Jules Bianchi (lost FOM footage of fatal Formula One crash; 2014)
On 5th October, 2014, during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix held at the Suzuka Circuit, Formula One driver Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia MR03 at the Dunlop Curve, and ended up crashing into a tractor crane. He experienced a diffuse axonal injury as a result of the collision, and died in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice in Nice, France on 13th July, 2015. Bianchi became the first Formula One driver to die following an accident at a Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. While amateur fan recordings of the accident are available online, the official footage of the crash has been withheld by Formula One Management (FOM).
Jules Bianchi was in his second season of Formula One, driving for the Marussia team. At the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, he scored his and Marussia's first points by finishing ninth. According to former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Bianchi's performances for Marussia, Ferrari tests and in GP2 had led to Scuderia Ferrari selecting him as the driver to replace Kimi Raikkonen in the future.
The 2014 Japanese Grand Prix was the 15th race of the 2014 Formula One Season. Bianchi qualified 20th out of 22 drivers, ahead of Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi and teammate Max Chilton. During early October, Typhoon Phanfone struck the region, and although it was predicted to miss the Suzuka Circuit, the typhoon would still bring in heavy rain that would affect the race itself. Despite calls for the race to have a delayed start time or even be postponed entirely, disagreements between the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and race organisers led to the race starting at its normal time.
The race began despite massive amounts of standing water being on the track, with grip and driver visibility being impaired. It even led to the race been suspended on lap 2 for twenty minutes because of the shear amount of downpour. Nevertheless, it restarted once the rain eased. After the restart, the race ran smoothly until lap 40, when Sauber's Adrian Sutil spun-off at the Dunlop Curve and collided with the outside tyre barrier. A tractor crane arrived at the scene and began to lift Sutil's car away from the track. Double-waved yellow flags were used to instruct drivers to slow down and be prepared to stop, but no safety car was called.
The Crash and Aftermath
The following lap, Bianchi approached Dunlop Curve at around 132mph, deemed too fast under double-waved yellow flags, when he suddenly lost control of his Marussia. As the car left the track, Bianchi pressed both the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time, which under normal circumstances would have triggered a fail-safe system that cut power to the engine. However, the car's brake-by-wire system proved incompatible with the fail-safe, preventing the latter from working and thus preventing it from slowing the car down as it left the track. The Marussia headed sideways into the path of the tractor crane, and collided with its left-rear wheel at around 76mph.
The car suffered extensive damage from the crash, and Bianchi was unconscious following the accident, measured at around 254g after his helmet struck the sloping underside of the crane. He was immediately taken to the Mie Prefectural General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, and the race was called off prematurely following a second red flag as a result of the accident. Medical examinations revealed Bianchi was suffering from a diffuse axonal injury, a type of traumatic brain injury that often occurs as a result of high-speed collisions with swift deceleration. Ninety percent of diffuse axonal injury patients never wake up, making Bianchi's chances of recovery slim. He began breathing unaided following him being removed from an induced coma, and was transferred to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice, albeit still in a critical state and remaining unconscious. Ultimately, on 17th July, 2015, Bianchi succumbed to his injuries, aged 25.
Bianchi's fatal accident led to numerous safety changes in Formula One, including the introduction of the virtual safety car used to instruct drivers to slow down by at least 35%, and the halo, which prevents debris from striking the driver and provides general head protection in crashes.
Amateur fan recordings of the accident have surfaced online, despite attempts by the FOM to remove them from social media under copyright claims. However, no FOM footage is currently accessible. The explanation is that the footage was withheld out of respect for Bianchi although others believe it was because the FIA did not want to be implicated for the accident. Among lost footage include the on-board camera on Bianchi's Marussia, as well as from the track cameras positioned in the curve. Neither are likely to resurface, due to their disturbing context and out of respect of Bianchi and his relatives.
- Autosport article discussing Bianchi seeking to be retained for the 2014 Formula One Season, his second season with Marussia. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Sky Sports article discussing Bianchi scoring his first points at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Autosport article discussing Ferrari choosing Bianchi as a future driver for the team. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Qualifying results for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, Bianchi qualifying 20th. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Racefans discussing Typhoon Phanfone's threat of affecting the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Independent article discussing the threat of Typhoon Phanfone for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- NBC Sports discussing the race starting at its normal time. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Autosport discussing the race being stopped on lap 2 and the restart. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Racecar Engineering discussing Adrian Sutil's crash and the events leading up to Bianchi's crash. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Eurosport discussing Bianchi losing control of his Marussia at around 132mph. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- BBC Sport discussing the incompatibility between Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- RFI discussing Bianchi being hospitalised at Mie Prefectural General Medical Center. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- BBC Sport discussing the race being red flagged after the crash. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Independent article discussing Bianchi experiencing a diffuse axonal injury following the crash. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- The Guardian discussing Bianchi being out of an induced coma, breathing unaided at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- BBC Sport reporting on the death of Bianchi. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- BBC Sport discussing the introduction of the virtual safety car following Bianchi's accident. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- GP Blog discussing the halo being introduced as a result of Bianchi's fatal accident. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Motorsport article discussing FOM's attempts to remove fan recordings of the accident, and withholding the official footage. Retrieved 13 Aug '21
- Topgear Autoguide discussing what official footage may be withheld by the FOM. Retrieved 13 Aug '21