YOKKAICHI, Japan (AFP) – The parents of Jules Bianchi arrived at his bedside in intensive care in Japan Monday, 24 hours after he underwent surgery for a serious head injury in one of Formula One’s worst crashes in nearly two decades.
Philippe and Christine Bianchi entered the hospital without speaking to journalists, as a row brewed in the rarefied world of F1 over why race organisers had pressed ahead with their planned 3pm start time when such heavy rain was expected.
The young French driver careened out of control on a rain-sodden circuit at Suzuka on Sunday, smashing into a recovery vehicle near the end of a rain-sodden Japanese Grand Prix.
Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said the 25-year-old Marussia driver had suffered a “severe head injury”.
The hospital was refusing to comment on the driver’s condition, citing patient privacy and directing enquiries to the FIA.
An AFP reporter at the scene said Marussia team principal John Booth and team general manager Graeme Lowdon had both been at the facility during the day.
Both men appeared to have slept little and deflected questions on the driver’s condition.
In a statement, the team thanked fans for the “huge outpouring of support and affection for Jules and the Team”.
They said information about the driver’s condition would only be released with the blessing of his family.
“Together with Jules’ care, they will remain our highest priority. Therefore, we would ask for patience and understanding with regard to further medical updates, which will be communicated in conjunction with the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi, where Jules is being treated, when they feel it is appropriate.
“Representatives of the Marussia F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari will remain at the hospital to support Jules and the Bianchi family.”
An unconscious Bianchi had to be removed from the wreckage of his car after the horror smash, which happened as he ploughed into a recovery vehicle lifting Adrian Sutil’s prone Sauber away from danger after the German had skidded into a wall on lap 42.
The race was red-flagged and then declared over after 44 laps.
“The driver was removed from the car, taken to the circuit medical centre and then by ambulance to Mie General Hospital,” FIA press officer Matteo Bonciani said in a statement.
“The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury and he is currently undergoing surgery. Following this he will be moved to intensive care where he will be monitored.”
Bianchi, a member of Ferrari’s young driver programme, is in his second season in Formula One.
He scored a memorable ninth place in Monaco this year, giving the back-of-the-grid Marussia team their first points since their debut in 2010.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s race, which began behind the safety car with drivers complaining over team radios that in the wet conditions they were unable to see through the spray.
Formula One has largely avoided serious accidents since 1994, when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenburger died at San Marino.
Massa, who was involved in a freak crash during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix when he was hit in the helmet by a part that had come loose from another car, said after the race that the conditions had been bad.