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Formula 1 Japanese GP

FIA launches investigation into F1 Japanese GP tractor incident

The FIA has launched an investigation into the timing and use of the recovery vehicles at Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix, following driver alarm over the presence of a tractor on the track.

The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In the wake of Carlos Sainz’s opening lap crash on the run out of the hairpin, marshals sent a recovery truck on to the circuit to help retrieve the stranded Ferrari.

With memories still fresh of the incident at the 2014 Japanese GP, where Jules Bianchi suffered injuries he would later succumb to after hitting a similar crane, there was widespread unease in the paddock about what happened.

A number of drivers expressed their concern about the crane being there as they toured around behind the safety car, while AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly – who drove past at much higher speed as he was off the back of the pack following a pitstop – was left furious at the dangerous situation.

Speaking afterwards, the Frenchman said: “We lost Jules eight years ago in similar conditions with a crane on track in the gravel. I don’t understand how eight years later in similar conditions we can still see a crane, not even on the gravel but on the racing line.

“It is just not respectful towards Jules, towards his family, towards his loved ones and all of us.

“It was a dramatic incident and I think on that day we learned we don’t want to see any tractors in this kind of conditions.

“If I would have lost the car in a similar way as Carlos lost it on the lap before… I was doing 200kph but it is not the matter, even 100kph, if I would have lost it and hit a 12-tonne crane, I would’ve been dead right now.”

While the FIA is clear that it is standard procedure in F1 for vehicles to be retrieved by cranes under safety car conditions, it says that driver feedback of what happened has prompted it to take matters more seriously.

The car of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, is recovered with a truck

The car of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, is recovered with a truck

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

An FIA spokesman said on Sunday night that a thorough review of the circumstances would now take place to see what lessons can be learned to ensure no repeat problems in the future.

A statement said: “While it is normal practice to recover cars under safety car and red flag conditions, due to the particular circumstances and also taking into account feedback from of a number of drivers, the FIA has launched a thorough review of the events involving the deployment of recovery vehicles during the Japanese Grand Prix.

“This is part of the common practice of debrief and analysis of all race incidents to ensure continual improvements of processes and procedures.”

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One of the key aspects of the investigation will likely be whether the trackside marshals acted unilaterally in sending the crane out so quickly, or they were authorised to do so by race control.

Article 2.6.1 of Appendix H of the International Sporting Code by which all FIA events are run, states clearly: “No marshal or vehicle shall enter the circuit perimeter without permission from race control.”

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