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A growing poison within Formula One in recent years has been the way in which able talents have been so readily cast aside for no other reason than the lack of contribution they have been able to make in the funding department.

Since 2010, no fewer than nine drivers, all of whom had proved themselves worthy of a place in the cutthroat world of Grand Prix racing, have been left unceremoniously dumped from the sport.

The sole reason? Simply that their pockets were not deep enough to satisfy a litany of teams who are struggling to survive in this age of rising costs, declining sponsorships and an ever-growing calendar.

Although some of these drivers list fell victim to the ruthless world that is the Red Bull Young Driver Programme, that the likes of Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari and Jean-Eric Vergne were unable to find drives at other outfits after they were culled by Toro Rosso had little to do with performance.

Similarly, Kevin Magnussen did little at McLaren to show that he could not cut it in the pinnacle of motorsport.

And yet, of these ‘cast-offs’, only Nico Hulkenberg managed to get a proper second chance en route to becoming arguably the best racer on the grid currently plying his trade outside a top team.

Instead, the volume of money is only increasing when it comes to earning a place in the promised land. Forgetting Pastor Maldonado, and the likes of Marcus Ericsson, Esteban Gutierrez and Max Chilton – among others – can all claim to have bought their way onto the grid at one time or other at the expense of their more talented companions.

That is why the news that Maldonado is to be replaced at Renault by Magnussen comes as a welcome relief.

In five seasons of broken front wings, rebuilt cars and a permanent pass to the stewards room, only the odd flash of brilliance prevents the Venezuelan’s CV from amounting to nothing more than a high-speed dodgem.


The sight of Pastor Maldonado in a barrier became an all-too common one during the Venezuelan’s five years in Formula One.

It is easy to look no further than the PDVSA petro-dollars that have funded Maldonado’s career and forget that he was more than deserving of a Formula One drive when he made his debut for Williams in 2011.

An inconsistent yet occasionally brilliant junior career that earned him a reputation as a specialist around the fabled streets of Monte Carlo and culminated in the GP2 Series crown of 2010 would have made Maldonado a candidate for graduation to the top tier, even without his grotesque level of backing.

His second season in 2012 that saw the still scarcely fathomable win in Spain and a number of top three qualifying performances showed that he had the speed to survive in Formula One, if not the temperament.

And that was always Maldonado’s problem. A driver who earns his staying power in Formula One on merit cuts out the silly collisions, reckless petulance and embarrassing prangs by the time he enters his second season, but far from honing his speed and developing into the well-rounded midfield runner that he had the potential to be, he became little more than an imitation of a Wacky Races character.

It was why his move from Williams to Lotus in 2014 was met with indignation by most, why a website charting his every collision in exquisitely humorous fashion continues to flourish, and why his continued presence in a team famous for its true racing spirit has become little more than a frustration.

But where one door closes, another one opens, and Maldonado’s demise now looks set to give Magnussen a refreshing opportunity to revitalise a stalled career.

Cut adrift at McLaren for the sole reason that Fernando Alonso became available, the Dane should have had teams queuing up to secure the signature of a man who bagged a remarkable second place on his Formula One debut and proved more than an able foil for Jenson Button.


Kevin Magnussen spent 2015 on the sidelines through circumstance more than any lack of performance.

Yet until Maldonado’s funding dried up, he was left high and dry and faced with a switch to IndyCar or the World Endurance Championship just to get some racing under his belt.

Thankfully, the buyout of Lotus by Renault has turned the financial situation at Enstone into one of rude health, and means that placing a driver of Magnussen’s quality alongside Jolyon Palmer, himself a beneficiary of high value backing, is now a reality rather than a far flung dream.

Once the transition season of 2016 is done and Renault prepares its first fully-fledged manufacturer entry since 2010, one can only hope that a second opportunity for an established driver will arise at the team.

Although not a necessity, the prospect of a French driver delivering the goods at a French team would do Renault’s image across the Channel no harm. Of the talented cast-offs, Jean-Eric Vergne, a man who proved more than a match for Daniel Ricciardo at Toro Rosso, is another, like Magnussen, just crying out to be given a second opportunity.

Just imagine, a year down the line, the prospect of Renault signing Vergne to partner Magnussen, and in so doing securing one of the most exciting young driver line-ups on the grid.

