#912 2014 Japanese Grand Prix

2023-01-08 00:00

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#2014, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#912 2014 Japanese Grand Prix

Once upon a time there was a driver who wanted to stay at Ferrari forever and a Ferrari that did everything to ensure that he lived happily ever after


Once upon a time there was a driver who wanted to stay at Ferrari forever and a Ferrari that did everything to ensure that he lived happily ever after. The fairy tale is over: behind the facade phrases there is still a driver, Fernando Alonso, who wants to leave but would like to be told to stay with us, and a team that thanks him but leaves him free to leave because Ferrari is very more important than any partner (words by Sergio Marchionne). In short, the details of the divorce are being defined. Among the secret clauses of the contract there is one that would allow the driver to leave at the end of the season, two years before the deadline and without paying penalties. If, on the contrary, it was the team that fired him, the penalty would certainly exist. Here is the reason for the melina and the sentences, more or less sincere, with which the parties exchange effusions and expressions of esteem. Alonso would also have stayed in exchange for a nice touch-up to his salary and direct involvement in the choice of new coaches. But the new Marchionne-Mattiacci management, while recognizing him as the best driver around, reduced his power within the team. In Suzuka, on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Spanish rider is the protagonist of a press conference bordering on the surreal, in which he replies with sibylline phrases to questions about the future.


"I don't live on Mars, I know the indiscretions and the ongoing storm, but what we have to do now is find harmony and fight on the track against Williams for third place".


Then a second priority:


"Everything I do will be for the good of Ferrari. I've always been lucky to choose where to race and it will be the same now, but taking the minimum risk".


If the decision was to respect the contract, many words would not be needed. The reply from Luca Montezemolo, outgoing president of Ferrari (he will leave the command to Marchionne on Monday 13 October 2014), represents the tombstone of a relationship that began in 2010 and passed through strong emotions (the titles lost in the last race in 2010 and 2012) and zero wins.


"Alonso is the best in the world for me, we are working to find the best solution for him and for Ferrari with mutual respect. Fernando is talking to Mattiacci, there is no worry about closing today or tomorrow morning".


The announcement is expected from 13 October 2014. Two question marks: where Alonso will go and who will take his place. Probable destination is McLaren-Honda, which offered him a three-year contract worth 100.000.000 dollars. There is still a small margin in Mercedes, in the (unlikely) case that Lewis Hamilton loses the World Championship and gets into an argument with the team. For the replacement, Sebastian Vettel is in the lead, with four world titles and one present in Red Bull Racing poisoned by the presence of Daniel Ricciardo, who beats him regularly. Apart from Lewis Hamilton, the alternative is Jules Bianchi, 25 years old from Marussia, a product of the Ferrari nursery.


"I'm ready".


But a Raikkonen-Bianchi couple would be unpresentable: the place for Bianchi will most likely become available in 2016. In the meantime, Typhoon Phanfone threatens the F1 Japanese Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 5 October 2014 in Suzuka. 


The FIA will evaluate any changes to the program and times. Already in 2004, again in Japan, typhoon Ma-On caused qualifying to be postponed to the Sunday morning before the race. For this race, Pirelli, the sole supplier of the tyres, brings Hard and Medium compound tyres. The FIA indicates only one section of the track in which the drivers can activate the DRS: this is the main straight, with the detection point set just before the last chicane. Furthermore, Mika Salo is called upon to play the role of assistant commissioner for the race by the FIA. The former F1 driver has performed this function before, most recently at the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix. On Friday 3 October 2014, former Formula 1 driver Alexander Wurz was appointed to head the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, the organization that looks after the interests of Formula 1 drivers. Will Stevens, a British driver already included in the Caterham driver development program, becomes reserve driver for Marussia. The Anglo-Russian team announces his presence during the first free practice sessions, but this will be canceled due to contractual problems. Previously, on Monday 29 September 2014, Max Verstappen, a seventeen-year-old Dutch driver, son of former Formula 1 driver Jos obtained the FIA Superlicence. Therefore, on the eve of the Japanese Grand Prix, Scuderia Toro Rosso announces that the young Dutch driver will take part in the first free practice session on Friday in place of Jean-Éric Vergne. Finally, on Friday 3 October 2014 Kamui Kobayashi was reconfirmed as the starting driver at Caterham, who still employs the Spanish Roberto Merhi in the first free practice, instead of the Japanese. On Friday 3 October 2014, the Mercedes lead the standings in the first free practice session. 


