‘Impossible’: Mercedes raise FIA criticism but issue warning to rivals

A recovery vehicle was inexplicably sent out onto the track at the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend.

Mercedes trackside engineer, Andrew Shovlin, has conceded that mistakes were made during the running of the wet Japanese Grand Prix last weekend.

The Briton, however, also stated that Formula 1 is “actually very good” at addressing its problems and applying the necessary changes.

In 2014, a recovery vehicle was sent out onto the circuit after Adrian Sutil crashed in Suzuka, but there were only isolated yellows in that part of the racetrack.

Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia, and suffered a fatal accident when his car hit the crane.

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The FIA introduced the Virtual Safety Car in the wake of that crash, bringing everyone, on every part of the circuit, down to a controlled speed while an incident is cleared.

Last weekend, the governing body displayed a total lack of awareness or insight from that fateful day when they sent another recovery vehicle out while there were cars passing Carlos Sainz’s stricken Ferrari.

At the same event, in the same wet conditions as the ones raced in eight years prior, Pierre Gasly was almost wiped out by the crane, but thankfully no horrific accident emerged as a result of the FIA’s negligence this time.

Where the crane was in the gravel in 2014, race control sent it out onto the asphalt this time while there were still drivers out on track, causing uproar among the F1 community.

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Even the most opposed of fans came together to demand better from those who are tasked with keeping the drivers safe, and Shovlin was sceptical of the decision by race control, given the conditions.

“There are always going to be situations where you need to get support vehicles to cars, there might be a driver stuck in there to assist them while there are cars on track,” he said.

“It’s impossible to say that this is something that we can’t ever do but clearly on this occasion it did look quite dangerous but principally because of the very low grip and the poor visibility.”

The experienced engineer, who worked closely with Jenson Button in his championship-winning season at Mercedes under their previous Brawn guise, also suggested that the standing start, on Intermediates, might not have been the best idea.

“There are a number of elements to it though,” explained Shovlin.

“The first one is actually should the race have even been started when it was? 

“When the cars left the grid, you could see there was quite a lot of spray, the drivers were saying the conditions were difficult and perhaps at that point we should have just aborted the start and waited, rather than send the cars off. 

“But that will be one of the questions that will be asked. 

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“It was also unusual under those very low grip conditions that even if you were driving at the safety car delta speed it was still very difficult to stay on track, the visibility was extremely poor, and we would have probably needed to be going even slower to make sure it’s safe.

“And then there is the question about the timing of sending recovery vehicles out while there were still cars going around the circuit. All of those elements will be reviewed.”

Max Verstappen would eventually win the time-limited race, claiming his second consecutive championship as a result.