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You're never safe in a racing car: Narain Karthikeyan

Jules Bianchi's death after his horrific crash nine months ago is a grim reminder of the risky nature of the sport, says India's first Formula 1 driver

New Delhi: The premature death of Jules Bianchi is a harsh reminder that Formula 1 is never safe despite the drastic improvements made in safety standards over the last two decades, feels former Grand Prix driver Narain Karthikeyan.

Also read: F1 driver Jules Bianchi dies after 9 months in coma, motorsport world mourns

Narain Karthikeyan
Narain Karthikeyan 

Bianchi, 25, is the first Formula 1 driver to have been killed since the legendary Ayrton Senna was killed at the Imola circuit in 1994.

"I got this terrible news a little while ago and it shows again that it can never be bullet-proof in a racing car, even though safety standards have improved by leaps and bounds in the last two decades. Unfortunately, it didn't look good from day one in Jules' case," Karthikeyan, who is India's first F1 driver, said on Saturday from Fuji, Japan, where he is competing in the Super Formula Championship.

The Frenchman suffered fatal head injuries during the Japanese GP at Suzuka nine months ago, as he slid off the track and crashed into a crane picking up Adrian Sutil's car. Karthikeyan had made a F1 return in 2011 when Bianchi was pushing for a breakthrough.

Marussia's Jules Bianchi in action just minutes before his crash at the Japanese GP at the Suzuka Circuit on October 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
Marussia's Jules Bianchi in action just minutes before his crash at the Japanese GP at the Suzuka Circuit on October 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images 

"He was a talented guy. He showed speed and promise in F3, GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5. He had the right people behind him. He could have achieved a lot. In F1, we did not speak much. Whatever little we interacted was in the paddock or in the drivers' parade," he recalled.

Karthikeyan got the sad news minutes before qualifying at Fuji. Does a tragedy like this affect a racer's mind? "Not really. We all have to be mentally very strong. As I said, you cannot be safe when you are doing speeds in excess of 300 kmph. You have just got to respect the reality of the sport," he added.

Karun Chandhok, the other Indian to have reached F1, also tracked Bianchi's career. He too, like Karthikeyan, feels the sport has became a lot safer since the 'black weekend' at Imola and called Bianchi's accident as a 'freak one'.

"His accident was a really unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the end of the day, a few feet either side would have saved his life but sometimes the sport throws a cruel blow," he said. Was Bianchi just a victim of sheer bad luck and is F1 otherwise a lot safer than other forms of motorsport? "Yes absolutely," said Chandhok.

How did the crash happen?
> Jules Bianchi's accident occurred on Lap 43 of the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. With the Suzuka circuit wet due to heavy rains, the 25-year-old Marussia driver's car slid off the track and rammed into a recovery crane which was picking up Adrian Sutil's car after the Sauber driver had crashed at the same spot a lap earlier.

Marussia's Jules Bianchi receives medical treatment after crashing during the Japanese GP at the Suzuka Circuit on October 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
Marussia's Jules Bianchi receives medical treatment after crashing during the Japanese GP at the Suzuka Circuit on October 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images 

> An FIA panel investigating the crash said that Bianchi veered off track into the run-off area, he "applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet" and thus over-riding the failsafe mechanism. The panel's report also claimed that Bianchi's front wheels had locked and that the 25-year-old "did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control."

 

F1 reacts...
Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 ace

My thoughts are with his parents, his family and his friends. A sad, sad day today, guys. Please pray for Jules’ loved ones. RIP Jules.

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One supremo
It was so sad to hear the news about Jules. We are now going to miss a very talented driver and a really nice person. We must not let this ever happen again

Alain Prost, Four-time world champion
We will always remember Jules. Fond thoughts for his family and friends

Bruno Senna, Formula One driver
My strong thoughts go to Jules Bianchi’s family. Hope the lessons we learned will stop more tragedies like these from happening. RIP

Jenson Button, Formula One driver
Last night we lost a truly great guy and a real fighter #RIPJules my sincerest Condolences to his family

Max Chilton, Former Marussia driver
No words can describe what his family & the sport have lost. All I can say is it was a pleasure knowing & racing you

John Booth, Manor Marussia principal
Jules was a shining talent. He was destined for great things in our sport; success he so richly deserved. He was also a magnificent human being, making a lasting impression on countless people all over the world.

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