If so, it would make a welcome, and refreshing change.

Stephen D’Albiac

When I look back at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and think of Jules Bianchi, there is one moment that stands out above all others.

It is not the accident at the Dunlop Curve that was to leave the prodigiously talented Frenchman with injuries that would so cruelly rob him of his life nine months later, but three letters on a timing ticker that have somehow stuck so firmly in my mind ever since that fateful day last October.

Rewind to the early stages of what is set to be a captivating race at a sodden Suzuka circuit. After a lengthy rain delay, the safety car has peeled in and the field are slowly filtering into the pits to swap their wet tyres for intermediate rubber.

The two Mercedes drivers, so dominant, and so untouchable, stay out, a law unto themselves out in front. Yet behind the squabbling Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, an unfamiliar name has popped himself into third place. That car, is the unfancied Marussia, piloted by Jules Bianchi.

The Jules Bianchi that, in the first two seasons of his Formula One career, has dragged an uncompetitive car into such remarkable places that he is being hotly tipped as a future Ferrari driver, a fact that Luca di Montezemolo has since confirmed would almost certainly have become a reality.

The Jules Bianchi that, in just 34 starts, has regularly turned what should have been a four-man battle between Marussia and Caterham into a race of his own, roundly decimating an equally inexperienced teammate in the form of Max Chilton in the process.

The Jules Bianchi, that, in one of the great underdog performances of Grand Prix racing in the 21st century, has somehow bagged Marussia its first ever points in a remarkably courageous drive through the streets of Monaco, giving the sport what is almost certainly the most popular ninth place finish of all time.

Now, Jules Bianchi is, for the first time ever, running in a net podium position at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Although clearly an artificial placing due to the shuffling of the deck that so often occurs through a pit stop phase, I remember seeing that number three – followed by the letters BIA – at the bottom of the screen, and thinking that this would be just the first of many times that Bianchi would occupy such a position, at the sharp end of a Grand Prix field, where he deserved to belong.

Little was I to know that just an hour later would strike a tragic turn of fate that was to so tragically rob him of all of the promise, all of the potential, and all of the success that, from a young age, he had seemed so destined for.

When I cast my eye back in years to come and remember Jules Bianchi, I will fight the urge to think about what might, what could, what should have been. Instead, I will try and think of that magical day in Monaco, the joy that such a defiant racer brought to so many people, and then take a step back and think how thankful I am that I was fortunate enough to see such a remarkably talented and charismatic man race a Formula One car.

For here was a boy who followed his dream, an almost impossible dream, and made it a reality.

And how many of us are blessed enough to be able to say that?


Stephen D’Albiac

With the start of the 2015 Formula One season just ten weeks away, here are just six of the many reasons to get excited ahead of the new campaign.

The revival of the McLaren-Honda partnership

Undoubtedly the most talked about change for 2015 is the return of the legendary McLaren-Honda partnership that was made so famous in the days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

An iconic partnership that stirs memories and emotions among motorsport fans across the world, McLaren has returned to the engine supplier that served it so well between 1988 and 1992 as it looks to make its way back to the very pinnacle of the sport after two disappointing and winless years.

While the relationship with Mercedes that spanned two decades brought much success to Woking, the marriage between the two had fizzled out over recent years following the Silver Arrows’ decision to take over its own team, making a change of scenery a wise move for all concerned.

Much has changed since the partnership’s previous incarnation, but with the return of Fernando Alonso from Ferrari to join the vastly experienced Jenson Button, allied with the increased contribution of Peter Prodromou – the aerodynamicist that was so influential in Red Bull’s success – and the marked signs of improvement towards the end of last season, if Honda can produce a turbo unit worthy of its legendary efforts of the past, few would bet against the team challenging at the sharp end.

Hamilton v Rosberg: Part II


Despite Mercedes’ systematic obliteration of the field throughout 2014, sweeping all before them on their way to a record 16 wins, the title race reached a thrilling climax in Abu Dhabi thanks to the titanic duel between eventual champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

With a refreshing policy from the pit wall allowing the two to fight it out on track, there was precious little between the pair on race days, leading to thrilling scraps for victory on several occasions, most notably when Hamilton just edged out Rosberg following a mammoth race-long tussle in Bahrain.

