Formula One: Bianchi suit goes against contract

MONACO • The lawsuit filed by the family of Jules Bianchi against Formula One Management company, which runs Formula One, the FIA, the sport's governing body, and the Marussia team was met with surprise by some of the sport's most senior figures on Thursday.

They believe that it threatens the covenant between driver and team.

The Frenchman was driving a Marussia at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when he veered off the track and crashed into a recovery truck. He died aged 25 last year after nine months in a coma.

Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion and ardent safety campaigner, sympathised with the family but added: "All drivers know there are risks. This is not ping pong. Motor racing is dangerous - it says so on the ticket. There is always the chance of a freak accident, and that has to be accepted.

"It is very sad for his family and one can only feel great sympathy for them, but I do not think taking legal action is the right path to go down. The distress they feel will be drawn out longer. It will not make the pain go away."

The family are furious with F1's authorities over a grand prix that was held in fading light and difficult, wet conditions.

But former F1 driver John Watson told BBC Radio 5 live: "There is a liability on the driver and as it was established in the report the accident was the consequence of Bianchi going through that yellow flag zone in very wet conditions..."

Only once before has F1 faced a lawsuit over an accident on the track. In 1984, the wife of Mark Donohue, an American driver, claimed damages against Goodyear, the tyre maker, and Penske, his team, after he was killed at the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix.

It was finally settled out of court for £6.5 million (S$13.1 million currently).

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Bianchi suit goes against contract'. Print Edition | Subscribe