The Formula 1 world has been united in rage over the “unforgivable” Japanese Grand Prix incident that has shocked the sport.
There has been widespread condemnation and calls for action to be taken after a tractor was parked on track as drivers passed by at high speed.
The incident is particularly traumatic for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who drove terrifyingly close to the tractor on the same Suzuka circuit where his close friend Jules Bianchi suffered a fatal accident in similar circumstances eight years ago.
Gasly said he “would be dead right now” if he had hit the vehicle, which was deployed to recover Carlos Sainz’s car after the Spaniard crashed in heavy rain on a chaotic first lap.
French driver Bianchi suffered a fatal crash at Suzuka in October 2014 when he collided with a tractor crane that was recovering a car.
He underwent emergency surgery and was placed in an induced coma, but never recovered and died in July 2015.
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There has been similar outrage at other details that have emerged from the incident with the FIA review appearing to blame Gasly for driving too fast under red flags.
An on-board camera from Sainz’s car also shows a marshall was on track at the scene when a car screamed past at 200km/h.
“After passing the scene of the incident, car 10 continued under the red flag situation, at speeds which exceeded 200km/h on multiple occasions, and which reached 251 km/h at one point,” said the stewards.
“The driver conceded that he now understood that there could have been marshals or obstacles on the track, and admitted that he was too fast.
Gasly unleashed over the team radio as fans watching on couldn’t quite believe the incident had unfolded with red flags waving only a split second before Gasly went past.
“What is this? What is this tractor on track?! I passed next to it,” he said.
“This is unacceptable. Remember what has happened. Can’t believe this,” he fumed.
“I could have f***ing killed myself.”
After the race Gasly was dumbfounded as to how, eight years on, a tractor was allowed on the track with cars still driving around, labelling it “disrespectful” to the memory of Bianchi.
“We lost Jules already. We all lost an amazing guy – eight years ago on the same track in the same conditions with a crane,” he told Sky Sports.
“How today can we see a crane not even in the gravel, on the racetrack, while we are still on the track. I don’t understand that.
“Obviously I got scared. If I lost the car in a similar way as Carlos before. It doesn’t matter the speed 200, 100km/h. I would have just died. Simple as that.
“It’s disrespectful to Jules, disrespectful to his family and all of us. We are risking our life out there. We are doing the best job in the world but what we are asking is at least keep us safe.
“It’s already dangerous enough and today I just feel it was unnecessary. We could have waited one more minute to get back in the pit lane and then put the tractors on track.
“I’m just extremely grateful that I’m here and tonight I’m going to call my family. If I was two metres to the left I would have been dead.
“We’ve got a lap time in the steering and I was still nine seconds slower than that. This is not fair because I was doing everything correctly. That crane should not have been there.
“If I would have been dead right how, if I crashed, what’s the outcome? I don’t think any tractor should be on the racetrack.
“They’re probably going to say I’m wrong and it’s probably going to be all my mistake. What I care about is my colleagues and in the future we don’t face this sort of situation.
“Because if I aquaplaned like Carlos did the lap before, I would not be standing here and there would be another one after Jules.
“Jules was already painful and I don’t think it’s respectful towards him and his family.”
The FIA handed down its ruling over the incident in the aftermath to the Japanese Grand Prix, which ended with Max Verstappen claiming a comfortable victory and securing his second straight Formula 1 title in farcical scenes.
Gasly was summoned to attend a post-race hearing with the stewards who ultimately handed the AlphaTauri star a drive-through penalty (20 seconds) for speeding under red flags.
He was received two penalty points on his superlicence, which takes him up to nine over a 12-month period.
There has been outrage from around the world over the incident.
Bianchi’s father Philippe also made a heartbreaking comment on Instagram.
“No respect for the Life of the driver. No respect for Jules’ memory. Incredible,” he posted alongside a photo of Gasly driving past the tractor.
Sunday’s race began amid heavy rainfall and was red-flagged on the third lap.
Gasly was later adjudged to have been speeding under red-flag conditions. The French driver tried to catch the field behind the safety car, having pitted to remove an advertising board that was lodged in his car.
But the incident prompted fury from other drivers, who said Gasly was lucky to escape unscathed.
“In any conditions, we should never see a crane on track while the cars are out there,” said Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who finished second.
“You don’t know what could happen. It doesn’t matter about the conditions — it should just never happen.”
Perez’s Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen said hitting the tractor would have been dangerous “at any speed”.
“When you are behind, you always try to drive out of the spray, you go left or you go right because you can’t really see anything,” said Verstappen, who won the race and clinched his second straight world title.
“That is when things happen.”
The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, said normal procedures had been followed but pledged that there would be a “thorough review” after taking feedback from drivers.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was among those calling for a full investigation into the incident.
“We lost Jules Bianchi here eight years ago and that should never, ever happen,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“There needs to be a full investigation into why there was a recovery vehicle on the circuit.” Sainz said: “Even behind a safety car we are going at 100km/h or 150km/h and still at those speeds we don’t see nothing.
“I still don’t know why we keep risking, in these conditions, having a tractor on track. You were going to red flag it anyway, so why risk it?”
Formula 1 commentators have called for officials to accept blame.
Commentator Will Buxton described it as “unforgivable”.
“Just watched onboards with Gasly. Right to be furious,” he posted on Twitter.
“Recovery vehicle bang on the racing line in zero visibility. Unforgivable.
“FIA can’t wiggle out of this. Either they allowed the vehicle on track or they didn’t have control of vehicles entering track.”
Fellow drivers were united in outrage.