While Hamilton emerged ahead more often than not on race day, Rosberg’s superior qualifying pace and consistency ensured he was always a threat to his teammate, and with the experience of having fought for a championship now firmly under his belt, the scene is set for the pair to resume her personal scrap in the new season.

Williams’ renaissance


Without question the feel-good story of 2014, the return to form of the Williams team after several years in the doldrums was much welcomed by all.

Through a combination of a strong driver pairing in Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, the pure grunt of Mercedes horsepower behind them and a substantial boost in prize money owing to their third place finish in the championship, Williams now has a perfect platform on which to build an even better challenger in 2015, and if the team can continue its steady rise back to the front, they look well placed for a return to the top step of the podium in the near future.

Mexico’s return


One of the highlights of the 2015 calendar is the return of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after a 23-year absence.

With the success of Sergio Perez having reignited interest in the sport in the country – borne out by the hordes of Mexican fans who make the trip to Austin each year – the race looks set to be a welcome return to a classic venue that looks set to pose a significant challenge to the drivers.

Although the circuit will have undergone a facelift to bring it up to the standards of modern F1 by the time the Grand Prix circus arrives in town – including the unfortunate loss of the legendary Peraltada corner – as the successful return of Austria last year shows, when you take the sport back to areas with vast history and strong support, the rewards are plentiful.

Fresh blood at Ferrari


Embarrassing isn’t a strong enough word to describe Ferrari’s 2014 campaign.

Whichever way you analyse the Prancing Horse’s fortunes of last year, failure lurks around every corner, be it the inability to provide a star-studded line-up of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen with a car worthy of their talents, its pitiful attempt at building a power unit even vaguely competitive in comparison with Mercedes or the constant hiring and firing behind the scenes, it was the Scuderia’s first winless season since 1993 and a blot in the vast history books of the team from Maranello.

Now, with Alonso leaving to be replaced by Sebastian Vettel, the first car overseen by James Allison, who brings with him a great pedigree from his Lotus days and a whole raft of new team personnel, 2015 heralds a new era for Ferrari, and whether a clean slate can spark the return of the sport’s most famous team to the sharp end or see fortunes continue to decline will be one of the big talking points as the year progresses.

And…more great racing


Despite the deafening criticism of the new power units that overshadowed the start of last season, once the initial cries of discontent had settled down, F1 showed that it had lost none of its ability to throw up a feast of on-track action, with Bahrain, Canada and Hungary in particular producing three of the most memorable races of recent times.

With the turbo era now entering its second year, there seems no reason to believe that the on-track product won’t continue to go from strength to strength, and if any of the frontrunners is able to pose a credible threat to the dominance of Mercedes, the wheel-to-wheel action should be as good as ever.

New track. Same old story.

Sochi – with the majority of February’s Winter Olympic venues still standing in all their glory – may have provided an intriguing backdrop to Sunday’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix, but as with so many of the newer circuits to have graced the Formula One calendar over the years, in the end it flattered only in its deceptiveness.

The problem Sochi had, as with so many of the more modern breed of Hermann Tilke-designed racetracks, is that the venue just doesn’t feel like it should be playing host to a motor race. Aesthetically, the circuit is bland, and the layout, as has sadly become a Tilke trademark as time has gone on, feels too clinical.

When you think of a classic racetrack, a Silverstone, a Spa or a Suzuka, you think of long, sweeping bends, vast elevation and spectacular, flat-out blasts. But most importantly, the layouts feel right. They feel like places where Grand Prix racing should be held. They follow the natural contours of the land, and whilst certainly a romanticised exaggeration, you feel as though you’re watching a road wind a path where farmers used to walk their cows, before the motor industry arrived and took its hold.

The issue that this new, 21st century generation of circuits have is that they give off the very whiff of being built by setsquare. You get the sense that Tilke sits down with a blank piece of paper, ruler and pencil in hand, and sketches something that resembles a track without looking at the land that he has to play with. He sets out to design a challenge, whereas the classic circuits can catch drivers out with their natural landscapes, and as a result you end up with a finished product that looks disjointed and ungainly.

