Alpha Tauri Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly said he nearly crashed into a recovery vehicle during the rainy Japanese Grand Prix and was “two meters from passing away.”
The rain-plagued race was red-flagged after numerous first-lap incidents because of the conditions. Carlos Sainz crashed on the first lap, Zhou Guanyu spun and Gasly had to pit because a sign board was stuck to the nose of his car.
After getting the nose of his car changed, Gasly was speeding up to catch up to the pack before F1 had halted the race. As he was racing to catch the field, he passed a recovery truck that was on the track to get Sainz’s car.
"I tried to slow down, not in an erratic manner, because if I slammed the brake, I would have lost the car and ended up in the crane," Gasly told reporters after the race.
"I was two metres away from passing away today, which is not acceptable as a racing driver."
The FIA said early Sunday morning in the United States that it would be investigating the truck’s presence on track. It’s almost inexplicable why the FIA would have chosen to put a truck on the track in rainy conditions near cars given Jules Bianchi’s 2014 death during the Japanese Grand Prix. Bianchi lost control of his car in the horrid conditions and his car crashed into a crane that was retrieving Adrian Suit’s car.
Bianchi’s death is the most recent in F1 and a huge reason why the halo roll bar system is atop the cockpit to give drivers some head protection.
The red flag that ensued after Sainz’s wreck and Gasly’s close call lasted nearly two hours. The race resumed as a timed race with less than an hour remaining and Max Verstappen won the race to win the 2022 Formula 1 title. Verstappen was crowned the world champion 20 minutes after the race because Charles Leclerc was penalized for cutting the chicane on the final lap while defending his position from Sergio Perez.
The penalty that pushed Leclerc to third gave Verstappen the title with four races to go. Had Leclerc stayed in second and prevented Verstappen from clinching the title by a point, the Red Bull driver would have been forced to wait two weeks until the United States Grand Prix to score points and win his second consecutive F1 title.