The use of a recovery vehicle on the opening lap of the Japanese Grand Prix has been the subject of massive controversy in which Formula 1 drivers have come together to condemn.
Carlos Sainz aquaplaned off the track at turn 12 and was forced to retire after colliding with the barrier which brought the tractor onto the circuit.
18 F1 cars were still lapping the track at the time, with Pierre Gasly exceeding speeds of 150km/h past the vehicle in heavy rain and poor visibility as he tried to catch the back of the pack. For a lot of the drivers, the similarities of the incident brought back memories of the tragic events of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo was one of the drivers who took part in that race and spoke of the incident following the chequered flag: “Obviously, we don’t have to go back to 2014, but we all know, after that, it was just non-negotiable.
“You can’t have it on track when we’re on track, no matter how slow we’re going, we can’t have that.”
George Russell, who is currently a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, also has stated that the FIA need have some explaining to do: “We are all going to speak to the FIA.
“In our view, it’s pretty straightforward: no tractors on track. And if you need a tractor on track, red flag it.”
The Mercedes driver also told of a conversation with the FIA about recovery vehicles in use on track just a week before at the Singapore Grand Prix: “I think we spoke a little bit in the briefing this week because there was a tractor in Singapore with Tsunoda under a Safety Car and it was at a point transitioning to slicks.”
We expressed our view that we don’t ever want to see that happening, that was last week, to come here one week later given the circumstances and history of course is pretty disappointing.”
Fellow GDPA director Sebastian Vettel also spoke on the incident as another driver who took part in the tragic 2014 grand prix: “I think we must just understand that today was one of these odd days where things could have gone wrong and somebody might pay the price.
“A marshal, a driver in the car, even the slightest injury is unnecessary but we had a dramatic scene eight years ago so it was way too close to have a repetition today.”
“I was also scared as I was coming around with enough speed so that things can go wrong,” the four-time champion continued. “The moment you switch to Safety Car you need to look after the tyres and warm them up, you can’t see, on the onboard you see more than what we see.
“It’s not acceptable, we spoke about this in a briefing, the service vehicles should never be out on the road when we are.”
Fernando Alonso even explained that the visibility was so poor in the heavy rain conditions that he didn’t even see the recovery vehicle or Sainz’s stricken Ferrari: “There was no visibility. Behind the Safety Car, I did not see the tractor or Carlos. This is the low point of the race.
“We are here to help the FIA but after 2014 we agreed that will never happen again and it happened today so we need to work together to make sure this is the last, last, last.”