French driver suffers severe head injury after hitting recovery vehicle
Operation for Bianchi after crash Frenchman Jules Bianchi lost control of his car, travelled across the run-off area and hit the back of the tractor.

SUZUKA (Japan) - French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi suffered severe head injuries and underwent surgery after a crash that cast a pall over yesterday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The unconscious Marussia driver was taken by ambulance to Mie General Hospital, near the Suzuka circuit, after the accident that brought out red flags and led to the race being stopped early.

"The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury and is undergoing surgery," the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in an update on his condition. "Following this he will be moved to intensive care where he will be monitored."

Bianchi, 25, a graduate of Ferrari's young driver academy, is seen as an up-and-coming talent in F1 after scoring Marussia's first-ever points when he finished ninth at this year's Monaco Grand Prix.

The accident occurred at the same point of the track, the Dunlop Curve, where Adrian Sutil had aquaplaned off a lap earlier and involved a tractor that was lifting the stricken Sauber.

The FIA confirmed that Bianchi had hit the back of the recovery vehicle as he skidded off.

Sutil, who witnessed the crash, said: "I had a spin and ended up in the wall. I stood up and they tried to rescue the car. Jules was in the same area and lost the car. I have no more information. Hopefully he is in good hands."

The crash brought out the safety and medical cars and led to the race, already threatened by the advancing Typhoon Phanfone, being red-flagged and brought to an early end with the result declared after 44 of the 53 scheduled laps.

There were no podium celebrations and the top three drivers merely clinked the champagne bottles before putting them back on the ground.

"It's obviously a real anti-climax to hear that one of our colleagues is seriously injured, so that's really the main worry," Mercedes' race winner Lewis Hamilton told the BBC. "You could see some commotion and the car was really badly damaged on the right. We just hope he's okay."

The crash occurred after rain had begun to fall steadily, with questions immediately asked over whether a safety car should have been deployed immediately after Sutil's accident.

"Everyone knows this is one of the most tricky corners and when it is getting late and the rain increases… let's say when you have an accident there you should probably think about a safety car," Sutil told Sky Sports F1.

Williams driver Felipe Massa, who made a full recovery from a life-threatening head injury in 2009 and finished seventh yesterday, was outspoken in his criticism of race control for not deploying the safety car earlier.

"In my opinion, we started the race too early and we ended it too late," he said. "I was screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track. It was dangerous. You saw that there was the crash at the end."

F1 is proud of its safety record, and constantly strives to make cars safer, while remaining acutely aware that the sport will always be dangerous.

"Motor racing is dangerous. We get used to it if nothing happens and then suddenly we are all surprised," former champion Niki Lauda, who came back from a near-fatal crash in 1976, said.

The death of Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna, in 1994, remains the last driver race fatality but there have been close escapes since then.

Marussia's former test driver Maria de Villota, who died last year of a heart attack, lost her right eye and fractured her skull when the Spaniard's car accelerated into the back of a parked team truck at a 2012 test.