SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Jules Bianchi’s horrific Japanese Grand Prix accident has thrust driver safety further into the spotlight ahead of Russia’s Formula One debut on Sunday but race organisers say they are well prepared.
Even if most of the marshals at the Sochi circuit are Russian, and will be working at a grand prix for the first time, they are supervised by experienced officials brought in from Australia’s CAMS motorsport body.
Richard Cregan, who works closely with local promoter Sergey Vorobyev and was previously chief executive of the Abu Dhabi circuit, recognised Bianchi’s accident had added to the pressure.
But the Irishman told Reuters at the circuit, whose fenced layout snakes around the Olympic Park used for this year’s Winter Games in February, that it was there anyway.
“I think there’s always a pressure with the first race to make sure everything is of a standard that’s even beyond what is required by the FIA,” he said.
“We are very lucky to have somebody like (race director) Charlie (Whiting) there who is so attentive to detail. He’s been here many times and very willing to come out at very short notice to help and do inspections.
“You can never relax on safety. It’s always something you have to ensure,” added Cregan. “Everything that we’ve done here is according to the FIA regulations and standards.”
Cregan said the local marshals had done a huge amount of training, including at places like Moscow raceway, and had attended races around the world to see how other venues operated.
Frenchman Bianchi, who drives for the Marussia team and is also a Ferrari tester, sustained severe head injuries after crashing into a recovery tractor at Suzuka in an accident that ended the race.
The governing FIA has ordered a full enquiry, while questions have been asked about the decision to allow the heavy vehicle into an exposed position while cars were still lapping on a wet track and in fading light.
Cregan said everything was ready at the circuit, where teams were setting up their garages on Wednesday, and ticket sales had been strong.