SOCHI Russia (Reuters) - Formula One is planning to impose automatic speed limits as part of safety measures to prevent any recurrence of the sort of accident that has left French driver Jules Bianchi fighting for his life in Japan.
Race director Charlie Whiting told reporters at the Russian Grand Prix that he would meet teams on Saturday to discuss the proposals.
They included fitting ‘skirts’ to recovery vehicles, the cranes and tractors used to remove stricken cars, to protect against the type of impact suffered by Bianchi when he crashed into one at Suzuka last Sunday.
The 25-year-old Marussia driver remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after surgery for a severe brain injury.
Whiting showed footage of the crash to reporters at a lengthy briefing conducted with International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt and Formula One medical officers.
The images showed marshals waving double yellow flags, the most extreme measure before a safety car is introduced, after Adrian Sutil had crashed his Sauber a lap before Bianchi lost control at the same place on the wet track.
Waved yellow flags mean a driver must slow and be prepared to stop if necessary.
Whiting said Bianchi had slowed as required, without divulging by how much, and indicated some had shed less speed than others.
He had come to the conclusion, he added, that it was “probably better to take the decision to slow down away from the drivers” in future.
Whiting indicated this could be done through what amounted to a virtual safety car -- using the existing GPS-controlled systems to slow the entire field without actually bringing the safety car onto the track.
In more extreme circumstances the safety car would be deployed as usual.
“I think there are some things to learn,” said Whiting of the Suzuka accident. “We want to engage with all the teams and drivers to make sure we come up with good, sound and well thought through ideas.”
Whiting said they would seek “a way of trying to impose for want of a better expression a speed limit. It probably won’t be a speed limit as such but there will be I believe a way of controlling speed with complete certainty and complete clarity”.
He added that it was “highly unlikely” anything could be introduced this weekend.
“We have to ensure it works the same way on all the cars,” explained Whiting. “We will be exercising extreme caution as always.”
The Briton also clarified the events at Suzuka, from the moment the tractor was deployed to Bianchi being rushed in an ambulance with a police escort to hospital.
Whiting said the decision to bring the tractor on had been taken by race control and they had not considered it necessary to deploy the safety car immediately.
There was no immediate evidence of any mechanical fault being to blame for Bianchi losing control.
Whiting dismissed a post-race assertion by Brazilian Felipe Massa that the Williams driver had been screaming for the race to be stopped before the crash as the rain fell and the light faded.
He said Massa had merely informed the team that track conditions were getting worse.
Todt, a former Ferrari team principal, said lessons had to be learned “and we will because we cannot be faced with such a situation again. Each life is very important”.
Bianchi’s manager is Todt’s son Nicolas and the FIA president said he had himself known him since the driver was 15.
“My son believed, believes, a lot in Jules,” he said. “It has been very tough, it is very tough.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez