Things are difficult enough when you are a team with a driver critically injured and fighting for his life but when you throw in speculation and accusations as to how this driver is in the condition he is, things get even more difficult.
As Jules Bianchi remains in critical condition in a Japanese hospital, speculations over the events that caused his accident at the Japanese Grand Prix went from inquisitive and concerned to blame and accusation within a week.
As is the norm these days, the world of social media quickly reduced itself to armchair brain surgeons and backseat conspiracy trolls by circulating accusations that indicted Marussia and Bianchi for the incident in Japan.
I saw a few tweets and reports yesterday suggesting that Marussia had instructed Bianchi to push hard (not slow down) in the yellow-flag zone to close a gap to Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson and that Jules, in fact, did not slow down. Apparently Marussia heard these too and has offered a statement concerning them:
During the course of Tuesday 14 October, a number of media reports emerged suggesting:
1) that Jules Bianchi did not slow down under the double waved yellow flags shown after Adrian Sutil had spun off in the wet conditions
2) that the team urged Jules to go faster during the double waved yellow flag period in order to keep Marcus Ericsson behind.
The Marussia F1 Team is shocked and angered by these allegations. At a time when its driver is critically ill in hospital, and the team has made clear that its highest priority is consideration for Jules and his family, it is distressed to have to respond to deeply upsetting rumours and inaccuracies in respect of the circumstances of Jules’ accident. However, given that these allegations are entirely false, the team has no alternative but to address these.
Regarding point 1, Jules did slow down under the double waved yellow flags. That is an irrefutable fact, as proven by the telemetry data, which the team has provided to the FIA. In the FIA press conference which took place in Sochi on Friday 10 October, Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Race Director, confirmed that the team had provided such data, that he himself had examined this data and that Jules did slow.
Regarding point 2, an audio copy of the full radio transmission between Jules and the team, and also a written transcript thereof, were provided to the FIA. It is quite clear from the transmission and the transcript that at no point during the period leading up to Jules’ accident did the team urge Jules to drive faster or make any comments suggesting that he should do so.
The team sincerely hopes that, having clarified these facts, it can now avoid any further distractions to its primary focus at this time, which is providing support for Jules and his family.
It’s a sad narrative regarding the lack of decorum and the way in which society has reduced itself to inurbanity. Let us hope that the team and Jules doesn’t have to continually fend off accusations and that time is given to fully understand all the elements that lead to the crash as well as what might be done to avoid such incidents in the future.
The FIA have asked teams to provide any information they may have that might be relevant to the investigation that a new Accident Panel can review as it continues its investigation of the incident.