When the Japanese Grand Prix was red-flagged, I was chatting with my family. We were discussing the results of the Latvian parliamentary election held on the previous day as I had lost any interest to follow the misery that was the Japanese Grand Prix. Some laps earlier, I had concluded that this was the worst race of the season.
The biggest frustration before Bianchi’s crash was watching the race start behind the safety car. Everybody knew the weather forecast. Everybody expected this to happen. No one did anything to prevent it by changing the start time to Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Suzuka is one of the best circuits in the world but the race was turned into a tragic mockery and no one had done anything to try to avoid it.
What happened after October 5 did not bring any relief either and I am not talking only about the lack of good news from the hospital as we at least new that Bianchi was alive. What F1 needed was an encouragement, a reminder why risking drivers’ lives every other weekend is not worthless. What F1 got was a Putin Grand Prix and Bianchi’s team going into administration.
So why do talented F1 drivers put their lives on the line? To give the likes of Putin more exposure and wait for either the downfall of their teams or a notice that they have been replaced by a big pay cheque because the wealthiest sport in the world cannot get its act together? It is sad to think that Bianchi would have been forced to race for Putin a week after the Japanese GP, then sit out the rest of the year and settle for a reserve driver role in 2015 if he had escaped that horrendous crash.
Right after the crash, I was angry at those in charge of F1 and the particular race. I did not agree with those, who were claiming that the risk of death was part of the thrill in F1. I wanted to know more details of the crash; I did not agree with those, who said that the FIA would take care of everything and that the others just had to shut up. I am not a tabloid reader but I had many questions and I wanted to hear answers.
I have to admit that the FIA’s report gave a lot of those answers. Still, it is too obvious that one of its objectives is to cover the FIA’s butts. The report recommends changing many rules, yet it refuses to admit that any of the current rules, safety standards or practices in F1 is incomplete or wrong, which is absurd.
I agree that it is always easier to point the finger at someone with the benefit of hindsight but let us not forget that some people are paid to make sure that F1 is as safe as possible. It is their daily job to evaluate the potential risks and look for solutions. If we do not demand responsibility from them, then what is the difference between F1 and Putin’s Russia where stuff happens all the time but the leader is never wrong?
I do not think that saying that Bianchi was driving too fast under double waved yellow flags is wrong or disrespectful. We should never be afraid to hear the truth. The problem is that it is not the whole truth and half-truths are usually not a good way to start making things better. Still I hope that F1 will be able to learn from what happened at Suzuka even if the authorities refuse to openly admit their mistakes.
Coincidentally, I watched “1: Life on the Limit” just a couple of days before the Japanese GP. One of the final scenes of the movie is a compilation of scary crashes that drivers survived unscathed. It is deceiving. One should not believe that F1 is now safe enough and the focus should be on the things that still have to be improved.
I still believe that Bianchi’s accident was avoidable. Even if it was not, the authorities did not do enough to try to avoid it and the aftermath of the Japanese GP leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, two months after that dark day, Bianchi is in his home country, no longer in the artificial coma, breathing unaided but still unconscious. It is what it is. All we can do is send our best wishes to Bianchi’s family, hope and pray for him.
I really enjoyed watching the 2014 F1 season but to me this year will always have two sides. On the one side, there are Hamilton and Rosberg battling wheel-to-wheel. On the other side, there are the dark clouds over Suzuka and F1.