F1: Sutil gives firsthand account of conditions that led to Bianchi’s fateful crash

Adrian Sutil's Sauber crashes out of the Japanese GP. A crane that was recovering his vehicle was hit by Marussia driver Jules Bianchi one lap later.

Andrew Hone

Sauber driver Adrian Sutil was a firsthand witness to Jules Bianchi’s incident in Suzuka and, while understandably he is not keen to go on record about the impact and its aftermath, the German can provide some background to what conditions were like when his own crash occurred.

Sutil says that conditions were good for racing until the rain returned and the light began to fade – a legacy of course of the decision of the promoter to stick with the 3 p.m. start time, rather than create a bigger window of daylight.

“We had a lot of rain, but once we raced it was probably one of the best conditions of the day,” said Sutil. “We had almost no rain, the track was quite OK to drive on intermediates. I think at the time of the race we had almost an hour without rain. The only risk was at the end, the light came down, and then the drizzle started more and more.

“I really struggled to actually keep the car on the circuit, and then in the end it started to rain more and more, it got really dark, so it was hard to see the patches on the track. I was following Jules very closely, then I lost the car in Turn 8 with aquaplaning, I had a big snap, and went into the wall. At that moment I wasn’t in the best position anyway, but luckily nothing happened to me, I was OK, I could step out.

“The one lap after that whole incident happened with Jules, the same kind of mistake as I did, or the same thing happening with the aquaplaning, and he lost the car. I just saw him coming without control of the car.

“It was getting worse on those couple of laps. Of course our tires were closer to the end, so the resistance to aquaplaning was not so good any more. I saw quite a few cars shaking around even when the safety car came out, when I was standing there after the accident, so there must have been quite a big river developing. That caused the two accidents, really. The rain came up, the tires were at the end of their wear life, people were struggling, and it was really difficult to drive.”

Sutil is adamant that the fading light – together with the increasing rain – played a key role.

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“The problem in our cars is when it gets dark, you can still see, but we have very bright lights on the steering wheel, so they are kind of irritating us. We have a very small view from the helmet, and then where there is this bright light, which is normally set up for the maximum brightness in let’s say sunny conditions, otherwise we can’t really see. But in dark conditions it affects the eyesight a lot. In those last laps with all the spray and the drops on the visor it was really hard to see.

“That’s why sometimes from the outside it looks driveable, and also for the safety car it looks driveable – they have a big windscreen – but no one knows what it’s like for us in the cars, and with these cars which are so difficult to drive right now, without grip, and a massive amount of power.”

Sutil also agrees that it was much tougher for those at the back of the field – in cars lacking downforce like the Sauber and the Marussia – a fact acknowledged by Nico Rosberg after the race.