The Safety Car (SC) debacle in Valencia two weeks ago has created an opportunity for the FIA to revisit the regulation surrounding a SC period. Much was made of Ferrari’s arm-waving and harsh language as they were the team most affected by the Valencia incident but the pressure has brought the teams and the FIA together to examine how best to manage the SC deployment.
Today AUTOSPORT says they uncovered an agreement between the sporting directors of each team and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to revise the SC regulations to prevent another occurrence such as Valencia. While we’ve maintained closing the pitlane until all cars are marshaled and arranged in proper order before opening for pit stops, the FIA says they have an easier way to ensure parity across the grid.
According to AUTOSPORT, the new solutions is:
Instead of operating to a ‘delta’ time of 120% of a regular F1 lap before the cars form up behind the safety car, as under the old regulations, drivers will instead be forced to slow down to the actual estimated speed of the safety car itself.
It seems the concept of a closed pitlane was discussed but this reduced speed theory is what the FIA is more comfortable with. Well why not? It still adds excitement doesn’t it? It seems odd to me that they would choose this route to be honest. Sure, it seems feasible but closing the pitlane until all cars are staged properly allows the leader the first opportunity to enter the pits and not a car running in 13th while the leader is toiling at 60kph around a 3 1/2 mile track.
Maybe McLaren’s Mr. Neale likes the concept of random occurrences mixing up F1 and foiling a teams race but I am inclined to suggest that the SC period should be 100% focused on safety and not a random element impacting race outcomes. We have enough of those elements in F1 with tire compound manipulation and other regulations such as KERS and movable aero devices. The show is best when the racing on track is best, not randomly impacted.
Don’t get me wrong, random things happen like rain creating attrition, mechanical failure or a rogue, defrocked priest runs on to the circuit during a race but these are completely random while a SC period could be for debris, heavy rain, a wreck that needs to be cleared and other safety related issues.
For me, the SC should be about safety first and freezing the field at a safe speed. It should be about organizing the field to allow for fair pit stops and pacing the cars at a safe speed until the incident can be remedied.
Can a SC affect race outcomes? Sure, it happens in NASCAR a lot and I am not marginalizing that but I think F1 can follow NASCAR and Indycar’s lead and make the SC period less impacting on a race than the current regulations allow for. The system is overly complicated and many of the drivers have said they are confused by it.
By freezing the field, pacing them until they are staged properly and then allowing them to pit, this would help eliminate the disparity but what do I know, I don’t work for the FIA.