Nico Rosberg leads Lewis Hamilton by just 0.151 seconds. Fernando Alonso follows in third place. All the riders tackle this first session using the Hard compound tyres. Max Verstappen's debut did not materialize in full due to the failure of the Renault engine of his Toro Rosso. Even Jules Bianchi did not take part in the entire practice session due to a technical problem. At the end of the session Pastor Maldonado was forced to replace the engine of his Lotus: being the sixth engine used in the season, the Venezuelan will be penalized with the loss of ten positions on the starting grid. Mercedes confirms its level of competitiveness also in the second session on Friday. In this case, however, Lewis Hamilton precedes Nico Rosberg by 0.240 seconds. The third, Valtteri Bottas, closed FP2 1.201 seconds behind the British rider. The session was interrupted for the first time, with the display of the red flags, due to an accident involving Daniel Ricciardo, with no physical consequences for the driver. The second interruption was due to a technical problem which stopped Jean-Éric Vergne's car. Other riders, in addition to Daniel Ricciardo, are also protagonists of track exits. Also the Saturday session will see the two Anglo-German cars still in the first two positions. Nico Rosberg precedes Lewis Hamilton this time, who during the session is also the author of a track exit at turn 1. His car slams into the barriers on the outside of the curve. Fernando Alonso moved up to third position, 1.211 seconds behind Nico Rosberg's time. Kimi Räikkönen instead broke the engine of his car after just five laps. The Finn continues his commitment over the weekend with an engine that has already been used, thus avoiding the penalty.


"Winning is the most important thing, winning with Ferrari is better".


Listened to again today, these words spoken by Sebastian Vettel a month earlier at Monza take on a different meaning: they are no longer just a generic courtship, but a declaration of intent. Vettel is a Red Bull driver and has won four championships in a row with Red Bull, but will take over from Fernando Alonso at Maranello next year. The agreement was found and only the announcement is missing. Now the refoundation of Ferrari is complete. All the key men have changed, from the presidency to the helm of sports management, up to the technical management, with James Allison who assumed the role of sole manager of the 2015 project and Mattia Binotto who replaced Luca Marmorini in engine design. With the replacement of the first pilot, the discontinuity is total and a period of re-foundation begins which will take at least a couple of years. Sebastian Vettel at the beginning of September was already in contact with Maranello. 


The team principal, Marco Mattiacci, worried by Fernando Alonso's mood, had sought him out to have a plan B ready. The German driver was the ideal candidate: 27 years old, successful, looking for new stimuli after a negative season, student by Michael Schumacher. And in love with Ferrari. The sentence pronounced in Monza is almost a copy-paste of those recited in the same place in 2008 and 2011, in unsuspecting times:


"I would like to win with Ferrari one day".


A desire that has never thrilled his employers and that from 2015 he will have the opportunity to realize. Alonso never loved him perhaps also for these utterances and resized him judging him inferior to Hamilton. They will remain adversaries and will be able to prove themselves on the track. Fernando Alonso's era ends after five intense years, of which we will especially remember the great occasion of 2010, that title that escaped Abu Dhabi that Montezemolo compared to a missed penalty in the final. The final details are missing for the divorce: the contract expires at the end of 2016 and nobody wants to pay penalties for early termination. Once all the pieces have been put in place, McLaren (from 2015 powered by Honda) will announce the return of the prodigal son, or the driver who in 2007 had it disqualified by revealing the theft of Ferrari's projects. Vettel's arrival in Maranello will bring some of Red Bull's method and secrets, as well as a breath of fresh air. Alonso will tackle the Japanese Grand Prix and the four that follow separately at home. The relationship with Ferrari (and with Mattiacci) is worn out due to mutual faults: on the one hand his increasingly high demands, on the other the technological delay towards Mercedes this year and Red Bull in recent seasons. A champion can embrace a long-term project, but times have dilated.


