Felipe Massa has paid tribute to the work done since Jules Bianchi’s accident one year ago for keeping him and the next generation of drivers safe.
Last year’s Japanese Grand Prix was the scene of Bianchi’s high-speed crash with a trackside recovery vehicle that had been deployed to collect another car stopped by the side of the track in a perfect storm of minor regulatory omissions.
Though the FIA found that the procedures leading to the crash had been followed to the letter, the procedures themselves were deficient to handle the extreme weather conditions, multiple cars losing control at once under double waved yellow flags, and the use of a heavy vehicle on an active track.
Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix Massa said the rules sparked by the freak accident have made the sport safer.
“I would say yes, now it is more safe,” said the Brazilian, “Especially after what happened that moment.
“Unfortunately it is too late — I hope it is not too late for other accidents — but it is too late for what happened to him. It is much better now compared to how it was.”
Chief amongst changes implemented by the FIA after the accident was the virtual safety car, which neutralises the race by having all cars lap at a certain speed while allowing drivers to maintain gaps to the cars behind them, unlike at the beginning of a regular safety car deployment.
Guidelines to ensure that races start sufficiently early to avoid finishing before sunset have also been enacted, all addressing problems that arose to tragic consequence this time last year.
“That type of accident, I believe, would be difficult to see again because of all the safety car virtual safety car [rules], and also we will not see a tractor on the track in those types of conditions under normal racing.”
“I think the situation is already much more different than it was with Jules.”
As was the case immediately after Bianchi’s accident this time last year, and after his death in July, the Formula One show goes on — but it does so with a heavy heart.
“It is impossible not to be here not thinking about what happened one year ago with Jules. He was a great driver, and he was a very nice guy,” he said.
“I will be thinking about him, definitely. I will try to do the best I can to do a good race for him.”