Last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix was very nearly a dark day for Formula 1, rather than one of celebration after Max Verstappen claimed his second World Championship.
Drivers and fans alike couldn’t believe their eyes on the second lap of the considerably wet race, when the drivers were making their way through Turn 12 behind the Safety Car.
A Safety Car was needed following a heavy crash for Carlos Sainz on the outside of the corner, which saw his car and some advertising boarding fall onto the circuit.
Pierre Gasly was unfortunate enough to hit the board, which resulted in a pit-stop for a new front-wing at the end of the first lap.
The Frenchman found himself some way off the pack, so drove around significantly faster than those ahead in order to catch-up.
Whilst Gasly was coming towards the end of the first sector on the second lap, the rest of the pack were furious to see that a tractor had been allowed onto the circuit.
Despite Verstappen quickly swerving onto the grass whilst behind the Safety Car, everybody managed to make their way past safely; however, due to Gasly driving much faster than those ahead, he wasn’t quite as lucky.
Gasly came within metres of hitting the recovery vehicle, whilst driving at 250km/h, which saw a marshal on the track have to suddenly jump backwards to avoid being hit by the AlphaTauri driver.
The race was red-flagged whilst Gasly was making his way past, which he continued to do at a concerning speed.
He made his feelings known over the team radio, in the garage, and to the media, where he insisted that the FIA hadn’t learnt anything from Jules Bianchi’s tragic crash.
Bianchi crashed underneath a recovery vehicle at the 2014 Japanese GP and died from his injuries in 2015.
Gasly’s near miss led to virtually the entire field venting their anger with the FIA, who all deemed the decision to allow a tractor onto the track as “unacceptable”.
Interestingly, Gasly was actually awarded a 20-second time penalty for speeding under red flag conditions and was awarded two penalty points; however, the governing body also announced that they’d be carrying out an investigation to discover what went wrong.
Ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher “understands” why the drivers were incredibly angry; however, he also hit out at the Frenchman for driving too fast under double-waved yellow and then red flag conditions.
“The topic surrounding Pierre Gasly was highly emotional,” Schumacher wrote in his Sky Germany column.
“I can understand the drivers’ criticism. They have indicated that they don’t want to see any of these tractors while there are still cars on the route.
“Nevertheless, that doesn’t justify Gasly driving behind the field at 250km/h at this point. This is anything but clever. I think both sides need to question each other. Also, as long as there is no imminent danger, it shouldn’t be a problem to wait until the cars are all in the pits before sending out the tractor.
“It needs to be investigated why things ultimately went differently than what was discussed with the drivers.
“I think the penalty for Gasly is correct and understandable, because the interruption of the race was clearly recognisable. There is also the rule that you should drive at walking pace and be able to stop at any time – and for good reason, because there can be people on the track after all.”