"Winning with Ferrari is every driver's dream".


Alonso had also said so, who in the end decided to give up. Now the baton passes to Vettel, who has been presented with a three-year contract worth around $20.000.000 per season and a total re-foundation plan. He took up the challenge, judging his experience in Red Bull to be over. This year he suffered from the change of regulation, he was hit by bad luck and beaten by his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.


Saturday 4 October 2014 Sebastian Vettel announces that he will leave Red Bull Racing at the end of the year, but he cannot yet say which team he will race for in 2015.


"I felt the need to change and I chose with my heart".


To remove him from the embarrassment is the team principal of Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner:


"Seb has received a very attractive offer from Ferrari".


So why doesn't Ferrari put the stamp of officiality? This time it's not a question of contracts. Fernando Alonso hasn't decided what to do yet. The only certainty is that he broke the contract that bound him to the Maranello team for two more seasons and is evaluating the offer from McLaren-Honda. But he is not convinced and still hopes to find a place in Mercedes in case Hamilton and Rosberg quarrel. Alonso did not expect Ferrari to reject all of his requests, from the choice of technicians to a salary increase. In reality, the team principal, Marco Mattiacci, had already had Sebastian Vettel's pre-contract in his pocket for some time and was not so sorry about breaking up. 


Because Alonso, in addition to the merit of getting the most out of the non-extraordinary cars that have been made available to him, has at least a couple of flaws that are not tolerated in Maranello: criticizing the team and taking credit for the results. Also on Saturday, at the end of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, the Spaniard underlines his 0.8 second lead over Kimi Raikkonen. The arrival of Sebastian Vettel marks a great discontinuity. A Latin driver is gone, and a German one arrives who as a boy took karting lessons from Michael Schumacher and dreamed of driving a Ferrari too. Someone who, unlike Alonso, doesn't tweet samurai phrases. Indeed, he does not tweet at all, does not use Facebook, is totally excluded from social networks. A subject that should be studied (he is 27 years old, travels the world and stops at text messages), but who doesn't say a word out of place. In the most difficult year of his career, 2014, he never huffed: he broke engines in series and suffered embarrassing team orders (after four world championship helmets, no one should ask you to let your teammate pass) without complaining. Indeed, he is someone who gets out and pushes when the car stops (see Singapore). With him, Ferrari tries to repeat the experience it had with Michael Schumacher: a few years of re-foundation to then return to the top. There is also an unacknowledged hope that only Sebastian Vettel can achieve: breaking the records set by Michael Schumacher, starting with the seven World Championships. In Maranello, Sebastian will meet again with sporting director Massimo Rivola, with whom he has been a friend since his days at Scuderia Toro Rosso. Perhaps he will bring along chief mechanic Kenny Handkammer, who Red Bull Racing has just let go. And other technicians will arrive, because Ferrari promises an important purchasing campaign also in the projects area. According to rumors he will earn 75.000.000 dollars in three years. Is it worth it? Alonso demanded at least 5.000.000 dollars more to stay, but his talent is undeniable. Detractors argue that Vettel is good when he drives a big car, but at the first difficulties he was beaten by Ricciardo. Admirers invite you to ask Webber for information or to review the comeback of Brazil 2012. The interested party replies to the criticisms as follows:


"Those who criticize me don't know how much work is behind my successes. Here nobody gives you anything".


