FIA releases Bianchi accident findings

By on Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Marussia F1 Team

Marussia F1 Team

The FIA has published a review of the events which led to Jules Bianchi's accident at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Bianchi sustained severe head injuries when he struck a recovery vehicle at Suzuka and the FIA set up an accident panel to investigate the details of the Frenchman's crash.

At the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Qatar, the 396 page document was presented to the FIA and a summary published on its website.

The panel concluded that Bianchi did not slow sufficiently and impacted the recovery vehicle at 126kph.

They also ruled out implementations such as closed cockpits, deeming that Bianchi's injuries would not have been lessened in such circumstances.

The following is a summary of what the Accident Panel, which included Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali, concluded:

"On lap 43 of the Japanese GP, Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in Turn 7, and struck a mobile crane that was recovering Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which had crashed the lap before. Bianchi suffered life-threatening injuries to his head, and was evacuated to hospital by ambulance.

"The weather conditions at the time were rain and a deteriorating track condition, and the section of the track where the accident occurred was subject to double yellow flags, due to Sutil’s crash.

"A review of all the evidence and other information about the events leading up to Bianchi’s accident has been carried out by the 10-man Accident Panel, appointed by the FIA. The Panel has issued a 396-page report on their findings with recommendations for improvements, many relevant to all of motorsport. This has been presented to the FIA World Motorsport Council.

"Conclusions:

"The review of the events leading up to Bianchi’s accident indicate that a number of key issues occurred, which may have contributed to the accident, though none alone caused it:

  • The semi-dry racing line at T 7 was abruptly narrowed by water draining onto the track and flowing downhill along it. Both Sutil, and Bianchi one lap later, lost control at this point in T 7.
  • Sutil’s car was in the process of being recovered by mobile crane when Bianchi approached Sectors 7 and 8, which include the part of T 7 where the recovery was taking place. Sectors 7 and 8 were subject to double yellow flags.
  • Bianchi did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control at the same point on the track as Sutil.
  • If drivers adhere to the requirements of double yellow flags, as set out in Appendix H, Art. 2.4.5.1.b, then neither competitors nor officials should be put in immediate or physical danger.
  • The actions taken following Sutil’s accident were consistent with the regulations, and their interpretation following 384 incidents in the preceding 8 years. Without the benefit of hindsight, there is no apparent reason why the Safety Car should have been deployed either before or after Sutil’s accident.
  • Bianchi over-controlled the oversteering car, such that he left the track earlier than Sutil, and headed towards a point “up-stream” along the barrier. Unfortunately, the mobile crane was in front of this part of the barrier, and he struck and under-ran the rear of it at high speed.
  • During the 2 seconds Bianchi’s car was leaving the track and traversing the run-off area, he applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet. The FailSafe algorithm is designed to over-ride the throttle and cut the engine, but was inhibited by the Torque Coordinator, which controls the rear Brake-by-Wire system. Bianchi’s Marussia has a unique design of BBW, which proved to be incompatible with the FailSafe settings.
  • The fact that the FailSafe did not disqualify the engine torque requested by the driver may have affected the impact velocity; it has not been possible to reliably quantify this. However, it may be that Bianchi was distracted by what was happening and the fact that his front wheels had locked, and been unable to steer the car such that it missed the crane.
  • Bianchi’s helmet struck the sloping underside of the crane. The magnitude of the blow and the glancing nature of it caused massive head deceleration and angular acceleration, leading to his severe injuries.
  • All rescue and medical procedures were followed, and their expediency are considered to have contributed significantly to the saving of Bianchi’s life.
  • It is not feasible to mitigate the injuries Bianchi suffered by either enclosing the driver’s cockpit, or fitting skirts to the crane. Neither approach is practical due to the very large forces involved in the accident between a 700kg car striking a 6500kg crane at a speed of 126kph. There is simply insufficient impact structure on a F1 car to absorb the energy of such an impact without either destroying the driver’s survival cell, or generating non-survivable decelerations.
  • It is considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable. It is imperative to prevent a car ever hitting the crane and/or the marshals working near it.

The panel also suggested ensuring that races should start with at least a four hour window prior to sunset and that the calendar should be reviewed to best avoid visiting countries during rainy seasons.


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