Calls for safety overhaul after Bianchi horror
SOCHI - Agence France-Presse
Mechanics push a car in the paddocks at the F1 Autodrom in Sochi on October 9, 2014 ahead of the Russian Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PhotoThe Formula One circus set up camp for a controversial inaugural Russian Grand Prix on Oct. 9 with the sport's top drivers leading emotional calls for improved safety on the track.
Four days on from the crash-marred Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, where Jules Bianchi suffered life-threatening head injuries when his Marussia collided with a recovery vehicle, there were near-unanimous pleas for action amid an outpouring of emotions.
Sergio Perez demanded changes in the deployment of Safety Cars, Fernando Alonso described the incident as "a wake-up call", and supported a close look at closed cockpits, while Felipe Massa said it was "the worst race of my life".
But all agreed on one thing -- that, as professionals, the show goes on.
"We are old enough to make our own decisions," said four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
The drivers dedicated their part in this weekend's race to support for 25-year-old Frenchman Bianchi, who is battling for life in hospital in Japan.
All will wear badges declaring 'Tous Avec Jules' as they enter the fray in bright sunshine at the Sochi Olympic Park venue on Friday, a very different scenario from the typhoon-threatened and rain-swept gloom in which they drove last Sunday.
Massa said he wanted to race "for Jules", adding he wished to "do his best for him, and for his family".
Massa, 33, a veteran of 206 Grands Prix and who was seriously hurt in a crash in Hungary in 2009, said: "For me, it was the worst race of my life. A really bad race, worse than the race of my accident that I can't remember. The worst of my life."
"It is hard to say in words and a shocking moment for everyone, and for myself," said Adrian Sutil, who witnessed Bianchi's accident, having crashed at the same place in his Sauber car.
"We just have to pray now -- and to hope, that is all we can do. Here in Russia, there is a grey cloud over us."
Alonso said it would be "emotionally, a very difficult weekend for all of us" and went on to support calls for closed cockpits.
"I probably tend to agree we should at least check and try, or test the idea," said the former world champion.
He added: "All the biggest accidents in motorsport in the last couple of years have been head injuries -- so it's probably one of the parts where we are not on the top of the safety."
Like Alonso, Vettel said the sport should avoid instant knee-jerk reactions.
"I think it is very difficult right now to give the golden answer," he said.
"We have to try to digest it and make the right conclusions. It would be wrong after just a couple of days afterwards to come up with something that is not thought through."
Their measured reaction was in contrast to that of Perez of Force India who had earlier said Bianchi's accident "was unacceptable" and was avoidable.
"We need to have full details and a full answer from the FIA and we need to get together," he said.
"We need full explanations of what happened and what we are going to change. We have to have answers. We have to make sure they hear us."
As an emotional day ended, Marussia named American Alexander Rossi as Max Chilton's probable team-mate this weekend, delaying a final decision until Friday.