As for qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, Mercedes monopolizes the front row. Nico Rosberg conquers the eighth pole position of the season, thus preceding Lewis Hamilton. Second row for the Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Fernando Alonso is fifth, while Kimi Raikkonen is tenth. Red Bull Racing are respectively in sixth place with Daniel Ricciardo and in ninth place with Sebastian Vettel. Daniil Kvya also did well, in P12 with Toro Rosso, who received the news of his promotion to Red Bull Racing in place of Sebastian Vettel during the day. The danger of rain looms over the Japanese Grand Prix, brought by typhoon Phanfone. Therefore, it is possible that the race will start behind the safety car. The transfer of the Circus from Suzuka to Sochi, where the Russian Grand Prix will take place on Sunday 12 October 2014, could be problematic: bad weather will worsen in the evening and could lead to heavy delays in the transport system. Sunday 5 October 2014, due to the presence of stagnant water all over the track, as Typhoon Phanfone brought heavy rains to the surrounding area, the Japanese Grand Prix starts behind safety, without carrying out the formation lap. Despite the low speed, the drivers struggle to stay on the track due to the lack of grip. Marcus Ericsson loses control of his car after accelerating out of the last corner, ending up in the gravel. The marshals push the car out of the gravel, allowing the Swedish driver to resume the race regularly. Following complaints from Lewis Hamilton about poor visibility, the race was suspended after two laps. The cars return to the pit lane, lined up on the grid, and the engines are switched off. The race restarted after 20 minutes of waiting, behind the safety car, after the rain eased. Meanwhile, the cars are lifted off the raised ground to make them less prone to hydroplaning. After the restart, during the third lap Fernando Alonso was forced to retire due to an electrical problem, possibly caused by a short circuit due to wet conditions. Although Lewis Hamilton is concerned about the functionality of his Mercedes' brakes, engineers tell him that the problem is negligible. Meanwhile, both Hamilton and Vergne report track conditions have improved, while Vettel and Massa say visibility is still poor.


Nevertheless the safety car enters the pit lane at the end of lap nine, leaving the drivers free. Jenson Button made an immediate pit stop to fit intermediate tyres, while Lewis Hamilton attempted to overtake Nico Rosberg at the first corner, but failed. Sebastian Vettel also tries to pass Kevin Magnussen entering the hairpin. But the German driver is also unsuccessful, and goes wide at the Spoon Curve. Sergio Pérez passes Daniil Kvyat and conquers the ninth position. At the end of the first lap of the race, Nico Rosberg has a lead of 1.3 seconds over Lewis Hamilton. The two Mercedes drivers are followed by Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Sergio Pérez and Daniil Kvyat. During lap 12 Bottas, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Räikkönen pitted to put on intermediate tyres. After his first pit stop, Button moved up to eighth on the same lap. Massa and Vettel stop in the pits during lap 13: in this phase, the German manages to pass the Williams driver, and shortly after he rejoins his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Rosberg pitted on lap 14 and rejoined the track in second position, 22 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, who set fast sector times as he attempted to get ahead of the German after he pitted. However, Lewis Hamilton goes out into the run-off area at Spoon Curve, narrowing the gap to a second. Nico Rosberg recovers the first position when Lewis Hamilton approaches the exit of the pit lane, after the stop of the latter. Meanwhile, the Red Bull Racing drivers closed the gap to Felipe Massa, and on lap 16 Sebastian Vettel moved onto the inside line of the hairpin and passed the Brazilian. Subsequently, Daniel Ricciardo also attempted a similar maneuver outside the Spoon Curve, but Felipe Massa - heading towards turn 130R - managed to defend himself. At the end of lap 16 Kevin Magnussen made a second pit stop to change the steering wheel. During lap 17, Daniel Ricciardo attempted to overtake Felipe Massa on the outside as he negotiated the S-curves, but then moved to the inside and managed to move up to sixth place. During lap 18 Sebastian Vettel passed Veltteri Bottas on the outside, and moved up to fourth place. The Finn drops to sixth on lap 19, as close to Daniel Ricciardo as possible on the outside of the S-curves. 


