The Japanese Grand Prix was suspended after the third lap due to persistent rain, poor visibility and a slippery track. Many drivers complain that the race in Suzuka should never have started because of the catastrophic conditions.
After just one lap, the safety car came out before the red flag was waved on the third lap and the race was halted. On this third lap, there was almost a serious crash. Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly got a new front wing in the pits during the safety car period and tried to catch up with the rest of the field.
With poor visibility, he raced across the track when a recovery tractor appeared in his field of vision on the left-hand side. The tractor was to transport Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, which crashed into the barriers after the start. Sainz, who was also going too fast, only saw the tractor at the last moment because of the spray and was lucky that he was in the middle of the route.
“Why the hell is there a tractor on the track?!” he radioed to his team: “I drove right past it. That is unacceptable. Remember what happened. I can’t believe it.” He later cursed that he was able to kill himself in this situation and ran angrily through the paddock.
The tractor on the track infuriated the drivers. “I don’t know if people understand that. Even behind the safety car we drive 150 miles (about 240 km/h, ed.) per hour. As soon as you deviate from the ideal line or you aquaplan, it’s over. I don’t know why we take such risks under such conditions. A tractor on the track, it’s incredible,” Sainz said of the incident.
The incident brings back bad memories of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. At that time, Jules Bianchi († 25) had a fatal accident in Suzuka when he collided with a recovery vehicle. Ever since this horrible incident, the unwritten law in Formula 1 has applied that no vehicle other than the safety and medical car can drive onto the track as long as the Formula 1 cars are on the road.
Philippe Bianchi, the late Jules’ father, took to Instagram and shared a screenshot from Gasly’s cockpit view: “No respect for the driver’s life. No respect for Jules’ memory. Unbelievable.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was also outraged: “That is completely unacceptable. We lost Jules Bianchi eight years ago. That needs to be investigated. There must be a full investigation into why the vehicle was left on the track. It shouldn’t have been there.”