FORMULA One team Marussia have angrily denied suggestions that driver Jules Bianchi was asked to bend rules and speed up just before his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month.
Bianchi, 24, remains in critical condition with severe head injuries almost two weeks after his car ploughed into a trackside recovery vehicle at Suzuka on 5 October.
The crash came while drivers were meant to be exercising extra caution after Sauber’s Adrian Sutil had aquaplaned and spun off moments earlier in treacherously wet conditions.
Marussia said race data proved that claims Bianchi had been asked by the team to speed up in order to maintain his lead over Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson were “entirely false”.
“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,” they said in a statement.
“The Marussia F1 team is shocked and angered by these allegations. 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 [motorsport’s governing body].”
Marussia added that race director Charlie Whiting had examined race data and confirmed that Bianchi had slowed down prior to his crash.
Whiting said on Friday: “We have seen the data from all cars, and everyone slowed down. Some didn’t slow down much, some a lot. We don’t need to go into how much he slowed down compared to others. He did slow down; it is a matter of degree.”
Bianchi’s accident has prompted fresh debate about the adequacy of motorsport’s safety measures, but former F1 driver Robert Kubica, who suffered irreversible arm injuries in a 2011 rally crash, has defended current protocols.
“The FIA has done an amazing job to improve things and it shows there are still things to improve,” said Kubica, who never recovered sufficient movement to return to F1 but now competes in the World Rally Championship. “But it also shows that there is always a danger. That’s part of the sport. Even if you think it is safe, the danger is always there.”
Bianchi’s family this week said his condition remained stable but “challenging”.
His father Philippe added: “Every time the telephone goes, we know it could be the hospital to tell us that Jules is dead. His doctors told us it’s already a miracle, no-one has ever survived such a serious accident.”