Jules Bianchi’s father furious as Pierre Gasly passes tractor on track in scary Japanese Grand Prix incident

The frightening incident brought up unfortunate memories of the fatal crash involving Jules Bianchi in 2014

Jamie Braidwood
Sunday 09 October 2022 08:40 BST
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Pierre Gasly fuming after passing tractor on track in scary Japanese Grand Prix incident

The father of Jules Bianchi led criticism of a frightening incident involving Pierre Gasly at the Japanese Grand Prix after the driver passed a tractor on track just seconds after the the race was red-flagged due to heavy rain.

The scary moment in which Gasly passed the vehicle at speed and in low visibility brought up memories of the fatal crash involving the Frenchman’s compatriot Bianchi in 2014, which also occured at the Japanese Grand Prix, and raises serious questions for Formula One.

Bianchi’s father, Philippe, criticised the incident on social media and commented: “No respect for the life of the driver no respect for Jules memory”. With the race red-flagged, the McLaren driver Lando Norris tweeted: “How’s this happened!? We lost a life in this situation years ago. We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. Unacceptable.”

Amid wet conditions and standing water at Suzuka, a chaotic opening lap saw both Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon crash out. The impact of Sainz hitting the barrier forced a piece to rebound back on track and hit Gasly’s car, forcing the Frenchman to pit for a new front nose.

Once Gasly returned to the track in 18th place, the conditions had got worse and the race was red-flagged, with all remaining cars returning to the pits. But as Gasly caught up at the back of the field, the AlphaTauri driver was shocked to see a recovery vehicle driving on the track in the opposite direction.

“What the... what the, what is this tractor doing here,” an incredulous Gasly said after passing the vehicle. Gasly claimed he could have “killed” himself after the near-miss, which brought back memories of Bianchi’s death in Suzuka eight years ago.

Bianchi, who was a talented young driver, suffered fatal head injuries after sliding off-track in heavy rain and colliding with a recovery vehicle at high speed.

The Frenchman spent nine months in a coma, and passed away on 17 July 2015, becoming the first driver to suffer a fatal accident in Formula 1 since Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994.

The FIA released a statement following the incident, which noted that Gasly had been travelling at “high speed” but did not explain why the recovery vehicle had been deployed while he was still on track.

Gasly has also been summoned to the stewards for driving at speeds “of up to 250 kph when completing the lap under the red flag after passing the scene of the incident”.

The FIA’s statement read: “The Safety Car had been deployed and the race neutralised. Car 10 [Pierre Gasly], which had collected damage and pitted behind the Safety Car, was driving at high speed to catch up to the field.”

The FIA said stewards will investigate the incident after the race.

Afterwards, Sainz and Albon expressed concern with the handling of the incident. Sainz said: “I don’t know if people understand but even behind safety car, going 150 kph, we still don’t see nothing. If one driver gets out of racing line, changes a switch on a steering wheel, you crash into a tractor and it’s over.”

The Japanese Grand Prix was disrupted by heavy rain
The Japanese Grand Prix was disrupted by heavy rain (Getty Images)

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said driver Sergio Perez had informed the pit lane that there was a recovery vehicle on track moments before Gasly passed it, with the Mexican later tweeting his anger.

“How can we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on track?” Perez said. “We lost Jules because of that mistake. What happened today is totally unacceptable!!!!! I hope this is the last time ever I see a crane on track!”

Horner said F1 had been “lucky” that no one was hurt as he called for a full investigation into the “extremely dangerous” incident. “Totally unacceptable,” he said. “We lost Jules Binachi here and that should never ever happen.

“There needs to be a full investigation as to why there was a recovery vehicle on the circuit. In these conditions were visibility is zero, extremely dangerous.

“The VSC [Virtual Safety Car] was brought in for a reason following that awful accident. There needs to be a full investigation as to why that vehicle was on track because it shouldn’t have been.

“Without all the facts it’s hard to comment why it was on track. Allow the FIA to do the full due dilligence on it because it shouldn’t happen.”

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