Thoughts on Virtual Safety Car? Sainz say it’s ‘useless’

It seems that life always has a way of aligning timing regarding topics. As humans, we all parse the races we watch and ask questions and that’s great because it prompts us to question the systems and action we see during the race. One alignment is that we just asked you in our podcast Monday night about the Virtual Safety Car system and if you liked it. Now, drivers are starting to offer their thoughts.

Many questions were asked after the crash of Jules Bianchi and rightly so. The answer to those questions was the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) system that freezes and slows the field down in the event of an incident on track. If memory serves correctly, it was supposed to be able to be deployed on a corner-by-corner basis or full course scenario.

The Malaysian Grand Prix had two such sessions with a full-course VSC implemented and it, like a physical safety car, did help some and hurt others in terms of strategy. Carlos Sainz feels that it is not a good system for those in mid-field saying:

“In my opinion, they [VSC periods] are a bit useless, I don’t like it, it is not something that I enjoy,” he said.

“Because when you are a midfielder, you prefer safety cars all the time, proper safety cars to regroup the field.

“It works as it should, but obviously people play a lot with it to warm their tyres, to create their own gaps before the pitstops.

“You can play a lot with it to your advantage or disadvantage of the others, so I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t that it is something that is contributing in F1, that’s my personal opinion.”

“If I am a race leader, I probably like it, if I am a midfielder, I probably don’t like it,” he said. “I have been in many racing series where you have a 10-second lead, suddenly a safety car comes out and you have to battle again.

“But looking [at it], maybe it’s a bit more fair, but I don’t think it’s what Formula 1 needs, especially for a midfielder.”

As I said on this week’s Malaysian Grand Prix review Podcast, I’m torn on the concept if I’m honest. I can see both sides of this coin and you have to also weight the fact that this was the FIA’s answer to the Bianchi incident and ultimate death of a young driver so the safety element of this is massive as it was the answer to improved systems to prevent such incidents.

What do you think of the VSC? Would you rather it be used to immediately slow the field and then deploy a physical safety car to bunch the field up and control the circuit until the danger is resolved? Or do you like the idea of the VSC as it takes far less time to get back to green-flag action? And what of the midfield? Is Carlos right?

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The VSC has to stay as the mitigation for a repeat of Bianchi’s accident. If all that is required is to slow down the cars while marshals are trackside clearing the wreckage, then the VAC is sufficient. The safety car should only be deployed as a last resort as it takes too long to restart the racing once the incident has been cleared.

Junipero Mariano

Maybe the VSC just needs adjusting in pace and separation.

jiji the cat

I’m neither here nor there on it, but it did feel (could be me just perceiving it that way) but it did feel like the racing got under way a bit quicker than if it was a real safety car.
If I had to make a call, I think I would lean towards a real safety car as it bunches up the cars making for a more exciting race.


I watch motorsports for the racing, not the crashes or incidents. The SC and VSC should be viewed as tools to manage a dangerous situation and I reject the premise that it adds a desirable sporting element. While the SC has occasionally bunched up the traffic and lead to some great breakaways, it’s not a necessity for the race to be epic. VSCs are one of many tools that Charlie has, and and the conversation should be on how and when to best use the SC/VSC and the lack of WEC-style slow zones.

Rob Gray

I am not a fan of the VSC, and I ranted as much to my buddy while we watched last weekends Malaysian grand prix. I liked the SC because it bunched the field back up. In my opinion the VSC should be activated immediately and then must be followed by at least a lap of the SC, which is deployed in front of the field as it comes past the start-finish line the next time. At this point the leading car is behind the safety car and the VSC can be turned off, and conditions returned to how they used… Read more »

Meine Postma

I like the VSC, because it is shorter than a real SC.
The more they race the better I like it.

Lets talk about the stupid tyres instead.


Personally, I think the VSC works more or less exactly as it should – it neutralizes the race, to allow for safe(r) recovery of vehicles or debris, while maintaining the relative distance between the cars. I don’t really see why it’s even a discussion. The slow zone concept (as used in WEC and Le Mans) works best on longer circuits, as you need at least one warning sector before the actual slow zone. For F1, slowing the whole lap down seems to have been deemed safer, and I’m not going to argue about that. I’d prefer a strict speed limit… Read more »