Bianchi family launches legal action

The family of Jules Bianchi has launched a legal action in connection with the Frenchman’s accident at the 2014 Japanese GP.

Bianchi died nine months after his collision with a crane that was sent out to retrieve the car of Adrian Sutil.

The action, which is being handled by a British law firm, names the FIA, the F1 Group, and the Marussia team, which is now known as Manor Racing.

A statement from the law firm said: “Stewarts Law, the UK’s largest litigation-only law firm, have this week sent formal pre-action letters of claim to:

– The World Governing Body of Formula One, the FIA;

– Team Marussia, who Jules was driving for at the time; and

– The Formula One Group of companies, who control the TV and media rights for the sport.

“The letters explain why the Bianchi family feel the actions of one or more of those parties, amongst others, may have contributed to Jules’ fatal accident and invite them to accept that errors were made in the planning, timing, organisation and conduct of the race which took place in dangerous conditions during the typhoon season in Japan.

It added: “Prominent individuals in the world of Formula One, including current and former drivers and world champions, have criticised the conduct of the race.”

The Bianchi family’s lawyer says the aim of the action is to find out who is accountable.

“Jules Bianchi’s death was avoidable,” said Stewarts Law partner Julian Chamberlayne. “The FIA Panel Inquiry Report into this accident made numerous recommendations to improve safety in Formula One but failed to identify where errors had been made which led to Jules’ death.

“It was surprising and distressing to the Bianchi family that the FIA panel in its conclusions, whilst noting a number of contributing factors, blamed Jules. The Bianchi family are determined that this legal process should require those involved to provide answers and to take responsibility for any failings.

“This is important if current and future drivers are to have confidence that safety in the sport will be put first. If this had been the case in Suzuka, Jules Bianchi would most likely still be alive and competing in the sport he loved today.”

“We seek justice for Jules, and want to establish the truth about the decisions that led to our son’s crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014. As a family, we have so many unanswered questions and feel that Jules’ accident and death could have been avoided if a series of mistakes had not been made.”

The statement also confirmed that the Bianchi family is setting up a charitable organisation in Jules’ memory “which will support young, aspiring motorsport drivers to realise their potential. They will this weekend be attending the Monaco Grand Prix, a race which had a special place in Jules’ life, to promote the work of the charitable organisation and its future plans. The family has previously spoken of being unable to watch Formula One because of the pain caused by their son’s death,

but have decided to travel to Monaco this weekend to champion their work to support young drivers and improve safety in the sport.”

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Daniel Ricciardo: “There was no other agenda behind it”

Daniel Ricciardo says he has come to terms with the disappointment of losing a potential win in the Spanish GP after a strategic call by Red Bull didn’t work out.

Ricciardo finished fourth after making three stops, while Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen were first and second after making two stops. At the time the team thought Ricciardo had the better deal and could win the race, but it took some explaining before the Aussie understood.

Sure I was disappointed, and it obviously sucked the outcome, to have a win and then not even a podium from a potential victory,” he said today. “I spoke a lot with the team and had a lot of explanations, the reasons why we pitted and at the time it seemed the three-stop was the best thing to do, and at the time they thought Seb was our biggest challenger for the victory, so with me they tried to cover him, and they thought basically the three-stop was going to be the best.

So it was just, they put the race against Seb and tried to stay in front – what hurt on top of that was Seb going really short in that second last stint, so it meant not only did he undercut me but his tyres were not that fresh towards the end of the race so he couldn’t make much of a difference to Max and Kimi. So it was a combination of them thinking the three-stop would have worked, but they probably didn’t believe the two-stop would have worked as well as it did. It didn’t fall in my favour which obviously sucked, but there was no other agenda behind it.”

Ricciardo said he was no fazed by the attention that Verstappen has been getting.

What fans are saying or what media are saying, I don’t let it control me. I think in any case, whether strategy or not worked for Max, he still did a really good race. And even if we all had a three-stop, he would still have had a podium wherever it was. He would still have got a podium in his first race with the team, so I think whichever way the race went, Max was always getting a good result.

He had already done a good weekend and shown he had adapted really quickly so I wouldn’t take anything away from Max – what he has done has been great. And to then win and to make the tyres last was really good. Obviously now, people will say what they want to say – that he is already better or this and that – but he did well. He did very well. That is that. There are still many races to go and many more opportunities for us to get on the podium and wins. I still obviously believe a lot in my ability.”

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Barcelona clash now history, Mercedes insists

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg insist that they have put their controversial Barcelona clash behind them.

Both Mercedes drivers and their boss Toto Wolff say that the matter is closed, and their focus is now on Monaco.

Barcelona was the worst feeling but, like I always say, the true test is how you get back up when you’ve been knocked down,” said Hamilton. “It was a tough moment for all of us after the race, but it’s now chapter closed and looking ahead to Monaco.”

I was gutted after what happened in Spain,” said Rosberg. “For myself, but mostly for the team. We’re in this together and I know how hard everybody works to make these amazing cars, so for us to leave them both in the gravel is the worst possible scenario. But we’ve talked it through and now it’s time to leave it in the past.”

