2014 Japanese Grand Prix

Editorial – Goodbye, Jules

Death in Formula 1 used to be an occurrence that was all to common. Yet, for the first time in twenty-one years, F1 has lost a driver to a racing accident. ESM’s editor offers his on reflections on the sad news. 

A lot has already been written about the tragic death of Jules Bianchi. Compared to that fateful weekend in Imola, some two decades ago, the impact and end result were some nine months apart. That makes it no easier to come to terms with, and must surely have made life even harder for Jules’ doting family, who have spent the last few months hoping for some sign of improvement. It is also another cruel blow to the Manor team, formally known as Marussia, who have lost two drivers in less than two years.

Deep down, following the crash last October, I knew we would never see Jules in a racing car again. As much as the media, and Formula 1, attempted to put a brave face on things, it was clear the young Frenchman had suffered a devastating injury. Just before going to bed on Friday night, I found myself reading an article on the BBC Sport website in which Philippe Bianchi issued a statement about their concern for the lack of progress being made by Jules. The next thing I read was a text message from a friend, informing me that the future-Ferrari driver had gone.

Whilst it is impossible to predict whether Jules would have gone on to be World Champion, stories already show that he would most likely have found himself behind the wheel of a Ferrari-engined Sauber this year, with a full Ferrari role someone in the near future afterwards. Perhaps Bianchi would have been the replacement for Raikkonen; a question which is purely academic now. There can be no denying that a prodigious talent was taken away far too soon.

For me it is hard to believe that, despite all the rhetoric, the FIA and F1 administration really has the ability to change sufficiently to avoid incidents like the one which killed Bianchi happening again. The official 396-page report into the incident concluded that Jules did “not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control” on the corner, and that it is “considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable” in such circumstances. The placement of said “large and heavy vehicle” onto an active race circuit – at a corner where a similar incident had happened before – was something overlooked. I stick by my comments made shortly after the crash itself(more…)

Friday Photo Archive – Spa 2014

Editing a website like EngageSportMode often means there are articles you cannot wait to write, and there are those you never want to have to write. This Friday Photo Archive falls somewhere between them; but too close to the ‘never want to’ end of the spectrum than is comfortable.

Spa 2014 Sunday 010

Jules Bianchi during the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix driver parade.

As ever with serious motorsport accidents, it has been almost impossible to avoid the mainstream media frenzy surrounding Jules Bianchi’s awful accident at Suzuka last Sunday. I put off writing this article, chiefly because the situation left me with a feeling of immense sadness. Back in our Belgian Grand Prix coverage, we described Jules as “Mr Future Ferrari” due to the obvious aura of him being a star in the making. Moving forward two months, there is now the sickeningly real chance we might not see him in a Formula 1 car again.

Without trying to make dramatic comparisons, I cannot recall feeling so disheartened about a Grand Prix weekend since Monaco 1994. I’ve seen the standings for FP1 and FP2, but it feels impossible to motivate myself to truly be interested. This is not how it is meant to be in 2014; the past two decades of safety development and change were meant to stop motorsport being put through an emotional wringer.

Much talk earlier in the week centred around whether a canopy fitted to Bianchi’s car would have prevented his injuries. However, from the information released, and photos/video that have already circulated on social media, it’s clear that a fighter-jet style canopy wouldn’t have made any difference.

Bianchi has been described in an official statement as having suffered a diffuse axonal injury. Such an injury typically occurs due to the rapid deceleration from an accident; not from actual direct, blunt, trauma to the head. Realistically, a canopy would have made very little difference, based on the information that’s been made available. If anything, given the deformation of the roll hoop and structure behind the cockpit, a canopy may not have even remained detached to the car thus being more hinderance than help in this situation. In short, the canopy suggestion is very much just a crutch, for those who want an easy solution to make this go away. (more…)