That’s not to say that Sochi doesn’t have anything going for it. The fast, right-hand sweep that starts the lap looked spectacular – helped in part by FOM’s brilliantly-placed camera on the inside kerb – whilst the never-ending left-hander at turn three was a proper old school corner that made for some thrilling action (Jean-Eric Vergne’s stunning move around the outside of Kevin Magnussen a case in point). But those flashes of brilliance, as is the case all too often with Tike’s portfolio, are lost in a river of mediocrity.

A series of frustrating, 90-degree right-angles that prove all too common a feature of modern tracks, the dreaded adverse camber section that is designed to catch out a driver, but in reality does nothing but infuriatingly force the field to play an elongated game of follow the leader and kill off any chance of an overtake into the following bend. These make an all too familiar and unwelcome appearance, as they do at other recent arrivals such as Abu Dhabi, Korea and India.

The two main overtaking points on the track – the run to turn two and the back straight into turn 13 – could both be improved significantly, the former by reconfiguring it into a tighter and more conventional chicane, similar to the final corner at Montreal, whilst the latter, which had the potential to be a haven for overtaking, was far too tight, which when added to the kink just before the braking zone (admittedly unavoidable due to lack of space) prevented much in the way of wheel-to-wheel action.

Similarly, if turns four and five had been opened up with the inside kerbs removed, there lies the potential for a proper flat-out, balls to the wall style run into turn six, which with the extended and quicker approach, would in itself become a third potential passing place. One of the major flaws with Valencia, which is repeated here, is the tendency for a huge section of run-off to be placed on the inside of some of the tighter corners, thereby leading to a filter system and preventing cars from running side-by-side. If these pointed, jagged sections were removed and the road opened up, it would result in a much more flowing, and spectacular, Grand Prix venue. Again, a faster and more sweeping S-bend could replace the painfully Mickey Mouse left-right at turns 15 and 16, and if the second of the two right-handed corners that end the lap were made faster, it would increase the chance of a driver getting a proper run on the car in front and being able to slipstream past him without needing the help of DRS.

Admittedly, the lack of any form of tyre degradation in a way not seen since the Bridgestone era didn’t help, nor did the miscalculation on the part of most of the teams in planning their fuel levels around a theoretical safety car that never materialised, leading to a significant number drivers having to nurse their machines home in the latter stages. However, things could have been improved if the circuit had been better designed.

It’s a shame, because given the right circumstances and location, Formula One in Russia could be a huge success. It’s an enormous global and commercial market, it appears – by the pictures in Sochi – to have a large and passionate set of fans, and it’s close enough to the racing heartlands of Western Europe to ensure good numbers of travelling supporters are well placed to make the journey east to come and spectate.

But for the country to fully maximise its vast potential as a part of the F1 calendar, one of two things would probably need to occur. The circuit at Sochi would have to undergo some minor surgery to allow it to be better configured, or the race could be switched to a purpose-built, permanent venue.

Until that happens, it appears that what we have here is, unfortunately, another venue that doesn’t live up to its billing.

Stephen D’Albiac


Once it was confirmed yesterday that Jules Bianchi had suffered a diffuse axonal injury as a result of his horrific crash at the Japanese Grand Prix, all sorts of facts and statistics began to be perpetuated by some sections of the media.

One such statistic which rankled with me in particular was one that claimed that 90% of people with Jules’ injury never regain full consciousness, and of the remaining 10%, the vast majority of those remain significantly impaired for the rest of their lives.

Having little medical knowledge, but having heard of diffuse axonal injuries, particularly with regard to racing drivers, I was immediately sceptical of this fact. One quick Google search confirmed my suspicions.

What the 90% statistic quoted by various sources refers to is patients with severe diffuse axonal injuries. That does not cover patients who have suffered minor injuries of this nature, which can include non-life threatening conditions such as concussion. In essence, a fact that is attributed to the very worst case scenario of this condition has been applied it to any case of any possible seriousness.

The truth is that no one knows the extent of the DAI that Jules Bianchi has suffered. The only people who know that – and given it’s still very early days even they may be unaware – are Jules’ doctors.

Therefore, for stories on the fact that there is a 90% chance that Bianchi will never regain consciousness is incorrect at best, but given the circumstances of the story, sad to say the least. In short, a story involving a man who currently lies in hospital in a critical condition has been needlessly sensationalised, which given the situation is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.

