F1 Frontline with Mark Hughes

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

Current page

199

Current page

200

Current page

201

Current page

202

Current page

203

Current page

204

Current page

205

Current page

206

Current page

207

Current page

208

The Bianchi accident

Jules Bianchi was engrossed in a long-running battle with Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham at Suzuka. Both were driving exceptionally well in low-grip conditions in cars with very little downforce. Ericsson had recently made a breakthrough, a change in the Caterham’s brake-by-wire system giving him the pedal feel he’d lacked all year. Besides which, he was very much at home around Suzuka, a place where he raced often in his junior career (he won the Japanese Formula 3 title in 2009). He’d had a trying rookie season, but now at last he was beginning to show he deserved his place in F1.

Prior to that breakthrough he wouldn’t normally have been expected to be dicing with Bianchi, a junior Ferrari driver whose pace was well established and who was in a car that was generally a shade faster than Ericsson’s.

But around Suzuka, maybe not – and the Frenchman had a fight on his hands.

On Thursday Bianchi had been asked how he felt about being a contender for a Ferrari drive and he’d replied that he felt very much ready for it. On Saturday he learned – along with the rest of the world – that there was no longer a vacancy at Ferrari, for it was going to be filled by Sebastian Vettel. The team hadn’t confirmed as much but, speaking of his departing talisman, Red Bull principal Christian Horner had said, “Ferrari has made him a very attractive offer.”

Naturally Bianchi was disappointed, but Ferrari still valued him as a long-term prospect and the word was that a deal had been agreed in principle to place him at Sauber next year. But for now there was a race to be run, a season to be completed. His superb drive at Monaco had yielded the two points – Marussia’s first in five seasons – that could be the team’s lifeline, placing it above Sauber (ironically) and Caterham in the championship for constructors.

As Bianchi pitted for a fresh set of intermediates, Ericsson jumped ahead of him, only to then stop himself, putting the Marussia back in front – by four seconds. But the Caterham was definitely faster and, a couple of laps after pitting, Ericsson passed Bianchi on track and pulled away – initially at 1sec per lap.

As the rain returned on lap 39, Bianchi trailed Ericsson by about 12sec. Ericsson headed to the pits for full wets, Bianchi stayed out on his inters and was now 12sec in front but lapping a second or so more slowly on his less deeply grooved tyres. But now the rain had eased again. Bianchi was going to need to come in soon for his inters were almost finished – but so probably was Ericsson, because with rain no longer falling those wets would quickly overheat. This was going to be super-tight. In the race’s remaining nine laps, was Jules going to be able to hold him off? Every fraction of a second was going to count.

Adrian Sutil went off when directly behind Bianchi, having not long ago pitted. Next time through Jules will have registered the double waved yellows. Lift off – but no more than required; can’t be gifting Ericsson big chunks of time.

The right-rear wheel gets out of the dry groove, the extremities of which have become fuzzy from the rainfall. A snap of oversteer, correct it. The wheels have now found the dry again and the car snaps back the other way before he can get the lock off. He’s heading off, in a straightline across the gravel – and there’s a tractor reversing into his path.

At the next race, in Russia, FIA race director Charlie Whiting spoke of what could be learned from the accident. “One of the most important things is that it is probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers. It’s better to try to put in place a system where it’s much clearer to everyone how much we think cars should slow down, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Asked if Bianchi had slowed, he replied. “He did slow down, but it’s a matter of degree. Some slowed down much more than others.”

That’s because some had big margins of advantage to play with, were not threatening their position by slowing any more than required by a regulation that has always been interpreted subjectively.

A system that automatically slows cars to a target speed through such scenes will likely be in place at the start of next year. It will reduce the need to use the safety car considerably. Recovery vehicles will probably be fitted with metal skirts to prevent cars submarining beneath them.

These are all great developments, but how tragic that it took this to bring them about.

Related articles

Related products