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Formula 1 Japanese GP

Gasly feared for his life in Japanese GP tractor track incident

Pierre Gasly believes he would have been killed if he hit the tractor that was on the track during the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03

Gasly, who was given a 20-second penalty post-race for speeding under a red flag during the tractor on-track incident, says it was an unnecessary risk to have the vehicle recovering Carlos Sainz’s crashed Ferrari while the rest of the Formula 1 field was on track.

Gasly hit advertising board debris from the Sainz crash and had to pit for a new front wing, which put him off the back of the pack behind the safety car. The AlphaTauri driver said he was sticking to his allowed delta lap time while catching up to the pack led by the safety car, and went by the tractor as the red flag was shown.

The incident sparked memories of Jules Bianchi’s ultimately fatal crash in the wet 2014 Japanese GP, when he hit a crane recovering another F1 car, which triggered an overhaul of safety measures in racing.

“We lost Jules eight years ago in similar conditions with a crane on track in the gravel,” Gasly told Autosport/Motorsport.com when asked about the incident. “I don’t understand how eight years later in similar conditions we can still see a crane, not even on the gravel but on the racing line.

“It is just not respectful towards Jules, towards his family, towards his loved ones and all of us.

“It was a dramatic incident and I think on that day we learned we don’t want to see any tractors in this kind of conditions.

“If I would have lost the car in a similar way as Carlos lost it on the lap before… I was doing 200kph but it is not the matter, even 100kph, if I would have lost it and hit a 12-tonne crane, I would’ve been dead right now.

“I am just extremely grateful that I am still standing and I am still going to be able to call my family tonight and still going to be able to call my loved ones and nothing happened.

“But really for the sake of us drivers I hope that this can be the last time that we see a crane and take such an unnecessary risk for all of us race drivers.”

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"It is just not respectful towards Jules, towards his family, towards his loved ones and all of us. Even 100kph, if I would have lost it and hit a 12-tonne crane, I would’ve been dead right now.

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Gasly explained that due to the track layout where Sainz had crashed and the conditions it meant he couldn’t see the tractor until very late.

“It is a kink so you don’t really see it and there is a safety car, we have a delta lap time to respect and I was nine seconds slower than the delta lap time,” he said.

“I am catching the queue and then I saw it at the last minute and when I see it I am doing 200kph. I tried to slow down in a erratic manner because if I slammed on the brakes I would’ve lost the car and I would’ve ended up in the crane. I came past two metres on the right, two metres away from passing away today which I don’t think is acceptable as a race driver.”

Gasly wouldn’t go into detail about what he said to FIA F1 race director Eduardo Freitas during the red-flag stoppage but is certain the incident will be discussed to make changes in the future.

“We were all in the pitlane a minute later. Risking my life for a minute, I don’t think that is acceptable,” he said. “We have a delta lap time, there is a certain process that we’ve got to follow under the safety car, I was respecting it and there was a crane on the racing line.

“Today was two metres away from my front-left tyre, I obviously got extremely scared and what crossed my mind was… we all suffered from Jules’ accident and if we could go back and change the situation on that day, he would still be here.

“I just don’t think we should have risked my life, but it is something we’ve got to discuss. The most important thing is for the future, what I want is just to have all my colleagues safe and all of us, whether it is in F1 or in the younger categories, hopefully nobody is going to have to face a similar situation. Hopefully we can finally learn from this situation.”

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