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Analysis: Why Marussia is angry about Bianchi accident claims

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Analysis: Why Marussia is angry about Bianchi accident claims
Oct 15, 2014, 3:11 PM

Marussia F1 team has reacted angrily to reports in a couple of media outlets that Jules Bianchi was being ordered by the team to push hard prior to...

Marussia F1 team has reacted angrily to reports in a couple of media outlets that Jules Bianchi was being ordered by the team to push hard prior to his accident in the Japanese Grand Prix and that he did not slow down in the double waved yellow flag zone where Adrian Sutil's car was being recovered by a heavy tractor.

Bianchi remains in a critical but stable condition in Japan, with a severe head injury.

"The Marussia F1 Team is shocked and angered by these allegations", said the statement. "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. In the FIA press conference which took place in Sochi on Friday 10 October, Charlie Whiting, the FIA’s Race Director, confirmed that the team had provided such data, that he himself had examined this data and that Jules did slow."

As for the allegation that "the team urged Jules to go faster during the double waved yellow flag period in order to keep Marcus Ericsson behind", Marussia said that an audio copy of the full radio transmission between Jules and the team and a written transcript have been lodged with the FIA (which monitors all team radio in any case).

"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."

The team is clearly angry at allegations in a number of media outlets suggesting that they and Bianchi were at fault.

Bianchi Ericsson

What was the situation on track between Bianchi and Ericsson?

The facts of the situation on the race track leading up to the accident on Lap 42 are that Bianchi was running on intermediate tyres that had done almost 20 laps, while Erisson was on a set of used Wet tyres, which he had fitted on Lap 39, his fourth stop of the afternoon.

Bianchi had been around 8 seconds ahead of the Caterham driver up to the period around the third pitstops. Bianchi pitted on Lap 24 for new intermediates and Ericsson a lap later. Ericsson got ahead of Bianchi on Lap 29, when the Frenchman lost four seconds. Ericsson was around a second a lap faster on those intermediates than Bianchi and opened up a gap of around 12 seconds before opting to pit for wets on Lap 39. This put Bianchi in front with a gap of around 7 seconds to Ericsson and 13 laps to the finish, but on worn intermediates compared to Ericsson's recently fitted wets. It was possible that he would need to make a stop for wets himself before the end, if the rain demanded it.

Close examination of the sector times of both cars in the run up to the accident shows that on his out-lap (Lap 40), Ericsson's middle and final sector times were faster than on the next two laps. He did a 1m 55.839 on Lap 41 and 1m 57.661 on Lap 42. So his sector times were falling away in pace and his performance was dropping off on the wet tyres.

In contrast Bianchi was remarkably consistent: Lap 38: 1m 57.321; Lap 39: 1m 57.283; Lap 40: 1m 57.174; Lap 41 1m 57.090. But he had been slower on Lap 41 than Ericsson on the wet tyres. He had no need to slow down during these laps as the yellow flags didn't go out until after he had passed through the Turn 7 Sutil crash zone on Lap 41.

In other words he was running comfortably at the same pace, despite conditions which had sent Ericsson, Kobayashi, Magnussen, Maldonado and Grosjean into the pits for wet tyres between laps 39 and 41. His middle sector on his final lap was the fastest of that four lap sequence.

Marussia say they were not telling him to push, but he would have been aware of the threat from behind anyway. Depending on how the conditions evolved, he may have needed to make another stop for wet tyres, so keeping or building the gap was important.

As for the question of Bianchi slowing down in acknowledgement of the double yellow flags, FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting told the media in Sochi that Bianchi had lifted, without revealing how much.

One driver has told this site that the unwritten rule is to lift off enough to show the stewards a sector time drop of 2/10ths of a second for a single yellow flag and 0.5s for a double waved yellow.

Clearly this was not enough and hence why the FIA will introduce a new system for yellow flag zones next season, with trials during practice at the next race in Austin. The system will take away from the drivers the decision on whether and how much to slow down and will be imposed on them, but this requires updates to the standard F1 Electronic Control Unit, which means a 215 implementation.

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