Now, with articles of this nature creating doubts in the minds of fans across the world that Jules may fully recover from his injuries, I seek to use the second half of this post to shed some positivity on what is an extremely difficult situation.

The following extract is quoted from Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Lifesaver, the autobiography of former CART doctor Steve Olvey, and concerns former F1, CART and IndyCar driver Roberto Guerrero. Guerrero suffered an accident whilst tyre testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the autumn of 1987. Initial scans when the Colombian racer arrived at hospital showed a diffuse axonal injury – the same as Bianchi – and the prognosis initially seemed very bleak.

This is where I let Dr. Olvey take over. Apologies for the length of it, but it is such a brilliantly written piece that I felt that to edit it in anyway would be inappropriate. The main message of this story is hope, and although Jules still has an incredibly long road ahead of him, there is no reason to believe that he can’t make it.

Forza Jules.

In the fall of 1987, I was getting a haircut on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Indianapolis. Halfway through I received an emergency page on my beeper. The news wasn’t good. Roberto Guerrero, Colombia’s best driver at the time, had crashed heavily while testing tyres for Goodyear at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Medics from the scene had reported a severe head injury with the patient in a deep coma. Guerrero was unable to breathe for himself and required assisted ventilation en route to Methodist Hospital.

I jumped from the barber’s chair with only half a haircut and sped to the hospital. When I arrived at the emergency room, I was met by Dr. Bock who was on duty that day. Mike Turner, an excellent neuro-trauma surgeon was on hand as well. They both reported that the head injury looked really bad. The CT scan of Guerrero’s head did not reveal anything that the surgeons could fix. Sadly, it showed instead a very swollen brain with severe diffuse axonal injury, or DAI. Basically, the brain had suffered an extensive shearing injury to the nerve fibres causing the entire central nervous system to short circuit. It could not be surgically repaired. Guerrero was moved from the emergency room to the intensive care unit.

The cause of this injury in the general public is usually a car accident. The forces of a crash, if severe enough, cause the head to violently rotate. Severe damage can occur to the brain without the head ever coming into contact with anything. Nerve fibres within the brain and brainstem are damaged by this shearing effect. A helmet offers virtually no protection for this type of injury. The mortality rate in the general population was over 80% in 1987, and the only treatment was, and still is, supportive care. Judicious use of medications to help remove the excess brain water and to control the increased pressure that develops inside the skull are the only modalities of therapy.

One promising treatment had recently been tried in some large medical centres with varying degrees of success. It was not yet in common usage, and most neurologists and neurosurgeons did not feel it was beneficial and were reluctant to try it. The treatment involved the use of barbiturates in very high, even toxic doses, and were given intravenously. The medication was thought to decrease the metabolism of the brain and, as a result, lower the pressure within the brain itself. If the brain was allowed to swell too much, it would herniate or rupture through the opening in the base of the skull. This extrusion of the brain stem would normally result in instant death.

We had used barbiturates to treat increased brain swelling in the past, but only in the standard recommended doses. We had never used the very high experimental doses that had been reported in the medical literature. Dr. Turner and I met with Guerrero’s wife Kati and explained to her the gravity of the situation. We told her there wasn’t anything we could do surgically and that the only hope for her husband was supportive care and the use of high dose barbiturate therapy. We asked for permission to use these very high doses. Kati grasped the situation fully and told us to do anything we thought might save her husband’s life.

Dr. Turner and I placed Guerrero in an artificial coma with the barbiturates. He required the ventilator for breathing support and constant monitoring of his vital signs, and a probe was placed inside his brain to measure his intracranial pressure. It was sky high! Normal was less than 15. His was over 60. I started pushing the barbiturates intravenously. We reached the usual maximum dose with zero effect on the pressure inside his head. The situation looked grim. I then gave him five times the recommended dose. This caused his blood pressure to drop to near zero. I thought he was dying. I quickly started another medication to raise his blood pressure, and he required huge amounts of this medicine. I was not at all hopeful. Kati remained by his bedside, determined.

