Martin Brundle has described the moment Pierre Gasly nearly collided with a recovery tractor on track at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as ‘unquestionably unacceptable’ claiming lessons still haven’t been learned from Jules Bianchi’s death in 2014.
In torrential rain with very limited visibility, the red flag was waved after Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon crashed out, leaving drivers to return to the pit-lane. But as Gasly, who was at the back of the grid, did so he came perilously close to a serious accident as he narrowly missed a tractor that had emerged out on track to collect the stricken Ferrari of Sainz.
The AlphaTauri driver was driving at a speed of 155mph when he narrowly avoided the recovery truck, leaving Gasly both terrified and enraged, particularly given the similarities to the 2014 crash in Japan that would go on to cost Bianchi his life.
Gasly believes he was ‘two metres away from passing away’ having been left ‘extremely scared’ and fearing for his life following the incident. He was later penalised by the FIA for driving too fast in the conditions – a penalty that was accepted by the AlphaTauri driver. But Brundle insists Gasly should have never been put in that position, while the race should’ve been instantly red flagged.
‘You can’t see where you’re going in the cars, you’re still going quite quickly at Safety Car speeds and I’m going to assume that Alex Albon’s stricken Williams was somewhere in the vicinity as well.
‘It’s unquestionably unacceptable,’ Brundle told Sky’s Any Driven Monday. ‘That should have been an instant red flag in my opinion because of the conditions, because everybody was out on intermediates.
‘I’ve seen other footage, the truck was straight out there, marshals on track, lessons hadn’t been learned. ‘We know there was debris around, some of it was on the front of Gasly’s car. That had to be a red flag. We had a car in a really critical position, high speeds in those conditions, there was no alternative.
‘It’s not even a question of collecting cars up to buy you time, because the place where the car was absolutely meant people and vehicles had to go on track. It was an instant red flag.’ ‘I was horrified because I had an incident there in Suzuka in 1994 when I’d been crying on the radio for the race to be red flagged because the conditions were horrific,’ Brundle added.
Brundle also experienced his own trauma at the same circuit as a Formula One driver in 1994, which saw him hit a marshal after coming close to colliding with a digger.
‘I aquaplaned off in a place where I couldn’t see, even my dashboard, I went off and just missed one of the caterpillar diggers but unfortunately hit a marshal and ran back to help him. The bone of his leg was sticking out of his overalls and it was a horrible mess.
‘After that experience, I remember saying in ’98 [on commentary], “we can’t have vehicles on track when race cars are on track”. You can aquaplane off, you can have a car issue, whatever. ‘It should never happen. Of course we did have the awful incident again in 2014 when we effectively lost Jules Bianchi.