By Alan Baldwin
SOCHI Russia (Reuters) - Formula One should deploy the safety car whenever a tractor is used to retrieve a car from the track, Mexican Sergio Perez said on Thursday, as drivers reflected on Jules Bianchi's horrific crash in Japan last weekend.
Bianchi has been in hospital since the accident at Suzuka, the last medical bulletin issued on Tuesday saying the Frenchman had suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in critical but stable condition.
The 25-year-old Marussia driver, a Ferrari test driver who was an emerging talent, aquaplaned off in rain and poor visibility and crashed into the back of a tractor that was removing a crashed Sauber.
"In the future, when there is a tractor picking up a car, we need a safety car no matter the conditions because there is always a risk," Force India driver Perez told reporters at the new Russian Grand Prix Circuit.
"You expose the marshals, a lot of people, so we need a safety car if the tractor is on track.
"You could have people run out of brakes, so many factors you never expect, and if the tractor is there it's a big problem," added the Mexican. "You don't want to expose anyone like that. We have to take care of the marshals."
Formula One's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), has opened an enquiry into the accident with a number of questions to be addressed.
How and when tractors are deployed to remove crashed cars has been a concern in Formula One for years and has come under renewed scrutiny.
"For the good of him, for the good of his family, we need to really move forward in terms of safety on what happened to Jules," said Perez of the popular Bianchi, who was Force India reserve in 2012.
"Hopefully in the future you will never see an accident like this in the whole of Formula One; Being a tractor there and then a car colliding with it cannot happen. We cannot have this."
Perez said it would be tough to focus on the racing in Sochi, which is hosting Russia's first grand prix, this weekend as the 16th round of the 19 race championship.
"It’s very difficult. I’m here with you guys but all the time your subconscious is thinking about our friend Jules. What happened this Sunday was a big shock for all of us," he said.
"For everyone who is involved in the F1 paddock it’s a big shock. You always realize that the risk is there but you always think that it cannot happen to you, it will not happen to you," he continued.
"But when you see that it happen to a guy who was next to you last Sunday and now he’s not with you -– he’s in a very difficult situation -– that makes you think a lot of things."
Bianchi's name remains over the Marussia garage at Sochi, with the team yet to confirm their plans for Sunday's race.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)