New safety car rules catch teams out

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The Canadian Grand Prix brought the first test of F1’s new Champ Car-style safety car rules. The result? Two ten second penalties, two disqualifications, and several drivers unhappy with ruined races.

Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg both pitted as the safety car came out for the first time. Their teams insisted they did not have enough fuel to wait any longer, but they were punished with ten second penalties that seriously hampered their races.

David Coulthard, formerly a drivers’ representative on the GPDA, was not impressed, citing Alonso’s situation as being clearly unfair.

Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella were both disqualified. They pitted in at the correct time – but left while the pit lane light was red. The rules were quite clear and they were both disqualified. Exactly the same happened to Juan Pablo Montoya at the Circuit Villeneuve two years ago.

Two weeks ago McLaren claimed they brought Hamilton into the pits early to avoid his race being ruined if the safety car came out. On the evidence of this, they did exactly the right thing.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “New safety car rules catch teams out”

  1. Good for Coulthard for being so straight in his comments. What this GP has illustrated is that the new rules regarding safety car periods are over-complicated and bound to result in unfair penalties being handed out. No team would deliberately flout the rules by bringing their car into the pits when it would inevitably result in a ten-second penalty. Alonso and Rosberg had the bad luck to be scheduled for pitstops on the lap that turned out to be the first safety car lap and they may well have had insufficient fuel to complete another lap – how can one justify penalties for that? It is a weakness in the new rules that I pointed out when they were introduced by the FIA but I never expected to be proved correct so early on.

    What benefit the new rules are supposed to bring is unclear. They should be removed immediately and matters returned to last year’s regulations which worked well enough.

  2. Nathan Jones
    11th June 2007, 3:10

    the backmarkers overtake rule is good but the others are not

  3. it is probably right to blag flag the car that leaves pits on red light, but why there is red light at all when the pit lane is OPEN ?

  4. Clive, that’s luck of the draw. We haven’t seen anyone complain about this in NASCAR or IRL. They just have to compensate. Sometimes, you’ll be on the lucky side of the coin, others on the unlucky side. Luck plays its part in F1.

  5. That is the argument that they use to defend the rule in American racing – but is it really fair in F1 where safety car periods are far less common? I’m not sure.

    Perhaps a compromise solution is needed – close the pit lane when the safety car is out but guarantee that it will be open on the following lap? That way, everyone knows to build an extra lap of fuel into their strategies.

  6. I suspect that the NASCAR and IRL drivers don’t complain because the fight is long over for them, Journeyer. My point is really that it’s an unnecessary addition to the rules, intended to solve the minor problem of drivers having their races slightly spoiled by lapped cars getting in the way after the safety car pulls off, but instead creating the possibility of drivers having their races completely destroyed by the luck of the draw. Of the two, which is better for F1?

    And I don’t think tweaking the rule, as suggested by Keith, is the way forward either. Complication in the rules always leads to disputed and dubious decisions – simplification should be the aim. Let the FIA go back to the drawing board and try to get it right next time.

    It may be that the safety car itself is the problem. It is a recent introduction to F1 and still an experiment therefore. In my humble opinion, the old system of waved yellows while the track was cleared and a restart (with the grid as it was at the time of the accident) if the track was completely blocked was better from just about every angle. Yes, it was marginally more dangerous in that it required the drivers to behave responsibly while under the yellows – but have you ever heard of a serious crash during such circumstances?

  7. There were some very lucky misses at Brazil in 2003. Both Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso crashed under double waved yellows and, frankly, both should have gotten into more trouble for it than they did. Schumacher nearly ended up underneath a car recovery vehicle which would have been horrendous.

  8. Okay, that’s one but no harm done – and that’s in sixty years. So far we have had one safety car race under the new rules and four drivers’ races ruined. Not an encouraging start, is it?

  9. Not wishing to constantly nit-pick but two drivers races were ruined. Massa and Fisichella had only themselves to blame. The red light was on, other drivers had the good sense to stop and it happened before under the old rules (Montoya in ’05).

    But I agree with you to a point – this smacks of rule making by constantly adding new layers onto rules that aren’t right to being with. Getting rid of the faulty rules in the first place would have been better instead of constantly over-complicating things.

  10. True, Keith, I snuck in Massa and Fisichella for added emphasis – naughty, I know. My only excuse is that I was thinking of doing away with the safety car completely, in which case the red light wouldn’t have been on…

  11. new Champ Car-style safety car rules
    NEW RULES – FULL OF ****

  12. Robert McKay
    11th June 2007, 20:10

    The old safety car rules were fine. The vast majority of the times the SC is needed it would be silly to stop the race entirely and insufficient to wave a yellow flag, and the vast majority of the time the SC is only needed for one, two laps. And to call the SC a recent introduction is incorrect in my view. How long has it been used? 13 years or something? Maybe not huge in terms of number of years of the sport but substantial in fraction of total World Championship Grands Prix run. Full race restarts are needed in my opinion only when the SC has to be out for a significant number of laps, though the FIA has in recent years made a considerable effort to avoid red-flagging races and keeping Safety Cars out for too long in order to try keep to TV schedules, which is pretty ridiculous.

    The new rules are a bit daft, I agree on that. Letting backmarkers go through isn’t a cardinal sin, but if you built a 20 second lead before the SC then maybe you deserve a couple of Spykers between you and the second place driver at the restart. The pit rules are pretty indefensible in their stupidity. But at least now the rules have been made clear the teams can build this into their strategies. Don’t leave a pitstop till the very last moment whe your drivers tank is bone dry. It’s the same for everyone. And it’s not like you have to wait for several laps to pit again, the pitlane is generally open not that long after the SC was deployed anyway – it’s just one more slow lap, roughly.

  13. Paul Simpson
    12th June 2007, 12:59

    This rule change certainly justifies McClarens actions in Monaco. It is true that cars racing back to the pits during a Safety Car period is dangerous particularly if the accident is towards the end of the lap however if these rules stay maybe the teams should be required to declare their routine pitstops for fuel & tyres 2 or 3 laps before they are due, then if a Safety Car comes out the FIA still allow the pitstop as it was “pre-planned and declared”.

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