F1 drivers ‘will be up in arms’ at US Grand Prix briefing with FIA

Jamie Woodhouse
AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly on track during the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly on track during the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

Formula E racer Sam Bird expects the Formula 1 drivers to unite in Austin and pressure the FIA for answers over the recovery vehicle scare.

The FIA has understandably faced a fierce backlash after the frightening scene at Suzuka of a tractor on the track which was recovering Carlos Sainz’s stricken Ferrari, heavy rain resulting in very poor visibility for the drivers.

While the race was under Safety Car conditions at that time, onboard footage from Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri highlighted just how difficult it was to spot the vehicle, even at those slow speeds.

Formula 1 tragically knows all too well about the dangers of recovery vehicles and Suzuka in wet conditions, Jules Bianchi having suffered ultimately fatal injuries when he went off in the wet conditions and collided with a recovery vehicle during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

So, Bird expects the drivers to be “up in arms” at Friday’s drivers’ briefing at the United States Grand Prix, demanding answers from the FIA.

“I wouldn’t want to be one of the officials or one of the stewards in Austin,” said Bird on the Chequered Flag podcast.

“Because all of the drivers unanimously will be up in arms about what has happened and why this has happened and calling for change and addressing this as an issue.

“Because I think that us racing drivers, all of the drivers out there today and the racing community, deserve an answer to why this has happened [in Japan]. For what reason [did] that happen and what they will do in order to make changes for the safety of racing drivers going forwards.”

Drivers have every right to be upset with the FIA

Mistakes happen, but in this case, such an error cannot be swept under the carpet, as it could so easily have cost another driver their life.

Bianchi remains the most recent Formula 1 fatality, and a great deal of work has taken place in the years following that heartbreaking incident to push safety levels in Formula 1 to a sensationally high level. This then makes it inexcusable for incidents like this one at the 2022 Japanese GP to occur.

Yes visibility was poor, but the lights on the recovery vehicle were rather dull nonetheless, leaving drivers with very little chance of seeing the obstacle as they approached it, while quite simply the tractor should not have been on the track while Formula 1 cars still were anyway.

Fortunately for Formula 1 and the FIA, they escaped this incident without serious consequence, though the drivers would not be doing themselves justice if they do not raise this issue firmly with the FIA ahead of the United States Grand Prix.

Read more: Formula 1 only has itself to blame for Japan’s ‘WTF’ moments