whether the entry of the recovery vehicle at Suzuka to retrieve the stricken Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was premature given the prevailing conditions.”
Given the context of Bianci’s accident, and the prevailing challenging weather conditions, the FIA said it was plain that it would have been a better decision to wait rather than risk having the vehicle on track while it was still active.
“The review panel acknowledged that having recovery cranes on track at Suzuka during the weather conditions is a sensitive matter in view of the tragic incidents of the past. The panel determined that in hindsight, as the weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the deployment of the recovery vehicles on track.”
“It was acknowledged that every effort should be made to perform an efficient and safe recovery of cars. A longer recovery period, in conditions such as those which prevailed in Suzuka, may result in a race suspension. “
However, the FIA also highlighted that Gasly was in any event driving too fast under red flag conditions, something which the AlphaTauri driver himself has admitted despite remaining adamant that the recovery vehicle should not have been on track at that time in any case.
“In the case of Gasly, data showed that in an effort to close the delta time to the Safety Car he had been travelling at speeds which exceeded 200 km/h before the scene of the Sainz incident – and after passing the stricken Ferrari of Sainz under a Red Flag,” the FIA said.
“It should be noted that after the event he expressed his regret during a Stewards hearing which resulted in a penalty.”