Subsequently, Sebastian Vettel closes the gap to third-placed Jenson Button, while Daniel Ricciardo maintains a similar speed to his teammate. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas is joined by his teammate, Felipe Massa, who has pulled away from Nico Hülkenberg (who went off the track at the second corner). Both Red Bull Racing drivers are fastest on lap 21, but Sebastian Vettel is still 13 seconds behind Jenson Button, and 5 seconds behind Nico Rosberg, who is now just one second ahead of Lewis Hamilton, having dropped out of runway at 130R. A dry line begins to emerge at this point, but some riders prefer to ride over standing water to keep the tire temperatures down. DRS becomes usable again from lap 24. Although Lewis Hamilton reduced Nico Rosberg's lead to 0.5 seconds, and can therefore use DRS, the Briton was unable to pass his team-mate. Meanwhile Kimi Räikkönen makes a pit stop, which turns out to be too slow due to the difficulty in installing a right front wheel nut correctly. Lewis Hamilton tries to overtake Nico Rosberg again, but the German manages to defend himself. During lap 27, Lewis Hamilton forgets to deactivate the DRS system and loses control of his car: the British driver blocks the brakes, but enters the run-off area of the first corner. Subsequently, on lap 29, Lewis Hamilton managed to pass Nico Rosberg on the outside of the first corner, thus moving into first position. Esteban Gutiérrez drops to ninth on lap 30, as he is passed by Daniil Kvyat, who crosses the part where there is standing water, i.e. inside the main straight, using the DRS. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel made his second pit stop and put on a new set of intermediate tyres, rejoining the track in fifth position, behind Daniel Ricciardo but ahead of both Williams cars. Jenson Button, still in third, set faster lap times than Nico Rosberg, narrowing the gap to 12.8 seconds at the start of lap 31. Meanwhile, Sergio Pérez passed Esteban Gutiérrez and moved up to tenth. During lap 31 Jenson Button made a second pit stop and put on new intermediate tyres. At this juncture, the British driver also replaces the steering wheel, so he will rejoin the track behind the Red Bull Racing drivers. During lap 33 Nico Rosberg made his second pit stop. The German driver put on new intermediate tires and returned to the track behind Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile Kevin Magnussen loses control of his car and spins 360 degrees after entering a run-off area. 


During lap 35 Lewis Hamilton pitted at the end to fit new intermediate tyres. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo moves into first position. However, during lap 36 heavy rain began to fall. Daniel Ricciardo pitted during this lap and rejoined the track in fifth position, behind Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button. During lap 38 Kevin Magnussen goes wide in the run-off area at turn one, while Jean-Éric Vergne goes off the track at turn two and Sebastian Vettel goes into the gravel at the S-curves. Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo closes in on Jenson Button and try to overtake inside the bend. But the British defend his position and the Australian goes wide. At the end of lap 39 Lewis Hamilton recorded the fastest lap of the race, at one minute, but the weather conditions continued to deteriorate, with the result that the DRS was deactivated on lap 41. At this point in the day, the visibility is reduced due to low light and low cloud presence. During lap 42 Daniel Ricciardo finally manages to pass Jenson Button at the hairpin. The McLaren driver therefore decides to return to the pits to mount wet tyres. Meanwhile, Adian Sutil crashes into the outside tire barrier at Dunlop left-hand corner (turn seven), at the top of a hill, due to hydroplaning. Close to the accident, the double yellow flags are waved to warn the pilots of the accident. Sutil's car is lifted by a tractor crane, which slowly returns towards the exit. For this reason, the green light is signalled to the pilots with the green flag, despite the fact that the crane is still present in the escape route. Thus, during lap 43, Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia as he went around the bend at a speed of 213 km/h, veering right towards the escape route on the outside of the Dunlop bend. Although the French driver pressed the accelerator and brake pedals simultaneously, the safety system did not work because the settings of his Brake-by-Wire system are incompatible. Jules Bianchi's car collides with the left rear wheel of the tractor crane, causing extensive damage to his car; the roll bar is destroyed and, due to the impact, the crane rises from the ground for a few moments, dropping Sutil's car, which was suspended in the air. 


