The parents of Formula One driver Jules Bianchi arrived at his bedside in Japan on Monday where he is in a critical but stable condition after one of the sport’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 the 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” and was “critical but stable”.
The hospital was refusing to comment on the driver’s condition, citing patient privacy and directing enquiries to the FIA.
FIA press officer Matteo Bonciani, who is close to Bianchi, said: “It should be understood that it is very, very serious.”
Bianchi’s parents will meet his medical team on Tuesday morning, Bonciani added.
An AFP reporter said Marussia team principal John Booth and team general manager Graeme Lowdon had both been at the hospital 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.
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 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.
Felipe 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.
“I was already screaming on the radio five laps before the safety car that there was too much water on the track, but they took a bit too long and it was dangerous. So we saw that there were some crashes at the end,” said Massa.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was third on Sunday behind the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg, said results were irrelevant in the light of Bianchi’s crash.