The FIA has said it is looking at improving safety in wake of Jules Bianchi's accident
"It is probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers," suggests Race Director Charlie Whiting; Bianchi did slow for double-waved yellow flags but Whiting says "it’s a matter of degree"
By Mike Wise in Sochi
Last Updated: 17/10/14 5:47pm
The FIA has revealed more details of Jules Bianchi’s crash in last weekend’s Japanese GP and also promised safety improvements in the wake of the Marussia driver’s tragic accident.
As the Frenchman’s life hangs in the balance, the governing body held a press briefing in the Sochi paddock on Friday, attended by FIA President Jean Todt.
CCTV footage of Bianchi’s accident at Suzuka’s Dunlop Curve, together with that of Adrian Sutil’s Sauber on the previous lap - which precipitated his collision with a recovery tractor - was also shown.
As rain, which had been falling all day as Typhoon Phanfone approached, worsened in the closing laps, the cameras showed Sutil running off the dry-ish racing line, causing his car to spin into the barriers.
Bianchi appeared to do the same thing on the following lap. Unlike Sutil, however, he attempted to correct the slide, which caused his car to aquaplane off the track nose first.
His Marussia then collided head-on with the rear of the tractor recovering Sutil’s car, which resulted in the 25-year-old suffering a diffuse axonal injury to his brain.
Whiting stressed that marshals were right to start waving a green flag - which some thought might have confused Bianchi - instead of yellows as Sutil's car was moved past their post, because it indicated that the track "downstream" had been cleared.
However, he denied that using double yellows in the first place - as opposed to bringing out the Safety Car - had been the wrong course of action.
"They are obviously yellow because that accident is downstream. You'll see that as they pick the car up and move backwards, it goes beyond the [marshal's] post and hence they changed the signal from yellow to green," Whiting said.
“We put double waved yellows out because we felt that the incident could be dealt with without using a Safety Car.
“The next stage up is a Safety Car, of course, but because the car was well away from the track against the tyre barrier, that’s the normal procedure for us to follow.”
Whiting, who is in the process of completing the FIA’s report into the accident, said that “not everybody slowed down” in response to the yellow flags but refused to specify how fast Bianchi’s car was travelling.
“There were some that didn’t slow down much; there were some that slowed down a lot,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go into details about how much he slowed down relative to others, suffice to say we do have that data.
“He did slow down, but it’s a matter of degree.”
Whiting met drivers at the Russian GP on Friday and will also meet teams on Saturday, when what he called “good, sound and well thought through ideas” will be discussed further.
Cockpit canopies and adding ‘skirts’ to recovery tractors have been mentioned, but the main suggestion would force drivers to lower their speed under caution by making them drive to a delta time.
It’s something they already do when the Safety Car is sent out and Whiting thinks it’s a better solution than using the so-called ‘slow zones’ seen in the World Endurance Championship.
“One of the most important things to learn here is that it is probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers,” he said.
“What we could do is to effectively deploy the Safety Car but not actually send the Safety Car out."
Slow zones limit speeds to 60 km/h but Whiting would prefer cars to lap under the variable speed limit the delta time allows for.
“One thing that would worry me slightly is the fact that you can see how engineers and drivers push the limit for the pit lane speed limit,” he said.
“They would want to be braking at the last possible minute and as hard as possible to get down to the speed limit in the precise place. That’s the nature of Formula 1.”
Mindful of the approching typhoon, the FIA had suggested to Japanese GP race promoters Honda that the race-start time be brought forward.
They decided to keep the 3pm start time as scheduled but according to Whiting: “The race-start time is entirely unconnected to the incidents in question.”
One confusing aspect of the aftermath of Bianchi's accident was the decision to take him to the nearby Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi by ambulance, even though a helicopter was ready and took off shortly afterwards.
According to the FIA's Chief Medical Officer Jean-Charles Piette, however, he was advised that although the helicopter could take off at the circuit, it couldn't land at the hospital.
The ambulance took 32 minutes to make the 15km journey but Medical Rescue Co-ordinator Ian Roberts stressed that Bianchi "was monitored very closely and he arrived at the hospital in exactly the same state physiologically".
Whiting added that there will be no changes this weekend but any that are approved will likely to come into effect next season.
However, Todt ended the 75 minute-long briefing by making the point that no matter how many improvements the FIA makes, it could never make the sport 100 per cent safe.
“For me, every time there is an accident, wherever it is, it’s something which is very much involving me,” he said.
“We have a responsibility to take into consideration what has happened and make sure it will not happen again.
“But motor sport is dangerous and you cannot guarantee that there will not be any more accidents.”