The FIA has announced a raft of changes following a "far-reaching" review into the recovery vehicle controversy at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Drivers were left irate when the crane-like vehicle was allowed onto the track to recover Carlos Sainz's stricken Ferrari, despite heavy rain leaving circuit conditions treacherous and visibility poor.
Pierre Gasly, who narrowly avoided the vehicle at unabated speed, was visibly angered by the situation and labelled the incident as "disrespectful" to the family and legacy of Jules Bianchi, who lost his life in 2014 when colliding with a recovery vehicle at the same venue in similar circumstances.
Following the review based on the FIA's critical reflection process, a letter from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association and discussions between drivers and the governing body's president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, a number of "procedural recommendations will be implemented."
A statement from the FIA explains that the review was 'originated by the Remote Operations Centre immediately after a series of incidents on lap two of the grand prix,' with the review panel including representatives from a wide array of FIA departments including race control, the ROC, safety, operations and technical sections.
Recreating a 'full timeline of the incidents and taking into account the track conditions at the time, a 'lengthy study of video footage and race control telemetry' was undertaken, while driver behaviour and circuit marshal performance were also evaluated.
FIA insists race start conditions were suitable
A number of drivers had been concerned that starting the race under such wet conditions was a risk too far, but the FIA report has insisted the weather was "suitable".
The report read: "Although it was raining, conditions were suitable enough to start the Race from a standing start on time.
"All teams started on intermediate tyres following reconnaissance laps to the grid, but heavier rain around the time of the start meant that car control on intermediate tyres after the start was more challenging."
The FIA notes that analysis of tyre performance in wet weather conditions is ongoing between the technical department and Pirelli.
Review concluded all FIA procedures were followed
After Sainz crashed out on lap one when aquaplaning, Gasly was caught up in the ensuing chaos as cars aimed to dodge the stranded Ferrari and was forced to pit.
Failing to spot the AlphaTauri in the pits was one of the failings detected by the FIA report.
But the review has determined that "all FIA race procedures were followed", prompting the first change to procedure.
"The review noted that in such conditions, a recovery vehicle should not be deployed unless all cars are aligned behind the Safety Car.
"Furthermore, marshals and recovery equipment would only be deployed whilst cars are on track [Safety Car periods] when the weather conditions and location of the cars to be recovered allow for a quick and safe intervention."
"Given the track conditions and the overall visibility for drivers, marshals and recovery staff at the time, initially under a Safety Car followed by a Red Flag, and as efforts were focused on safe recovery, the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly in the Pit Lane was not immediately detected.
"Race Control do not necessarily monitor all cars that may pit during Safety Car periods as they are more concerned about any area containing an incident and neutralising the field behind the Safety Car."
The report continues to acknowledge that recovery cranes on track at Suzuka in such weather conditions is a 'sensitive matter in view of tragic incidents of the past' and in turn suggested that the deployment of the recovery vehicle should have been delayed.
Drivers uged to apply "common sense"
Gasly was fined and handed a penalty post-race for speeding under red flag conditions and the review has concluded that drivers should be "further obliged to apply common sense at all times", though it was noted that the Frenchman expressed his regret at the stewards hearing.
His damage was initially caused by an uprooted advertising board, with the review stating: "The issue of the fixing of Advertising boards, their construction, location and materials is constantly under review by the Circuit Commission."
FIA issues measures for immediate implementation
As a result of the review's findings, the FIA will implement the following measures:
- Information to be provided to the Teams by means of a message via the official messaging system and communicated via the FIA intercom system to notify teams that a recovery vehicle is on track with the obligation from the Teams to inform their Drivers.
- Development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to display the status of all cars, on track, behind SC, in PITS to be used by Race Control and the ROC.
- Race Control Procedure Update to better define the allocation of tasks across the Race Control team (including delegation of monitoring tasks to ROC as required) under SC or VSC procedure. In specific relation to this review, the delegation of monitoring of cars entering the Pit Lane under SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.
- The FIA Race Director will hold a review of the incidents in Suzuka during the United States Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing to explain what solutions the FIA plans to introduce to avoid a repeat of the situation in the future and to remind the Drivers of the rules relating to Safety Cars and Red Flags.
- Dynamic VSC: implementation of a new function that would change the delta speed required for the driver to follow before and in the sectors where there is an incident, this would aid the drivers to know where incidents have been declared.
- In conjunction with the teams, a review of penalty precedents for drivers not respecting the rules relating to Yellow, Double Yellow, VSC and SC conditions will take place.
- Assessment of the current application of advertising boards, their construction, location and materials used to avoid the potential for them to being torn off and thrown on track.
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