Bianchi’s crash overshadows Hamilton’s victory in Japan
Two-thousand-and-eight Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, further extended his championship lead to 10 points over Mercedes-Benz teammate Nico Rosberg, in a chaotic rain affected Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuku yesterday, marred by a tragic accident that landed Marussia driver, Jules Bianchi, in hospital.
In a race that started under safety car conditions due to the effects of Typhoon Phanfone, before being red flagged after two laps and then resuming after a further eight, Hamilton easily overtook his teammate on lap 28, despite a lock-up and running wide on the previous lap, due to not closing the rear wing flap for the Drag Reduction System (DRS) in time.
Before this moment, he had been chipping away at the pole-sitting German’s lead, who was struggling with oversteer. By lap 40, Hamilton had extended his lead to almost ten seconds when the rain started to come down.
With rivers forming on the track and in the pits, Sauber driver Adrian Sutil spun coming out of the turn 5 Dunlop corner on lap 43 and made contact with the barrier. This caused the deployment of the safety car on the following lap, and an ultimate red flag on lap 46 out of 53.
Although originally thought to be Sutil, it was later revealed that Bianchi had lost control at the same point and slid into the tractor that was removing the wrecked Sauber. The incident was not captured by television cameras and the presence of the medical car on track led many to believe that Sutil had been injured.
Bianchi was reported as being unconscious when removed from the Marussia and taken by road to the Mie University Hospital due to conditions making it impossible to transport him by helicopter. CT scans later revealed that he had suffered severe head injuries and would need to undergo an operation.
"Next to this, the race result doesn't seem significant at all," a subdued Hamilton told Sky F1.
"The whole approach then needed to change to look after the tyres and make sure I stayed in the lead until the end of the race. But like I said, that's not what matters today; our thoughts are with Jules".
Bianchi scored his team only points this year with a ninth place at the Monaco Grand Prix in May and is also a member of Ferrari's young drivers program.
"I'm not thinking about the race, I'm thinking about my colleague," second place finisher Rosberg told the BBC.
"I was disappointed to finish second but I'm not really thinking about that. I was not comfortable with the car today, I was not able to attack and did not find a solution to find the balance."
Speaking to Sky F1, reigning champion Sebastian Vettel, who made headlines earlier during the weekend by announcing that he is to leave Red Bull after winning his four titles for possibly Ferrari, said that his third place finish mattered little after the news about the crash became more apparent.
"Everything that happened with the racing on track is secondary today, one of us is in a bad shape and we don’t yet know how he is," he said.
"Jules had a bad accident and we hope to have some very good news, very soon. Not knowing what’s going on feels terrible, I think all the drivers really feel with him, as we know how difficult and slippery it was today; we hope for the very best."
Bianchi’s accident has raised questions as to whether the race should have started earlier and why the safety car had not been immediately deployed after Sutil had gone off.
"The rain was not the real issue. There were safety cars put in and the race was run safe more or less to the end, so it could have been run to the end without the accident," Mercedes non-executive chairman and three time former F1 champion, Niki Lauda, told BBC Radio 5.
"The darkness I don't think was an issue here. Motor racing is dangerous. We get used to it if nothing happens and then suddenly we are all surprised.
"We always have to be aware that motor racing is very dangerous and this accident is a coming together of various difficult things. One car goes off, the truck comes out and the next car goes off. This was very unfortunate," said Lauda, who famously withdrew from the even wetter 1976 Japanese GP at Fuji, handing to title to championship rival, James Hunt.
CAPTION: Marussia driver, Jules Bianchi, is said to be in a critical condition after crashing into a recovery vehicle during Sunday's typhoon affected Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, won Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. IMGE sourced from www.speedweek.com
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