As it always seems to be the case, in the hours since Jules Bianchi's accident in Japan, the number of safety and marshaling experts has increased exponentially.
There have been calls for closed cockpits, for immediate deployment of safety car whenever a car leaves the track. There have been indictments of Race Direction, of the use of tractors and an incredible number of people blaming a Japanese marshal for waving, in their opinion, the wrong flags.
The FIA and F1 will no doubt do a full investigation of the accident, that will not stop conspiracy theorists who will claim a whitewash but it might be useful to look at some of the available documentation.
Could Bianchi see the flags?
In the final laps before the accident, Bianchi was fighting for position with Adrian Sutil. The German had been behind for a number pf laps when he lost it and went off in sector 7 after the Dunlop curve. While it's possible that with the spray Bianchi might not have seen Sutil go off, it's not plausible the team would not have informed him during the remainder of the lap. Yellow flags go up immediately for sector 7. It takes Bianchi 1:45 seconds or so to get back to the same spot on the track.
A reader, Elbert Cuenca, was kind enough to send this screen grab of the moment before the accident. Double yellows can be seen at post 12 and yellow lights in sector 7. A green light is seen beyond the accident area. Even in the pouring rain and fading light, a driver cannot miss a warning light, a light which is also on his steering wheel. So, yes, Bianchi was aware of the yellow.
On the subject of flags, it's amazing how many commenting about racing online seem to be completely unaware of how flags work. Flags and lights always pertain to the section beyond where they are displayed. You are not clear of a yellow until you pass a green signal, that you may see it down the track is inconsequential. So all this talk of the marshal waving green at station 12 when Bianchi goes off is ludicrous. The marshall was doing precisely what he was supposed to as the track beyond him was clear.
What about speed?
This is the most troubling aspect. While the F1 app is fairly crude, it does provide a sense of what happened.
On lap 42, when Sutil went off behind him , Bianchi's speed mid-corner is around 202 km/h. On lap 43, just before leaving the track his speed in the same spot was 206 km/h. Based on this evidence it seems fairly clear Bianchi did not significantly slow in sector 7 compared to previous laps. But, while conditions seemed to deteriorate, drivers themselves (except for Massa it seems) did not complain much on the radio and very few came in the pits for full wets.
All drivers went by that spot at about the same speed they did on previous laps.
The conclusion is that it's just one of those things, a series of coincidences that added up to a bad outcome. It's possible it will be revealed that the Marussia had a mechanical issue but I think the sensible thing is for the FIA to have a stern talk with the drivers about speed limits for double yellow situations. Perhaps something akin to the pit speed limiter, something that would be the same for all.
We obviously need canopies don't we?
Well no, a canopy in this case would have done diddly squat to protect the driver. On the other side, imagine these driver being stuffed inside a canopy in Singapore, what's more likely to cause a problem?
The news from Japan about Bianchi's condition is not good. The family's statement mentions a diffuse axonal injury which is a general term with a broad range of outcomes but most not too good. For more insight, please check in with Dr. Hartstein.
Jules is getting the best care possible, all anyone can do is hope for the best for him.