Formula One Scraps Double Points, Reviews Safety

December 5, 2014

Formula One is scrapping its rule to award double points to the winner of the final race of the season and has reviewed its safety procedures in the light of French driver Jules Bianchi’s life-threatening crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The decision was ratified Wednesday at a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, when South Korea was provisionally added to a 21-race calendar for the 2015 season. It is scheduled to stage a grand prix on May 3, subject to approval.

F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone introduced double points for the season-ending race to attract big television audiences through to the final grand prix and prolong the suspense in the drivers’ championship.

However, it was widely criticized by drivers.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton could have lost the championship because of the double-points rule if Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg had won at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP last month and if Hamilton had finished third.

Wednesday’s meeting was also given the results of an investigation carried out by a 10-man panel into Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka on Oct. 5.

The accident happened in rainy, gloomy conditions when Bianchi’s car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

The section of the track where the accident occurred was subject to double yellow flags from race stewards, due to Sutil’s crash. But they failed to prevent a second accident.

The panel found that as he went off track into the run-off area, Bianchi “applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet” and thus over-riding the failsafe mechanism. His front wheels had also locked.

It also said that Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control.”

The 25-year-old Bianchi suffered life-threatening head injuries, but has recently been showing signs of recovery. Two weeks ago, he was taken out of an artificial coma and repatriated from Japan to a French hospital. Although still in a critical condition, he was breathing unaided.

The accident led to a new safety measure being approved Wednesday in the form of a ‘virtual safety car’ which can be used to neutralize a race on the orders of a course clerk. The pit lane exit will then be closed and all cars must proceed slowly into the pit lane, and not the starting grid.

Following the accident, ideas of a closed cockpit to protect a driver’s head, and the fitting of wide safety skirts to the crane, were suggested. Both were rejected by the panel.

“It is considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable,” it said. “It is imperative to prevent a car ever hitting the crane.”

Bianchi and Sutil’s racing lines were narrowed due to water draining onto the track and flowing downhill along it. The panel recommended that the F1 calendar be reviewed to avoid, where possible, races taking place during local rainy seasons.

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