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?
Hat Tip: Motorsport.com