Clearly, Barcelona was tough to take,” said Wolff. “We came away upset at an opportunity missed, but this is racing. The drivers know how we operate. The team is responsible for giving them the best possible cars and they are responsible for getting the best out of them, and for bringing them home. When we let them down, we apologise to the, and the same goes the other way. It’s a pretty normal culture – we deal with setbacks together and we move on.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “My mechanics are incredible…”

Lewis Hamilton has moved to reassure his fans that he still has faith in the Mercedes team and his mechanics, despite a troubled start to the 2016 season.

Hamilton used Facebook to put his thoughts across, saying that he trusted his guys “1000%.

His full message is as follows: “I want you to know how grateful I am for all of your support. I’d like to ask that you please trust in my team, as I do. This is my family. These guys have been the greatest, hardest working people for me, and that is why I am now 3x World Champion. Please don’t put any more thought into my team doing anything unjust towards me, and understand that it would be in no one’s best interest for that to be the case.

We’ve had the best 3 years together, and whilst it’s not going to plan right now, all will unfold in its own time. I trust these guys 1000% and my mechanics are incredible, the best in the business. I respect them so please do the same. They are the guys that are going to make winning this championship possible. Thank you once again.”


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Nico Rosberg: “My day was good because our car is fast…”

Nico Rosberg was pleased with his day’s work in Sochi on Friday, despite not getting a clean lap in on new supersoft tires in the afternoon session.

Rosberg topped FP1 but had to settle for third in FP2, some 0.8s off team mate Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless the German is optimistic for the remainder of the weekend.

“My day was good because our car is fast,” said Rosberg. “I’m pleased to see that again, because it is a very, very different track, a very unique track. The asphalt is strange here, different to everywhere else – smooth might be the right word. So it’s not easy to get it right, car-wise and driving-wise. It’s been an interesting day, but good. We got off to a good start, so I’m pleased with that.

“Race pace was looking good as well, both on one lap and race pace, but of course we didn’t see what Vettel could have done, so we have to be cautious. But in general I think it’s been positive.”

Asked if the race would be a one-stop as in past years he said: “It’s still looking similar, there’s not much tyre wear, so a one-stop again could be a possibility.”

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Vettel to take gearbox grid penalty in Sochi

Sebastian Vettel’s chances of taking on Mercedes in Sochi have been dealt a blow after he has been forced to take a new gearbox and thus a five-place grid penalty.

Ferrari thought that there might be problems after the collision with Kimi Raikkonen in China, and ran the gearbox today to check it out. The data confirmed that a change was necessary for Saturday.

Meanwhile Vettel was forced to pull off and park on the pit straight in FP2 today after he was hit by an electrical issue that prevented him from running for the balance of the session while the crew worked on the car.

“It looks like we had an electronic problem,” said Vettel after the session. “It’s a bit of a shame because we’re lacking a couple of laps, especially in the long runs and race trim, to see how competitive we are. I think that Kimi did homework for the team, so not too bad. Also I think here we know roughly what to expect. I think we can still learn a lot from what other people did.”

Regarding the Italian team’s prospects for the weekend he said: “Difficult to say. The balance isn’t yet where I wanted it to be, but I think we can improve. Naturally I think the circuit should come our way. It was quite slippery this morning, I spun the first two laps. I didn’t spin this afternoon, that’s already a massive improvement!

“I felt happier as the day continued. Obviously we did some stuff for qualifying. For the race we’re lacking a bit information, but it shouldn’t be too bad. So let’s see tomorrow morning, we still have another practice session.”

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F1 engine deal approved by World Council

The FIA has formally confirmed that the much vaunted “global agreement” on power units has been fully agreed and passed by the World Motor Sport Council.

The agreement, which focuses on reducing costs, guaranteeing supply, convergence of performance and improved engine sound, covers the 2017 to 2020 seasons, and will be implemented in the sporting and technical regulations. As part of the deal the FIA has guaranteed power unit rules stability until 2020.

Reducing costs has been the major thrust of the deal. The FIA says: “Agreement has been reached on a significant reduction in the price of power unit supply to customer teams and a reduction in cost to manufacturers over the coming years.

In 2017 the power unit price for customer teams will be reduced by €1m per season compared to 2016. From 2018, the annual supply price will be reduced by a further €3m.

Cost reduction on power units will be driven by changes to the Sporting and Technical regulations in 2017 and 2018, with a progressive reduction of the number of power unit elements per driver per season.”

Regarding the guarantee of supply, the FIA said: “Supply of power units to customer teams will be ensured, as the homologation procedure will include an “obligation to supply” that will be activated in the event of a team facing an absence of supply.”

The most contentious issue has been performance convergence, but the FIA is confident that a way forward has been found.

The new agreement includes a package of measures aimed at achieving performance convergence. The token system is to be removed from 2017. Additionally, constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.”

Finally attempts are being made to further improve the sound of the engines: “Manufacturers are currently conducting a promising research programme into further improving the sound of the current power units, with the aim of implementation by 2018 at the latest.”


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