After about seven hours of this treatment, and a lot of criticism including accusations of experimentation amongst the nursing stuff, the pressure within Guerrero’s brain began to subside. Within 24 hours it was back to normal. He woke up three weeks later. I had spent most of the first 36 hours at his bedside. His wife never left him at all! She remained by his side throughout his entire stay in the intensive care unit. She would later accompany him daily through the long rehabilitation process.

When Guerrero first spoke, he spoke in Spanish, his native language. He told Kati that he loved her. He steadily progressed, and eventually was ready for a long and difficult rehabilitation. Spurred on by Kati and his young son Marco, he took this rehabilitation to heart. He was one of the first patients to receive what we call cognitive rehabilitation. This form of rehab used computer-assisted exercises to bring a person’s memory and visual motor skills back to baseline via biofeedback. It was very much like playing a series of complicated video games. Guerrero was scheduled spend five hours a day doing these exercises. He would spend nine. During this period he would also re-learn to walk and to speak the English language.

Kati was unrelenting, pushing hard. As a result of her efforts, her determination, and her deep affection, Guerrero was driving the family car within two months and had played a full game of golf in three. His recovery surprised all of us.

In April of 1988, he wanted to drive a racecar again. His team entered him in the race at Phoenix. I thought he could do it as well because he appeared to me to be fully recovered. No-one else seemed to think so. Due to justifiable apprehension on the part of the CART officials, as well as his fellow drivers, doctors subjected him to a full nine-hour battery of neuro-psychiatric tests. He passed them all with flying colours. I repeated the tests for a second time at the University of California in Los Angeles just to assure the officials that they weren’t biased. Again he passed! At UCLA, he was consistently monitored for any seizure activity. He had none. He was then required to go through a strict driving test under the eyes of the CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach. Again he passed! CART had no choice but to clear him to race.

Guerrero qualified second in a field of 28 cars. Some of the other drivers would barely speak to me. The only two people, other than Roberto, who were convinced he could drive were Kati and me. Once the race started I could barely function. All I could think was what if he crashed and hurt or killed himself or someone else? I would never be forgiven in spite of all the precautions I had taken.

After the start, Guerrero held onto second place. He began passing lapped cars as if possessed. He passed on the outside as well as the inside. Phoenix is a one-mile oval track with each lap taking 25 seconds. Negotiating heavy traffic on such a tight course was what made the short ovals so spectacular to watch. Roberto was awesome! He would finish second that day less than six months after his devastating and usually fatal head injury. I was vindicated on all counts. Because of my experience with him, head injury became my primary focus of study.

Guerrero went on to race for many more years. He and Kati are still married and live in California with their two boys. It is amazing what persistence, love and dedication can accomplish. Also, a certain degree of really good luck!

Stephen D’Albiac

The ambulance carrying Jules Bianchi had barely left Suzuka before the questions started being asked.

After a Japanese Grand Prix weekend that had been dominated by the impending arrival of Typhoon Phanfone and whether any contingencies needed to be put in place to make sure the race was able to go ahead, the recriminations began. Should more have been done to ensure the start was brought forward to avoid the worst of the weather? Should the event have been called at the point where conditions started to deteriorate in the latter part of the race? Why was a crane allowed on the track to recover Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber without the aid of a safety car?

The answer to all those questions is, for the time being, irrelevant. A 25-year-old man currently lies in a critical condition in hospital as a result of a horrific accident. Whilst there will come a time where an investigation will need to be carried out to ascertain what exactly led to Bianchi’s Marussia coming into contact with a recovery vehicle, until such time as his overall condition becomes clearer, such an inquest remains wholly inappropriate.

While there were serious discussions between the FIA, FOM and race promoters Honda to move the start time forward to ensure the race could be run in its entirety before conditions got too bad, at no point once the Grand Prix got properly underway after ten laps behind the safety car was it too dangerous to race.

Similarly, once the heavens began to open in the closing stages, though many felt the need to switch their intermediate rubber for full wets, the circuit was not so treacherous that the cars were unable to negotiate the track. Conditions were tricky, but at no stage were they so poor that it was impossible to continue to race in a safe manner.

Now onto the crane. While there is certainly a case to be made that the safety car should have come out whilst Sutil’s car was cleared, it was a situation that has occurred on umpteen occasions throughout the years, and almost always car and crane have done their job and left the firing line safely.

