BUDAPEST • Three days after the funeral of Jules Bianchi, Formula One experienced another heart-in- mouth moment yesterday, when Sergio Perez survived a spectacular accident in opening free practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Mexican lost control of his Force India car, hit the barriers and flipped upside down but was able to walk away unhurt.
The session was red-flagged and delayed by 17 minutes before it re-started only to be halted again due to debris on the circuit with four minutes left.
"It was a really bad accident, pretty unlucky," said Perez. "The track was dirty and I went on the AstroTurf and I hit the barrier on the other side of the track at a very bad angle, so it made the car roll over.
"But everything's all right. It was a strange accident. I thought it was under control but the AstroTurf was very dirty which is why I went into the wall. We'll have to check everything in detail."
RACING TO THE LIMIT
We all know it could have been ourselves in that car. But it doesn't really change anything. We want to succeed, we want to take every tenth out of the car. So we just give it all.
SERGIO PEREZ, before the crash
He ran wide on the exit of Turn 11 at the Hungaroring with 32 minutes remaining in the interrupted session. The right rear corner of his car - adorned like all the other cars with a tribute to Frenchman Bianchi who died last Friday - appeared to suffer a technical failure, possibly with its suspension.
His car spun across the track and, after swiping the barriers on the right, turned upside down as it landed back on the track.
The driver was able to climb from the car with help from track assistants and appeared unhurt, as he walked away.
His accident comes just after F1 drivers - including Perez - vowed not to let Bianchi's premature death change the way they go racing or their willingness to take risks. The Frenchman, 25, died in hospital nine months after his Marussia car slammed into a recovery tractor at the Japanese Grand Prix.
"We all know it could have been ourselves in that car," Perez, who was with Bianchi at the Ferrari young driver academy, said on Thursday. "But it doesn't really change anything. We want to succeed, we want to take every tenth out of the car. So we just give it all.
"I don't think it will change, We all have to make Jules very proud."
Brazilian Felipe Massa, who suffered a near-fatal head injury in Hungary in 2009, told reporters ahead of tomorrow's race that he would drive as hard as ever.
"When you close your visor, you want the best, you want to finish in front... the way you drive, your thinking, I don't think it will change," said the Williams driver, who was with Ferrari at the time of his accident. "You just think about your job, your work. I don't think that will change. But now, I have Jules all the time on my mind."
Massa shared a manager with Bianchi, spent time with him off the track and remembered his friend as "a fantastic boy, very nice, very humble and an amazing driver" .
Others shared that opinion, hailing his shining talent in go-karts and junior series. But they also said the Frenchman would have wanted them to carry on as normal, doing what they loved.
"It's in our nature to take risk," said Lotus' Romain Grosjean, who helped carry Bianchi's coffin at Tuesday's funeral in Nice cathedral.
"You need to be 100 per cent in the car and not thinking about what could happen, if and if. We know it's a dangerous sport but I think that was a hard way to remember that."
Series leader and defending two-time world champion Briton Lewis Hamilton was yesterday fastest in the first practice session. He timed 1min 25.141sec for his best lap, ahead of Mercedes team-mate, German Nico Rosberg, by 0.109sec.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
HUNGARIAN F1 GRAND PRIX
Practice 3: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 4.55pm Qualifying: 7.30pm