I had planned to do a post about the crazy driver switcheroos that have been happening over a very short period of time. But I now sit here finding it extremely hard to find any words. Poor Jules Bianchi ran out of luck on Sunday. I instantly knew something was very wrong when I saw the images of smoke rising up from behind the tow vehicle. Marshalls gesturing frantically and no replays shown. I feared the worst and unfortunately I was right. Thankfully, he is still alive but on the other hand, brain damage is nasty nasty business. Once you have done what you can when it comes to surgery and so on, there is usually only time and a vague prognosis left. It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly how long it will take to heal.
The official statement today is that Jules has suffered diffuse axonal injury. Pretty much the worst there is. Because the damage is, like the name says, very diffuse. I remember it from when Richard Hammond crashed and suffered the same type of injury and diagnosis. And that is one of the lights in the tunnel. Because Hammond got out of it on the other side, didn’t he. And as close to the same person he was as far as we can tell. Although his family are probably much more aware of the slight changes he is bound to have picked up from this.
But the hard statistics are that only 10% of people with this type of brain damage ever wake up again. But let us count our blessings even in dark times. He is still alive. He is in the best physical condition a person can be, which always helps. And he has the best treatment available. So hope lives and I will keep praying for him. If you want to read more about the condition, Gary Hartstein explains it well here:
If you have not seen the video of the crash yet, you can find it here:
There is no gore, but the force of the impact is sickening.
RIP ANDREA DE CESARIS
If that wasn’t enough, an old Formula 1 hero died this weekend. Andrea de Cesaris suffered a fatal crash on his motorbike, killing him instantly. RIP old warrior. I remember a couple of his races vaguely when I watched F1 sporadically in the early 90’s. He earned the nickname “de Crasheris” after his first couple of years in F1. He had some seriously spectacular crashes. And he seemed absolutely unfazed and fearless in spite of them. The nickname is a bit unfair as he was actually quite a capable and talented driver.
I remember reading one team boss saying that he was amazed that de Cesaris made it out of F1 alive. I forgot who it was. But my first thought when I heard of his accident was that it finally caught up with him. A stupid thought probably, but you just can’t remove the need for speed from a racer. No matter how retired he is. I recommend this rundown of his 15-year long career in F1: http://counter-x.net/f1/de_cesaris/index.html
THE VETTEL-FERRARI MOVE AND THE REPERCUSSIONS
The news of Vettel leaving Red Bull and with pretty much 100% certainty teaming up with best mate Kimi Raikkonen next year was sadly overshadowed by Bianchis accident. But it is still quite a bombshell. Not many people in the world saw that coming. It is a brave and bold move from the German. Going from the safety of the brilliant Red Bull team to a Ferrari team who – let’s be honest – has been quite messy for several years. He goes to a team where there is still waves from Luca being forced to step down. A team that has a power unit far inferior to the Mercedes engine. A team who has been nowhere near in producing the downforce that Red Bull are able to in their cars.
Vettel clearly hopes to do what Schumacher did, pull Ferrari back into a championship winning streak. However, Ferrari has no Newey by the design helm. What they do have is a new team principal in Marco Mattiacci with no previous experience from racing to speak of. But the man is ambitious and pulls no punches. He is the first proper team principal successor to Jean Todt as I see it. He still has a lot to prove though. But if he starts with restructuring the team, getting rid of Alonso and aquiring Vettel together with Kimi Raikkonen, he is off to a pretty good start.
Even Kimi have loosened up on his adamant comments that he will quit F1 after 2015. So there is a definite no-nonsense plan to get Ferrari back to the top in a couple of years. Before that, they pinned a lot of that plan on Alonso. But that approach have failed time and again. So time for a new and better one. Not to mention that the team-mate dynamic is bound to be unproblematic with this line-up. Exiting times.
What is equally as interesting is seeing how Fernando Alonso has once again burned his bridges. To the point where he may in fact not even have a drive next year. He said he has all the options. Well, I don’t think so. Red Bull have clearly said that they did not even consider him: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/116152
Toto Wolff have stated in not so many words, that they do not want to risk a “mess” by hiring Alonso as it is now. In other words, team bosses know that Alonso is an outstanding top class driver. But they also know that he comes with a price. And some luggage. Clearly, for some, it is simply not worth the hassle. If you haven’t already, you should read this brilliant article by Mark Hughes on the topic of Alonsos exit from Ferrari:
So where will he go? McLaren is the obvious answer. But last I heard was that Ron Dennis said that they have not hired him. Honda seems to want him. But does McLaren? He was a ticking bomb the last time he was there. It doesn’t matter if Lewis was favored or not. Nandos blackmailing and Ferrari-IP using antics is simply not cricket. And they have not been forgotten in Woking either, I’m sure. But at the same time, it would probably not be wise for McLaren to pass on an opportunity like Alonso. So it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Will be interesting to see where the self-proclaimed samurai warrior ends up. The samurai should make a mental note: “A samurai must never bite the hand that feeds him. No matter how skilled he is.”
If this had been 20 years ago or longer, Jules would be dead. But this is the situation today: Safety has come so far that it saves lives and thank God for that. But in some cases (specifically head injuries), it sends drivers into a coma or vegetative state instead of killing them instantly. Some might argue that there is not much difference between the two. However, as long as there is breath there is hope. And anyone would cling to that when it comes to loved ones. I don’t know what my point is or if I have one at all. Maybe that safety equipment needs another quantum leap like it took after May 1st, 1994.
When we see the awful footage of Bianchi slamming into that tractor, lifting it clear off the ground, it is hard to imagine how anything could possibly prevent a human from getting hurt in such a shunt. But that is what progress is for. In 1920, a car crash at 40 kph could kill you instantly. Today, we get out of our cars without a scratch and start yelling at the other guy instead. Unthinkable back in the day. I am certain that some bright minds can take us even further in this area.
Get well soon, Jules. We are rooting and praying for you!
Here is a photo we took of you while you were nice enough to say hi, give a smile and sign an autograph for my wife at Spa in 2012.