French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital in Japan after suffering a traumatic brain injury, a joint statement by his family and the hospital said on Tuesday (Oct 7).
Bianchi’s parents Philippe and Christine flew to Japan to be at his bedside and they were joined on Tuesday by celebrated French surgeon Gérard Saillant, who treated Michael Schumacher after his near-fatal skiing accident last December.
The 25-year-old Bianchi sustained the injury in a horrific high-speed crash into a recovery vehicle which came onto the side of the track near the end of Sunday’s rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix. He was taken unconscious by ambulance to the nearest hospital and immediately underwent emergency brain surgery with doctors saying he was critically ill.
The joint statement Jules’ family and the hospital, distributed by his Marussia team, read:
Jules remains in the Intensive Care Unit of the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi. He has suffered a diffuse axonal injury and is in a critical but stable condition. The medical professionals at the hospital are providing the very best treatment and care and we are grateful for everything they have done for Jules since his accident.
We are also grateful for the presence of Professor Gerard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission, and Professor Alessandro Frati, Neurosurgeon of the University of Rome La Sapienza, who has travelled to Japan at the request of Scuderia Ferrari. They arrived at the hospital today and met with the medical personnel responsible for Jules’ treatment, in order to be fully informed of his clinical status so that they are able to advise the family.
Professors Saillant and Frati acknowledge the excellent care being provided by the Mie General Medical Centre and would like to thank their Japanese colleagues. The hospital will continue to monitor and treat Jules and further medical updates will be provided when appropriate.
A diffuse axonal injury occurs in 50% of serious head injuries. It stems from the shockwave that is felt on impact and flows from the top of the brain to the bottom of it provoking the bruising, while the violent forward motion of the driver’s head as the car moves forward and then being brutally brought to a halt jerking the head back also exacerbates the injury.
The shearing action disrupts the brain’s architecture and kills brain cells. In response to the injury, the brain swells and this increasing pressure can restrict blood flow, causing further brain damage. Recovery rates for such injuries are not encouraging.
The race on Sunday was stopped shortly after Bianchi’s crash with championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who was leading at the time, declared the winner. The recovery vehicle involved in the crash was trying to remove Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber, which had crashed at the same spot on the circuit a lap earlier.
Organisers have come in for criticism over the timing of the race, which went ahead despite torrential downpours caused by an approaching typhoon. Drivers repeatedly complained that they could not see properly because of the spray and the fading light.
Williams driver Felipe Massa was reportedly “screaming” his concerns about the conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix before Jules Bianchi suffered a severe head injury in a crash. “I’m worried. I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track,” he said.
As seen above, horrifying footage, meanwhile, has emerged showing the moment Bianchi’s speeding car smashed into the stationary tractor-crane recovery vehicle. The spectator film, posted on YouTube, shows his out-of-control Marussia slamming into the back of the yellow vehicle, with sparks flying as the body of the car slides underneath its raised rear end.
The impact, which appears to be at around Bianchi’s helmet height, sheared off the air intake cover that hangs over the back of the driver’s head. In slow-motion, the video appears to show Bianchi’s helmet rebounding violently off the heavy lifting vehicle, which is bounced into the air by the force of the impact.
Formula One has regularly been rocked by debate over open-top cockpits, which offer drivers little head protection.
Criticism aimed at race organisers gathered pace, with former world champion Alain Prost weighing in to decry errors that led to the crash The Frenchman, who was not present at the race, told Europe 1 radio that the removal truck should never have been there:
The entry of this crane (onto the circuit) without the safety car is totally unacceptable. It’s a real mistake that should not be repeated. A mistake has been made, that’s obvious. Who made the mistake, I’m still not entirely sure. Was it the race director or the marshals on those bends? Someone must have made the decision to remove Sutil’s car.