Jules Bianchi accident still fresh in mind as drivers call for explanations and propose solutions

As Formula One drivers prepare to return to the track Friday morning for the first time since Jules Bianchi was left in critical condition in an intensive care unit following a high-speed crash, fresh questions are being asked about driver safety and what can be done to improve it.

Messages for Marussia driver Jules Bianchi of France are placed at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi on October 7, 2014. The French driver underwent emergency surgery on October 5 after slamming into a recovery vehicle on the Suzuka track near the end of a rain-sodden Japanese Grand Prix.   TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP
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SOCHI // As Formula One drivers prepare to return to the track Friday morning for the first time since Jules Bianchi was left in critical condition in an intensive care unit following a high-speed crash, fresh questions are being asked about driver safety and what can be done to improve it.

Bianchi’s severe head injuries stem from a collision with a recovery vehicle at last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

It was an accident that Sergio Perez, the Mexican driver with Force India, called “totally unacceptable”.

He said he would be asking the FIA, motorsports governing body, for “explanations of what happened and what we are going to change”.

One proposal has been to deploy a safety car whenever a recovery vehicle is on track. Perez said such a regulation should be mandatory.

“In the future when there is a tractor coming to pick up the car, we need a safety car, no matter what the conditions,” he said.

“There is always a risk, even if it is dry, because you expose the marshals and a lot of people. You can have people running out of brakes.”

Another suggestion is to introduce closed cockpits to further protect drivers. Protective casing around the head space has been spoken about for many years, but there remain questions regarding its ­implementation.

Fernando Alonso came within inches of certain death in 2012 when, during a crash in Belgium, a car drove over the top of his Ferrari and narrowly missed his ­cockpit.

“We are in 2014. We have the technology ... So why not think about it?” Alonso said of closed cockpits.

“All the biggest accidents in motor sport over the past couple of years have been head injuries, so it’s probably one part where we are not at the top of safety.

“Even in my case, at Spa, I could probably have died there in corner one if it had been 10 centimetres closer to my head. If the technology is there and available, and there is the possibility, I would not exclude it.”

In 2009, Felipe Massa fractured his skull when he was struck on the head by a loose spring at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

He agreed with his former Ferrari teammate, Alonso.

“Definitely, for my accident it would have been perfect,” Massa said. “Maybe for Jules, I don’t know.

“But I think maybe it could have been interesting for so many different types of accident, including the one I had.

“It could be an option, and we will see when we could try something or see something to understand if it’s positive or not.”

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