In the two weeks since the controversial wet Japanese Grand Prix – in which Max Verstappen peculiarly came out victorious – the FIA has carried out an investigation into the safety procedures and decisions made on that day.
Ahead of practice for this weekend’s United States GP, the FIA released its report from Suzuka. In it, the key conclusions are that their Race Control stewards had lost track of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri before they decided to bring out the cranes to recover the stalled cars of Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon , that they made that decision too early and also that Gasly’s driving was “reckless” under the circumstances.
The report also included a series of measures that the FIA will take to apply the lessons learned from the problems at Suzuka, such as the development of a new messaging system to instantly alert cranes to the track in any circumstance and future work to improve the automated systems so that Race Control can follow all the cars.
Those and the rest of the report’s findings and key lessons were to be discussed with the drivers during their regular briefing after Friday practice in Austin.
But Motorsport.com has learned that when the FIA got to that point during the meeting, the drivers quickly decided they needed more time to go through the full report, without the pressure of a race weekend programme.
Sainz, who took pole position for Sunday’s race in Austin, explained that “we all decided to postpone the Suzuka talks until Mexico because a lot of drivers didn’t have time to read the report.”
He added: “We needed these three or four days to read it and then discuss it with our teams and everyone involved to see what other ideas we can come up with.”
“But, in the FIA report visibility was discussed, which to me is really almost more important than anything else.
Speaking alongside Sainz at the post-qualifying press conference in Austin, Max Verstappen showed his position, saying “the main problem at Suzuka was visibility”.
“When I passed Carlos’ car with the tractor or the crane – whatever you want to call it – I saw it because I was going first,” he continued.
“But when you’re behind and nobody tells you or communicates to the teams that there’s a crane on the track and suddenly you come out of the spray and you see it, it’s dangerous.
“Because that’s what you do behind a car: you’re always trying to go left or right to see. And if you don’t know there’s a tow truck there, then I can understand people getting pretty upset.”
“So probably in those circumstances, knowing that we have these visibility issues, he can communicate quicker and better by saying, ‘Guys, we need to get a tow truck out on the track to remove a car.
“And I think that would have already helped a lot. So I think that’s what will change going forward if it happens again. The rest of Suzuka, it’s an ongoing issue that I think is also not something that can be easily resolved overnight. in the morning”.
Niels Wittich, FIA Race Director
All drivers already know that the FIA’s previous 2022 policy of rotating race directors has changed, with Niels Wittich retaining that position for the rest of the season.
Asked to give his opinion on this decision, Carlos Sainz said: “I’m going to keep my thoughts to myself on this and I’m going to let the FIA know what my preference is.” He added: “But I really trust that the FIA is doing everything they can to keep improving.”
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough year for them, and we all want to progress and we all want to go in the right direction, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”
On that change, Verstappen commented: “Time will tell what is right.”
“Do you need one, two, three race directors? Or five? I don’t know. It’s hard.”