Tokyo: Horrifying footage has emerged showing the moment Jules Bianchi's speeding Formula One car smashed into a stationary tractor-crane, leaving him fighting for his life in a Japanese hospital with serious head injuries.
The 25-year-old Frenchman was said to be "critical, but stable" after surgery in the wake of the terrifying smash on a rain-soaked Suzuka circuit on Sunday. Criticism grew Tuesday of race organisers, with former world champion Alan Prost weighing in to declaim errors that led to the crash.
Video footage of the accident
The spectator film, posted on YouTube, shows his out-of-control Marussia slamming into the back of the yellow recovery vehicle, sparks flying as the body of the car slides underneath its raised rear end. The impact, which appears to be at around Bianchi's helmet height, shears off the air intake cover that hangs over the back of the driver's head.
Jules Bianchi in the Marussia. Pic/ AFP
Formula One has regularly been rocked by debate over open-top cockpits, which offer drivers little head protection. In slow-motion, the video appears to show Bianchi's helmet rebounding violently off the heavy lifting vehicle, which is bounced into the air by the force of the impact. The vehicle was trying to remove Adrian Sutil's stricken Sauber, which had crashed at the same spot on the circuit a lap earlier.
Prost told Europe 1 radio that the removal truck should never have been there. "The entry of this crane (onto the circuit) without the safety car is totally unacceptable. It's a real mistake that should not be repeated," he said, "A mistake has been made, that's obvious. Who made the mistake, I'm still not entirely sure. Was it the race director or the marshals on those bends? Someone must have made the decision to remove Sutil's car."
- 'Very, very serious' -
Bianchi's parents, Philippe and Christine, were joined at their son's hospital bedside Tuesday by celebrated French surgeon GÃ©rard Saillant, who treated Michael Schumacher after his near-fatal skiing accident last December. Nicolas Todt, the agent for the young driver, along with F1 veteran Felipe Massa, was also there.
Massa, who visited Bianchi at the hospital on Sunday, was himself the victim of a serious injury in 2009 when he was struck by a part of another car that had come loose. Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said Bianchi had suffered a "severe head injury".
FIA press officer Matteo Bonciani told reporters at the hospital on Monday evening: "It should be understood that it is very, very serious." In a statement, Marussia thanked fans for the "huge outpouring of support and affection for Jules and the team". They said information about the driver's condition would only be released with the blessing of his family.
"Together with Jules' care, they will remain our highest priority. Therefore, we would ask for patience and understanding with regard to further medical updates, which will be communicated in conjunction with the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, where Jules is being treated, when they feel it is appropriate. "Representatives of the Marussia F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari will remain at the hospital to support Jules and the Bianchi family."
The race on Sunday was stopped shortly after Bianchi's crash with championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who was leading at the time, declared the winner. Organisers have come in for criticism over the timing of the race, which went ahead despite torrential downpours caused by an approaching typhoon. Drivers repeatedly complained that they could not see properly because of the spray and the fading light.
"I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track," Massa said Sunday. "But they took a bit too long and it was dangerous. So we saw that there were some crashes at the end."