The marshalls move away from the scene to avoid being hit by Bianchi's Marussia. Jules Bianchi impacts the crane at a force of 254 g 0 (2.490 m/s2): data from the FIA's World Accident Database, which provides information on motor vehicle accidents around the world, will indicate that Bianchi's impact occurred 2.61 seconds after loss of control, at a speed of 123 km/h and an angle of 55°. Jules Bianchi is found unconscious, as he is unresponsive to the team's radio call and the marshalls. Therefore, the safety cars and medical cars immediately go into action. Jules Bianchi was pulled from his car and the doctors immediately intervened at the scene of the accident, before taking him by ambulance to the circuit's medical centre. Transport by helicopter was made impossible due to bad weather, so Jules Bianchi was taken by ambulance with a police escort to Mie Prefectural General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, about 15 km from the runway. Meanwhile, during lap 46, the red flag was displayed, thus bringing the end of the race forward. The results of the Japanese Grand Prix are compiled according to the classification order at the end of lap 44. Lewis Hamilton wins the Japanese Grand Prix, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo is fourth, followed by Jenson Button. Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hülkenberg, Jean-Éric Vergne and Sergio Pérez. It rains more and more, the natural light is weakened, on the side of the track there is a single-seater with an accident, a crane truck trying to take it away and four stewards at work. And around it a Formula 1 Grand Prix is being raced, speeds of up to 300 km/h on the asphalt flooded by the arrival of a typhoon. The riders see almost nothing, but the race continues, the show can't stop and there are only ten laps to go. It's late afternoon in Japan, but Europe woke up at 8:00 a.m. to watch the show. There would be one way to save show business and protect its protagonists: send the safety car to the Suzuka circuit, have the cars queue up at reduced speed and thus allow the security personnel to clean up in peace and safety. Race direction, on the other hand, did not intervene, and now a driver was struggling between life and death: it was Jules Bianchi, 25, a Frenchman of Italian origins, a product of the Ferrari nursery on loan to Marussia. The accident is a cruel mix of fatality and superficiality: at turn 7 Adrian Sutil goes off the track before, a bang against the protective barriers as you see every Sunday at the racetracks. 


One lap later, with the same dynamics, it was Jules Bianchi's turn, who found an emergency vehicle weighing twelve tons on the escape route and ended up underneath it. The helmet resists, but the impact is so devastating that it eradicates the Marussia's roll-bar. Charlie Whiting, director of the race, this time realizes the emergency and stops the race. The sequel is the story of a rescue, transport by ambulance to the medical centre of the circuit and then, in the midst of the traffic of 100.000 Japanese fans, up to the hospital in Yokkaichi about thirty kilometres away. 


"Bianchi suffered a serious head injury and lost consciousness".


These are the only statements from Japanese doctors, who take him to the operating room and keep him there for four hours to remove a hematoma from his brain. During the day it will be known if and how he will survive. Jules Bianchi's single-seater swooped down on the scene like a missile, grazing a steward and knocking him over. The car passes under the rear of the crane wagon: twelve tons of steel are lifted and moved by one metre. It is the sequence of the accident filmed by a spectator sitting in the grandstand at Suzuka and filming a much less dramatic scene: the removal of Adrian Sutil's Sauber which had crashed on the previous lap without consequences for the driver. Bernie Ecclestone's FOM, holder of the TV rights, prevents its transmission and tries to block its propagation on the web, but to no avail. A few minutes on youtube will be enough for the images to spread virally, confirming the responsibilities of the race direction: neutralizing the race with the safety car would have prevented the accident. It is true that the double yellow flags were waved in that stretch (obligation to slow down and be ready to stop), but another video shows the telemetry and positions of the single-seaters on that accursed lap 43: Bianchi went off the track at 213 km/h, the other pilots all transit at speeds between 210 km/h and 220 km/h.


"I had been shouting over the radio for five laps to stop the race".


Felipe Massa is in despair, the last driver in 2009 to end up in a coma in hospital after an accident. His engineer, Rob Smedley, thinks the same way:


"I've been in Formula 1 for a long time and I've never seen a Grand Prix run in such little light".


It would have been enough to anticipate the departure by an hour, as the pilots and teams had suggested, to avoid the arrival of typhoon Phanfone. But ratings would have dropped and that's not good. Sutil is one of the few witnesses of the accident:


"Out of respect for Jules' life, I say nothing".


Twenty years after the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, Formula 1 is once again in shock. Since that day the single-seaters, the circuits and the safety procedures have been improved, but some flaws remain. A carbon single-seater is able to withstand very violent impacts against what it usually finds on the track, i.e. other single-seaters and safety barriers, not a collision with a vehicle the size of a tank. The recovery of an accidented car is one of the critical moments: in 2003 Michael Schumacher brushed a crane wagon in a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix raced in the rain, and last year Jules Bianchi himself risked involuntarily triggering an accident by parking in crowds on the side of the track, as required by the regulation in the event of retirement. But the track was uphill and his Marussia moved by inertia crossing the track. The episode ended with a sigh of relief. Niki Lauda defends the race direction:


"Usually you can race in these conditions".


