The report of the highest body of motorsport also highlights important flaws in the procedures of the safety car and the delta time of the virtual safety car of Formula 1, in addition to stating that Pierre Gasly “led recklessly” during the moment of the controversy. It also suggests that the stewards were wrong to bring the cranes onto the track when they did.
The wet race was stopped after just one lap after Carlos Sainz crashed his Ferrari at the hairpin exit and Alex Albon stopped his damaged Williams just short of the Spaniard’s crash site.
Following the incidents there was initially a safety car , before it was red-flagged three minutes later. At that moment Gasly, while trying to catch up with the peloton, passed by two cranes that had come out to retrieve the two stalled cars. That surprised and angered both the Frenchman and his teammates at the time when they got out of their cars during the long red flag that cut the race short.
FIA error at the 2022 F1 Japanese GP: Race Control does not see Gasly in the pitlane
As the drivers lapped behind the safety car, the FIA allowed the Suzuka stewards to bring two cranes into the fast section between Hairpin and Spoon corners to recover the crashed cars.
But Gasly was not on that little train, since he had entered the pits to remove from the front of his AlphaTauri an advertising panel that had been ripped off the wall that bordered the track in Carlos Sainz’s accident and that had been left in the path of cars coming from the opposite direction.
While doing so, the international federation’s report states that “as efforts focused on safe recovery, Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri was not immediately detected in the pitlane.”
He continues: “Race Control does not necessarily monitor all the cars that can pit during the Safety Car periods, as they are more concerned with any area containing an incident and neutralizing the pack behind the Safety Car.”
Gasly entered the pitlane seven seconds before Race Control allowed stewards near Sainz’s crash site to enter the track, and those near Alexander Albon’s car were already working to remove the Williams.
The order to allow the tow truck to move Sainz’s car came 14 seconds before Gasly exited the pits, which was also the exact point at which permission was granted for a tow truck to come onto the track to also move Sainz’s car. Albon.
The FIA report states that “having cranes on the track at Suzuka during such weather conditions is a sensitive matter in view of the tragic incidents of the past”, referring to the accident that would kill Jules Bianchi in 2014 when he collided with a similar vehicle.
It adds: “The panel determined that, in hindsight, as weather conditions were changing, it would have been prudent to have delayed the departure of the cranes to the runway.”
“It was recognized that everything needed to be done to carry out an efficient and safe recovery of the cars. A longer recovery period, in conditions such as those that prevailed at Suzuka, may lead to a suspension of the race.”
“It was also recognized that while the safety car is used to neutralize a race, the FIA has control over the cars directly behind the safety car, but not enough control over those on other parts of the track.
Gasly’s driving at the 2022 F1 Japanese GP, analyzed and criticized
In the next phase of the FIA report, there is talk of “drivers’ obligations” in such circumstances, highlighting Gasly’s start lap from the pit stop and his near miss with the tow truck.
The FIA press release outlining the report’s conclusions reads as follows: “It was also recognized that, in accordance with the applicable regulations, drivers have an obligation to limit their speed accordingly in yellow flag conditions, safety car or red flag. In addition, drivers are obliged to apply common sense at all times.”
“In Gasly’s case, the data showed that, in an effort to cut his delta time to the safety car, he had been driving at speeds in excess of 200km/h prior to the scene of the Sainz incident, and after pass Sainz’s wrecked Ferrari under a red flag”.
“It should be noted that after the event he expressed his regret during a meeting with the stewards that ended in a penalty.”
The report notes that Gasly passed the Sainz crash site at 189 km/h, 67 km/h faster than the fastest car behind the pace car, Haas ‘ Kevin Magnussen, and It was going 122 km/h.
Six seconds later, Gasly passes Albon’s car at a slower speed of 163km/h, but then accelerates again and hits a top speed of 250km/h for the rest of his lap back into the pits, so he was handed a 20-second penalty after finishing the Suzuka race, dropping him from 17th to 18th in the final standings.
In a “comments and analysis” section of the report, the FIA states: “Having cranes on the track at Suzuka during these weather conditions is an extremely sensitive matter.”
“However, and without undermining the responsibilities in terms of safety on the track, we must also consider, as detailed above, that Gasly drove recklessly by not respecting the flags, thus ignoring basic safety regulations.”
