Pierre Gasly’s fury at being told recovery crane on Suzuka track was ‘normal’

Jon Wilde
Carlos Sainz's Ferrari on a recovery truck. Suzuka October 2022.

Carlos Sainz's Ferrari on a recovery truck after Japanese Grand Prix crash. Suzuka October 2022.

Anger from Pierre Gasly at a recovery crane being on a wet Suzuka track at the same time as F1 cars was exacerbated when he was told the situation was “normal”.

That comment came from race director Eduardo Freitas, who was subsequently stood down from officiating at grands prix for the rest of this season in favour of Niels Wittich, the duo having previously alternated in the role.

Gasly went to see Freitas after the Japanese Grand Prix had been red-flagged, a two-hour pause then ensuing until heavy rain relented.

The AlphaTauri driver was furious to see, through limited visibility in the tricky conditions, a recovery vehicle on the circuit to collect Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, with the Spaniard having crashed out on the opening lap to trigger the race stoppage.

Immediately voicing his anger over team radio at what he had observed, Gasly was mindful that eight years earlier at the same venue his compatriot Jules Bianchi had crashed into a recovery vehicle, sustaining serious injuries that ultimately led to his death nine months later.

Subsequent to this year’s incident, the FIA released a report that included a series of recommendations for future recovery of stranded cars – although it also contained criticism of Gasly, whom it said had “ignored basic safety rules” and “drove recklessly” having been isolated at the back of the field after making a pit-stop.

The Frenchman was punished on the day with a time penalty, although he insisted he had been driving in accordance with his delta time for the Safety Car being on track.

Pierre Gasly in the wet. Suzuka October 2022.
AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly drives in the wet. Suzuka October 2022.

Motorsport.com report Freitas had told Gasly the recovery crane being on the circuit was “normal” – which the drivers, for one group, would certainly disagree with – and that the duo had spoken again a second time before the Portuguese official’s exit from F1 duties this year.

“His side of the story, my side of the story, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong,” said the 26-year-old driver, who will join Alpine next year.

“Tracks are homologated without cranes and tractors on track. They are safe in these conditions. The moment you put external stuff on it, it’s a very different story.

“I think they understood and it was clear on both sides. And I’m pleased with the solutions they are putting in place.

“It was a serious matter. It’s clearly something that should have never happened, but unfortunately it happened.

“There weren’t any consequences, except let’s say maybe mentally. I was kind of shocked with what happened, and for the people that kind of remembered the loss of Jules.

“There weren’t any tragic consequences. But the most important thing is just to have myself and all my colleagues and all the people in motorsports safer in the future. And that’s what they are planning.”

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