Explains the honorary president of Mercedes, who however as a driver, in 1976 in Japan, abandoned the decisive race after two laps because visibility was reduced to a minimum. Other times and other risks, but with a couple of circumstances in common: even in this circumstance, in Suzuka, you couldn't see anything and the cars kept slipping on the water. Jules Bianchi knew it and like everyone accepted the risk. Above all, he trusted an organization that was supposed to protect him. And that he didn't. Reserved but available, calm outside the races, decisive on the track. Jules Bianchi has a somewhat atypical character for a rider. And he carries an important name in the world of engines. His uncle Lucien was an active champion in the 50s and 60s, winner among other things of a 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race which however brought him bad luck because the following year he died crashing into a pole on the Sarthe circuit of the telegraph while he was on probation. The family, originally from Val Vigezzo, in north-eastern Piedmont, had moved first to Milan, then to Belgium and subsequently to France. Jules was born in Nice on August 3, 1989. He has been cultivating a passion for cars since the age of fifteen when, unlike other drivers, he made his debut in Formula Renault, before moving on to karting, a specialty in which he achieved many successes . He has been competing in single-seaters since 2007, until he conquered the European F3 title in 2009. A success that brought him into the Ferrari orbit and from there he began to be part of its Driver's Academy. From Maranello, despite competing for three seasons in GP2, Bianchi gains the trust of the team, which engages him in a series of tests, with the F60 at Jerez and with an F10 at Abu Dhabi in a tire testing session. The boy, well liked by all, works on the simulator and drives road Ferraris at Fiorano for the sponsors. In 2012 he took on the role of third driver for Force India in F1. He has been the owner of Marussia since last year. In May of this year the first small masterpiece by him. He is eighth in the Monaco Grand Prix (later demoted to ninth by a 5 second penalty) but brings his team 2 points worth many millions of euros in prizes from Bernie Ecclestone. The result is hailed by the Russian team as a victory. Last Thursday, when it was known in Suzuka that Alonso would leave Ferrari at the end of the championship and before Red Bull Racing had announced that Sebastian Vettel would join the Maranello team, he was asked if he felt ready to take over of Spanish. He modestly replied:


"Yes, I feel it, it's obvious. I have been working towards this goal since I joined the Academy. I had two years of experience at Marussia and I think it would be a logical step forward".


Now, however, the gentle pilot has to fight in the hospital to survive. Says Luca Montezemolo, outgoing president of Ferrari:


"I am very sad. We thought of him as a driver of the future".


A very near future, maybe already 2015.


"If, as I think, three cars have to be fielded next year, Jules would have been perfect".


A destiny full of crossroads: Jules Bianchi is a Marussia driver, a team with financial problems that risks not showing up at the start next season, as well as Caterham. Just the disappearance of the small teams could open unexpected doors to young and promising drivers. Like Bianchi, who is now struggling to survive in a bed in the intensive care unit at Mie Hospital in Yokkaichi.


"We almost always think in hindsight. Tragedies like the one in Japan should make us think about whether something hasn't worked, whether there is something that needs to be changed".


Words chosen with care and a sense of diplomacy. Alain Prost, on the other hand, does not mince words.


"It is unacceptable for a crane truck to enter the track without the safety car. I have only one doubt: was it an initiative of the stewards who were there or an order from the race management?"


Second accusation: the green flag waved behind the crane, as evidenced by the images of both the video broadcast on TV and the amateur one. Prost has no doubts:


"Serious mistake by the commissioner. The go-ahead signal was given at least a hundred meters later".


Meanwhile, the Formula 1 circus is moving to Sochi, Russia, where it will start its engines again on Friday. At Jules Bianchi's bedside remain the Ferrari team principal, Marco Mattiacci, the top management of Marussia and a representative of the FIA. All waiting for a glimmer of hope that hasn't arrived yet. Fernando Alonso greets his colleague and friend via twitter:


"Was twenty-four hours too long or too short, I don't know! I just want some good news. Come on man please. Come on Jules".


