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Japanese Grand Prix: Gasly blasts officials for tractor blunder

Stewards says Pierre is under investigation for speeding under red-flag conditions
Pierre Gasly.
Pierre Gasly.

Our Bureau   |   Suzuka   |   Published 10.10.22, 03:45 AM

Pierre Gasly blasted officials and said he could have died in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix after a recovery tractor was on the track while he was still lapping at speed in heavy rain and spray.

The race at Suzuka was red-flagged after an initial safety car period but AlphaTauri’s Gasly was still trying to catch up in heavy spray and poor visibility after pitting for a new front wing.


The Frenchman recalled compatriot Jules Bianchi, who died of head injuries sustained when his Formula One car hit a tractor in similar circumstances at the circuit in 2014.

“We lost Jules already. We all lost an amazing guy, an amazing driver for the reasons that we know,” Gasly told Sky Sports television.

“Eight years ago on the same track in the same conditions with a crane.

“How today can we see a crane, not even in the gravel but on the racetrack while we are still on the track? I don’t understand that.

“Obviously, I got scared. If I would have lost the car in a similar way as Carlos (Sainz) lost it the lap before, it doesn’t matter the speed, I would have just died. Simple as that.”

Gasly said it was disrespectful to Bianchi, his family and all Formula One drivers and officials should have waited until all cars were back in the pit lane.

“I’m just extremely grateful that I’m here and tonight I’m going to call my family and all my loved ones...I passed two metres from that crane. If I would have been two metres to the left I would have been dead.”

Gasly had earlier hit an advertising hoarding thrown onto the track when Ferrari’s Sainz crashed.

Video replays showed light panels by the side of the track change to red from yellow just before Gasly drove past the tractor.

Stewards said Gasly was under investigation for speeding under red-flag conditions.

“How’s this happened!? We lost a life in this situation years ago. We risk our lives, especially in conditions like this. We wanna race. But this … unacceptable,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris on Twitter.

“I think we need to discuss a tractor on track ... we can keep it short: this must NOT happen, guys,” said Austrian former racer Alex Wurz, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

“Today we were just lucky,” said four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez said drivers had been put at risk.

“What happened today just makes me so angry,” he said. “I just hope everybody in the sport will never get to see this situation ever again.” 

Praise for Max

Charles Leclerc has saluted Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for wrapping up his second F1 world title at the Japanese Grand Prix, which was confirmed after the Ferrari driver picked up a penalty.

Leclerc ran second to Verstappen in the closing stages of the rain-shortened race at Suzuka, looking set to delay the Dutchman’s championship celebrations for another round, until Sergio Perez closed in and pushed him into a mistake.

Having run wide across the final chicane to take the chequered flag ahead of Perez, Leclerc was promptly given a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage and demoted to third — with the points swing confirming Verstappen as champion.

“A huge congratulations to Max for his second world championship. It’s obviously frustrating today, the pace was not there after four laps, but it’s like this,” said Leclerc, who expanded on some tyre-related struggles.

“From Lap 5 onwards, it was all downhill. (I was) really struggling with tyres; a bit like the last race, we are very strong warming up the tyre, but then after three, four laps, we just destroy them, (so) we struggled this time.”

Asked for his thoughts on the penalty handed out by the stewards, he added: “I don’t have much to say. I wasn’t aware it was the last lap. A five-second penalty was the right decision, to be honest.”

Leclerc’s attentions have now switched to maximising the final four races of the season and adding to his victories in Bahrain, Australia and Austria, before regrouping for another assault on the championship in 2023.

Written with inputs from Reuters

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