Bianchi crash forces F1 teams to confront change
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Marussia driver Jules Bianchi of France drives during the qualifying session at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on October 4, 2014. AFP PhotoIn the month that Jules Bianchi has battled for his life after crashing into a recovery truck at the Japanese Grand Prix, his Marussia team has gone into administration and Formula One has agonised over race safety.
The 25-year-old Frenchman has lain in a hospital at Yokkaichi near Suzuka in a "critical but stable" condition unaware of the mounting controversy since his October 5 crash.
In a rare public comment, Bianchi's father Philippe said his son was in a "desperate" state.
And having suffered a traumatic brain injury when his car smashed into the truck at an estimated 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour, Bianchi could stay in this condition for months.
Marussia may not exist when any change comes. The team has gone into administration as it struggles to find finance to keep racing.
The Bianchi family meanwhile maintains hopes that their "fighter" son will improve.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Bianchi could be moved to the same hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland where Formula One ace Michael Schumacher was treated after his ski accident.
Another former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi is part of a high-level International Automobile Federation (FIA) panel that will recommend new safety measures before a December 3 meeting of the governing body.
Philippe Bianchi has talked of a "traffic accident" rather than a racing crash.
Bianchi's car slid off the track made treacherous by a rainstorm as the mobile crane was lifting Adrian Sutil's Sauber off the track. A few seconds earlier Bianchi could have hit track marshals who had been stood there.
The final FIA report on the accident is likely to spread the blame.
Formula One observers have highlighted three possible reasons that contributed to the Bianchi crash.
He may have been going too fast for the wet track, his intermediate tyres were due for a change in the rain and focus has also been put on whether the marshals should have halted the race after Sutil left the track on the previous lap.
Yellow warning flags were up, but the racing was still intense.
Nobody has blamed Bianchi for his speed. According to the FIA, the Frenchman had slowed down but it has not given details of how fast he was travelling at.
"Some cars slowed down more than others. Jules did slow down, it's a matter of degree," race director Charlie Whiting said after the crash.
The FIA tested a "virtual safety car" at the US Grand Prix last weekend.
In the event of a crash, drivers will have to keep to a speed about 35 percent slower than a normal dry lap time. They will have displays in their cars and face penalties if they breach the limit.
A new version will be tried at the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.
Many drivers and experts say there were exceptional circumstances at Suzuka on October 5 and exceptional answers are needed.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has called for tests on closed cockpits for drivers. They have been rejected in the past because teams said they made cars look too ugly. The Williams team has also backed the call.
Williams driver Felipe Massa, who survived life-threatening head injuries when struck by a spring from another car at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, said the cockpits should be tested.
"Definitely, for my accident, it would have been perfect," said Massa. "For Jules -- I don't know." While the Formula One waits for news of Bianchi, the racing circus is heading for major changes.