With the benefit of hindsight it’s now clear to see that more should have been done to prevent the pack speeding through the Dunlop curve at such speeds, but the fact remains that at the time race director Charlie Whiting thought he was dealing with a situation that had cropped up several times before, and on almost every occasion had passed without incident. There was no way that anyone could have foreseen the terrible scene that followed.

While there are very strong lessons to be taken from this accident to prevent a repeat in future, it happened because a perfect storm of ingredients came together. Motorsport is dangerous, sometimes it doesn’t matter what safety measures are put in place, there’s always the chance that something dreadful may happen. Sadly, we saw his in the worst manner possible earlier today.

But the hows, whats and whys are immaterial at the moment. The most important thing – the only important thing – is that Bianchi, the hugely popular Frenchman who has won a score of fans and plaudits for his laidback manner and for consistently putting an uncompetitive Marussia in places it shouldn’t be on the grid, pulls through and goes onto make a speedy and full recovery.

Until that time, any inquest can wait.

Stephen D’Albiac

The news broke yesterday of a plan to reduce the amount of running teams do on a Friday from next year.

The idea, which has been proposed by Bernie Ecclestone, is to scrap the current Friday morning practice session in favour of a single session in the afternoon, with the thinking being to cut costs for the teams and condense the entire Grand Prix weekend into a three-day event, with the usual Thursday media activities being moved to fill the void left by the following morning’s empty circuit.

Whilst, at first glance, the plans seem sensible enough, as usual, both the teams and Mr. Ecclestone are missing some very fundamental flaws.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the proposals will do little, if not absolutely nothing, to cut down on the amount of running the teams will do on the Friday. They may have half the time on the track, but all that will happen is that teams will condense their current FP1 and FP2 programmes into one, meaning they will complete double the mileage they usually get through in a single session. At present, the price of car parts doesn’t legislate for the time period in which their owner decides to use them, meaning that cost saving on this front will be kept to a tidy maximum of absolutely zero. Not bad going.

Secondly, whilst cutting the weekend’s activities from four days to three may save an extra night’s payment for a hotel room, in the grand scheme of things such expenditure is but a mere dot on the landscape that is modern day Formula One budgeting. We’re living in an age where the sport needs to save millions, not thousands, and to the teams paying for accommodation that kind of saving is small change. If one compares the current need for penny-pinching to climbing Everest, this little measure is more akin to scaling Mount Wycheproof.

If meaningful progress is to be made on the cost cutting front, then the sensible thing to do is to sit down and agree on a budget cap. How that is done doesn’t matter. Whether it’s by cutting the number of personnel a team can hire, standardising more car parts, or allowing for an increase in technical partnerships between the frontrunning teams and the struggling privateers, at a time when the sport has just presided over a multi-million pound switch to turbocharged engines – one that whilst technologically important, could have waited another two or three years until the global economy was in a better place – more significant action needs to be taken to keep budgets down, not sugar-coated token gestures that do little to improve the overall picture.

What also cannot be ignored is that, if these proposals do come to pass, yet again the real losers will be the fans. With ticket prices for the Friday alone of next month’s British Grand Prix starting at £65, the paying punters want on-track action. If the length of time Grand Prix cars spend hitting the Silverstone tarmac on that first day next year is halved, will that be reflected in a drop in the admission fee? If the past few years are anything to go by, that seems pretty doubtful.

Formula One is walking a very precarious tightrope with regards to its treatment of the fans. After showing complete contempt for its support last winter by disregarding the wishes of more than 90% of the fanbase with the now infamous double points debacle for this year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, the sport needs to be extremely careful with regards to how it treats its viewers. If the fans continue to be treated as a commodity rather than the single most important part of the sport that they are, they will walk away, leaving nothing but an irrelevant, out of touch series heading for a rather swift expiry date.

If the teams, Mr. Ecclestone and the FIA met, went through a number of ideas rationally and banged some heads together, a real, and effective set of regulations that genuinely cut costs could be thrashed out. The problem you have is that when you allow the teams so much influence over the regulations, the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull and Ferrari are not going to vote for Christmas and squander their own significant financial advantage over the rest of the field.

Until that changes, and a proper, impartial structure put in place when making the big decisions, little will be done that is truly in the interests of Formula One.

Stephen D’Albiac