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.