SUZUKA, Japan — Pierre Gasly says he was just two meters from a fatal accident at the Japanese Grand Prix after calling race officials’ decision to release a recovery vehicle onto the track in heavy rain unacceptable.
Gasly was driving at 200km/h when he encountered a crane that had been used under safety car conditions to recover Carlos Sainz’s wrecked Ferrari at Turn 12.
After an unscheduled pit stop, the AlphaTauri driver tried to catch up with the line of cars behind the safety car and encountered the recovery vehicle shortly after the race had been interrupted by red flags.
Gasly said he only saw the crane at the last minute and came within two meters of a collision.
“I was trying to slow down, not in an erratic way because if I had hit the brakes I would have lost the car and ended up in the crane,” he said.
“I was two meters from dying today, which is unacceptable as a racing driver.”
Gasly went to FIA race director Eduardo Freitas after the incident, but declined to comment publicly on his conversation.
However, he said he stuck to the delta time on his dashboard under the safety car, which is designed to prevent drivers from catching up with the car train behind the safety car in such conditions, and couldn’t understand why the decision had been made be taken to release the recovery vehicle before the race is red flagged.
“One minute later we were all in the pit lane [for the red flag]”, he added. “I don’t think it’s acceptable to risk my life for a minute.
“We have a delta lap time, there is a certain process that we have to follow under the safety car, I respected it and there was a crane on the racing line.”
Gasly said the incident, which is being investigated by the FIA, has similarities to the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery vehicle and died the following year from brain injuries sustained.
“We lost Jules in similar conditions eight years ago, with a crane on the track in the gravel,” Gasly said. “I don’t understand how we can see a crane in similar conditions eight years later. Not even in the gravel, on the racing line.
“It’s disrespectful to Jules, his family or loved ones, or any of us. It was a dramatic incident. That day we learned that we don’t want to see tractors in these conditions.
“If I lost the car the same way Carlos did [Sainz] lost his car on the lap earlier? I drove 200 km/h, but even at 100 km/h it’s a 12 tonne crane. If I met him, I would be dead instantly.
“I am very grateful that I am still standing. I can still call my family, loved ones and nothing has happened.
“For all of us drivers – I hope this is the last time we see a crane.”
Gasly said the FIA must look at ways to change their procedures so it never happens again.
“We all suffered from Jules’ accident. If we could go back that day and change the situation, he would still be here.
“For the future I want all my colleagues in Formula 1 and younger categories to be safe. Hopefully we can finally learn from this situation.”
https://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/34759155/pierre-gasly-crane-incident-was-two-metres-passing-away Pierre Gasly on crane incident