There was no celebration on the podium. Jules Bianchi's accident affected everyone. The race was won by Lewis Hamilton (eighth success in 2014, third in a row). The Englishman managed the race in the rain, stopped with ten laps to go. Now Hamilton has a 10-point lead over Rosberg: 266 points, against the German's 256 points. In the meantime, the leaders of Formula 1, at least those who oversee safety, are closed in absolute silence. Not a word is said by the manager, Charlie Whiting, about what happened on the track. Not a clarification, just the explanation of the facts and the dynamics of the accident entrusted to an official press release, drawn up three hours after the dramatic moment and the consequent suspension of the race with seven laps to spare. It tells how we intervened, first the double yellow flags due to the crane entering the track, called to rescue Sutil and remove his Sauber as quickly as possible, then the safety car, after Bianchi's accident, and finally the red flag, necessary because by now there was also an ambulance in the traffic on the track. The report and not the explanations, which is not enough to appease the controversies that rage in the paddock and which immediately fall upon Formula 1. The first to shoot zero is Felipe Massa, who in 2009 in Budapest caught a spring on his head, he risked his life, and is very sensitive to the safety of the pilots.


"What happened is absurd, scandalous. Nothing could be seen, rain, darkness, for five laps I had been calling for the suspension on the radio, asking my team to move, to speak to the race marshals. We had to stop and Bianchi's accident happened instead. This race started too early, when the visibility was bad, and finished too late, when track conditions were critical again".


A very harsh indictment. Which finds acclaim in many other boxes. Above all, it is not clear why Charlie Whiting did not immediately think of the safety car, which would have forced the drivers to slow down considerably, with a loud call and without the risk of not seeing the two yellow flags, which apparently happened to Jules Bianchi. Fernando Alonso leaves the question open:


"I was on the track so little, that I can't pronounce with certainty on the safety conditions. I have some doubts, but I really don't know if the race should have been suspended before".


The president of the FIA, Jean Todt, who has set his entire mandate on road safety, seems intent on seizing the tragic opportunity to overhaul the entire Formula 1 safety apparatus which has worked excellently over the past twenty years but which has recently begun to show signs of tiredness. A revolution that should start from men and procedures. Whoever risks the most is obviously Charlie Whiting, Bernie Ecclestone's man (Jean Todt's great enemy), who has always been among the most discussed in the paddock. Those who know him well speak of a shocked and grieved Todt. Bianchi, whose manager is Nicolas Todt, son of Jean, is one of the family who frequents the whole family in Paris. The news from Yokkachi hospital is not encouraging. After the operation to reduce the brain hematoma, the pilot's conditions are defined by the doctors as critical but stable in the context of a very serious situation.


"This is a very difficult time for our family, the media messages and love for Jules from around the world have been a source of great comfort to us. We would like to express our sincere appreciation".


This is the message from Jules Bianchi's family, who then explains the situation in detail:


"Jules remains in the intensive care unit of Kie General Medical Center, Yokkaichi. He suffered diffuse axonal damage and is in a critical but stable condition. The doctors at the hospital are providing the best treatment and care and we are grateful for everything what they've done for Jules since his accident".


In practice there would be no internal injuries but the nervous system would have functional damage. Jules is being assisted in the best possible way because in the hospital there is now Gerard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission, and Professor Alessandro Frati, neurosurgeon of the University of Rome La Sapienza, the latter sent to Japan by Scuderia Ferrari. The two luminaries arrive at the hospital on Monday and meet with the medical staff responsible for the treatment, in order to be fully informed of his clinical condition. Both acknowledge the great care provided by Mie General Medical Center, and thank their Japanese colleagues. The world of F1 - and not only that - hopes, while messages of solidarity with the hashtag #forzajules are countless on twitter. Unfortunately, Jules Bianchi died later, on Saturday 18 July 2015, at 2:45 a.m., in Nice, after more than nine months in a coma.


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