FORMULA One star Felipe Massa accused the sport’s chiefs of ignoring his warnings after Marussia driver Jules Bianchi was left in a critical condition by a crash at yesterday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Bianchi needed emergency surgery on a severe head injury suffered when his car collided into a recovery vehicle attending to Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, which aquaplaned at a treacherously wet Suzuka.
The French racer, 25, was last night said to be in intensive care but breathing unaided. The incident brought the race to a premature halt after 44 laps, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton declared winner.
Williams driver Massa, who suffered his own life-threatening accident five years ago when competing for Ferrari, revealed how he tried to have the race stopped shortly before Bianchi’s crash.
“We need to understand what has happened with Jules,” said the Brazilian. “I’m very worried. I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track, but they took a bit too long and it was dangerous. So we saw that there were some crashes at the end.”
Former world champion and now executive at Hamilton’s Mercedes team Niki Lauda, who refused to take part in the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix because of heavy rain, defended race organisers’ handling.
“Motor racing is dangerous,” he said. “We get used to it if nothing happens and then suddenly we’re all surprised but we always have to be aware that motor racing is very dangerous and this accident today is the coming together of various difficult things.
“One car goes off, the truck comes out and then the next car goes off. It was very unfortunate. In the end the rain was not the real issue of the race. There were safety cars put in and the race was run safe more or less to the end so it could have been run to the end without the accident.”
The race, which had been in doubt last week due to Typhoon Phanfone, started under safety car conditions following a downpour yesterday morning and was stopped after just two laps for around 20 minutes. Rainfall grew heavier as the race went on, and Sutil spun into a tyre barrier at turn eight, with Bianchi losing control and ploughing into the recovery vehicle at the same spot on the following lap.
“In the end, when it got dark, you couldn’t see where the wet patches were and that is why I lost the car and it really surprised me,” said Sutil.
“It hit him hard. That is all I can say. I was just standing there. We know that it is serious.”
PROFILE: JULES BIANCHI
■ Born in Nice on 3 August 1989, French karting champion Bianchi won the Formula Renault 2.0 series at the first attempt, aged 18
■ In 2009 he made his Formula One debut, testing for Ferrari, impressing enough to join the Italian side’s young driver programme two years later
■ Marussia handed Bianchi a drive in 2013. He finished the season 13th and this year earned the team’s first ever points when finishing ninth in Monaco