The report states that “it was the second time that Gasly had passed in front of the incidents. Therefore, he was aware that a car had crashed and that the stewards could be clearing the track”.
A second before Gasly arrived at Sainz’s crash, trackside sign boards were showing red flags because the order to stop the race had been given. The report states that “assuming that Gasly was unable to see the red panels, he was nevertheless required to respect the yellow flags and SC panels, which, under applicable regulations, require drivers to prepare to slow down and potentially stop the car.”
He continues with the following: “Gasly’s speed was 189km/h arriving at incident 1 (Sainz) and 163km/h at incident 2 (recovery of Albon’s car) while under red flag. In neither of those two cases the speed of Gasly’s car was compatible with the obligation to reduce speed and be able to stop his car”.
But, as he underlined at the time at the Japanese GP, Gasly was following the limited speed delta that drivers must follow under the Virtual Speed Car and in safety car periods.
In dry conditions that’s 40% slower than a typical dry race lap time, and 50% slower in wet conditions, as was the case at Suzuka.
But because Gasly had swept the billboard and thus made his way back to the pits slower than the field under the initial safety car activation, “his delta time got progressively slower.” positive,” according to the report.
Therefore, he was 18 seconds slower than his target delta time when he hit the pits and, as delta times are not reset when cars enter the pitlane, he was able to “drive at a pace that was 18 seconds faster per lap.” than the specified delta time of the SC without triggering the delta time alarm”.
Teams are authorized to issue flashing lights and audible warnings to warn drivers that they are exceeding delta time and therefore speed.
The FIA report states that “consequently, for the lap Gasly made after pitting, despite driving considerably faster than would be expected in the circumstances, he was still in compliance with the requirements of the delta controls. of the SC that were active”.
It is worth noting here that although Gasly was running faster than the FIA investigation deemed appropriate for the circumstances, he was still going slower than he could have, given that F1 top speeds – albeit in the dry – They can exceed 300 km/h.
In addition, the difficult nature of the tires means that if the temperature is lost while driving at low speed, F1 cars are much more difficult to control.
What will the FIA do now after investigating the 2022 F1 Japanese GP?
The report also includes a list of actions that will be put in place to cover the specific failures related to the Suzuka incidents noted above.
In addition to other measures such as keeping the same race director for the remainder of the 2022 season, starting at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, all teams will receive a message from Race Control letting them know that cranes have come out to the track so that they can warn their pilots through the radio.
“The development of a live VSC/SC monitoring window to show the status of all cars, on the track, behind the SC [and] in the pits”, will be used by Race Control at Formula 1 Grands Prix and the FIA Remote Operations Center at its headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland).
The FIA will also launch an “update to the Race Control procedure to better define the assignment of tasks in the Race Control team under the SC or VSC procedure”.
That means “specifically in relation to this review, the delegation of oversight of cars entering the pit lane in SC conditions and the consequent length of the SC train.”
At the drivers’ briefing in Austin this Friday, the FIA will explain the new procedures to drivers and remind them to stick to already established rules in terms of obeying safety rules and respecting flags and signal panels. .
Austin officials will also review the precedent for sanctioning drivers who violate flags and safety car regulations, and guidelines will be drawn up to apply punishments to any future such violations.
By 2023, a “dynamic VSC” will be implemented, which would mean changing “the delta speed required for the pilot to follow before and also in the sectors where there is an incident”.
“That would help the pilots to know where incidents have been declared”, always according to the FIA report.
Next year there will also be a rule change which will mean that the pit exit will be closed during any safety car period and will only reopen for a short time each time the little train passes behind the safety car.
That would have a big impact on safety car periods, influencing race strategies if the event resumes after a brief interruption.
The FIA report notes that this change “could be applied at the discretion of Race Control depending on the state of the track and/or the specific requirements of an intervention.”
The placement and construction of advertising boards used at Formula 1 events are also being evaluated, with Formula E-style stick-on banners and alternatives that Grand Circus race organizers could consider using in the future.
Improvements to Suzuka’s drainage and sewers will also be considered, as well as the installation of more powerful lights to the cranes, as Gasly was initially unaware he was approaching one.
The FIA report notes that the body is carrying out “research into new technologies (Artificial Intelligence) to help better manage difficult situations on the track, even in adverse weather conditions.”
And that it will work with Pirelli on the tire characteristics needed for “extreme wet track conditions” during the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
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