Not difficult to implement Safety Car changes – Vettel

2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel says it would not be difficult for Formula One to change its use of the Safety Car to improve safety.

Jules Bianchi’s crash during the Japanese Grand Prix has led to calls for the Safety Car to be deployed whenever a recovery vehicle is sent onto the track.

However Vettel sad that in Bianchi’s case “extremely unlucky circumstances led him to much more than just the usual type of crash” and it was important Formula One learned everything it could from what happened.

“I think with hindsight it’s always easy to say this could have been avoided, this should have been done,” he said. “I think there is definitely some lessons, I think everyone is obviously thinking about what we can improve, and improve within a week’s time.”

“I think here we have a completely different circuit, completely different conditions. I think it was a very special accident with unique circumstances leading into a very bad outcome.

“But surely if the answer is as easy as bringing the Safety Car I don’t think that’s a big thing for people to do in the future. On the other hand I believe the answer is probably not as easy as that either.”

Vettel said the race conditions were “extremely difficult” in Japan and left “a very, very small margin for error”.

“Obviously for Jules at that time it was too small and on top of that very unlucky circumstances led into a catastrophe, really.”

Vettel added the thoughts of all the drivers were with Bianchi and his family. “We wish him all the strength we can send,” he said.

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Keith Collantine
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35 comments on “Not difficult to implement Safety Car changes – Vettel”

  1. Hope we will not have safety car every time a car stops. Then idiotic rules of letting lapped cars will come to play leading to lot of laps behind SC. Or else we will have Nascar style race and Force India 😉 will win

    SC is needed in wets or stops at exit of high speed turns with short run offs.

    1. I strongly Disagree – From not only Bianchi’s accident but also that of Maria DeValotta it is apparent that low slung carbon fibre vehicles with open cockpits are no match for heavy industrial steel recovery vehicles. I suggest you Google “Bianchi crash video” and perhaps re-think your position. Jules will most likely never return to anything like normality, and while we all accept the inherent danger of Motorsport, there is no call to make it deliberately life threatening for the sake of “the show.” SC deployment whenever a recovery vehicle is on track is not only a small price to pay, it is also extremely easy to implement. A blanket policy would prevent any future freak accidents from creeping in when the case is not 100% black and white as to whether a SC should be deployed. To not do so would IMO open FOM and the FIA to lawsuits based on negligence (perhaps even criminal negligence).

      1. That should read whenever a recovery vehicle OR A MARSHALL is on track…

  2. FlyingLobster27
    9th October 2014, 14:43

    “But surely if the answer is as easy as bringing the Safety Car I don’t think that’s a big thing for people to do in the future.”
    Vettel is right: it isn’t a big thing – if the SC rules stay as they are. But standing restarts are on the way, and I feel the decision to bring out the SC “just for a spun car” might be outweighed by the hassle of the restart.
    Which is why I feel the same way as Vettel: “the answer is probably not as easy as that”.

  3. The elephant in the room is that he hit a tractor. SO you change the tractor, not the entire world round it.

    If an F1 car hits a tree, you move it or Armco and pad the tree, you don’t try and invent anti tree technology onto the car.

    Seems simple to me

    1. The elephant in the room is for drivers to respect the double yellow flags. Just look at end of the race, even after the last safety car was deployed you still had cars driving very fast instead of slowing down.

      Now we are quick to talk about close cockpit but then when a driver has an accident and they are difficulty opening it then we will be blaming it again and then find some thing else.

      1. For sure, double yellows and drivers reaction to them needs to be looked at as well. I completely agree……2 elephants

      2. mattshaw85 (@)
        9th October 2014, 18:47

        Totally agree regarding the lack of respect for yellow flags. So far as I’m aware it means ‘be prepared to stop’ and whilst I admit to not being an expert, it doesn’t look like drivers often are in these situations. Whilst Jules was very unlucky to have this accident, we are so very lucky there were no marshals injured.

        Change the tractor.. that’s a valid point too, would it have made a great deal of difference? I’ve seen arguments for skirts of be attached to recovery vehicles like you get on HGVs. A crane on the other side of the barrier makes more sense, but is this always practical?

        I’m not sure a closed cockpit would have made a great deal of difference, even if it would have you’d have a different problem with it at some point regarding a driver not being able to get out or something like that.

        The simple solution would have been if we’d have seen the safety car. Nobody wants to see this every time because it takes so long for the race to get going again, but I was surprised at the time to not see one for Sutils accident.

        It’s such an unfortunate set of events that led to this happening, I trust the people in charge of safety in F1 will respond in the right way whatever that may be.

    2. I’m with you, antony. Had the crane been behind the barriers rather than in front, Bianchi would now be prepping with his team for FP1. Why not mandate that car-removal cranes remain on the opposite side of the crash structures and lift the cars over? Is this not how it is done in Monaco?

      1. That would of worked in this instance, but not all tracks have the access for the tractor to get behind the barriers, also if a car is too far away from the barriers but still needs a tractor to remove it, then it would still need to pass the barrier.

        But I do agree with you. Maybe they should leave cars where they are, if the circumstances allow (some would surely have to be removed if in a dangerous position), if Jules had hit the parked car of Perez, he would of probably have walked away.

      2. Mark Hitchcock
        9th October 2014, 18:33

        American F1 and @antonyob, the tractor isn’t the only issue presented in Bianchi’s crash. The other is the safety of marshals.
        Thankfully, the reason it’s being largely ignored is because we were incredibly lucky that none of the marshals were hurt or killed on Sunday.
        Replace the tractor with a crane and you’ve still got marshals on the outside of a fast corner, in the wet, hooking a crane to a crashed car. In that situation, instead of hitting a tractor, Bianchi would have hit people.

        The issue isn’t the design or implementation of trackside vehicles, it’s the procedures that surround their deployment.
        Mainly the lack of respect that drivers have for double yellow flags, and the failure in this case to realise the potential danger of the situation and deploy the SC.

      3. Suppose that Sutils car was being lifted by a cranbe. Bianchi could have hit his head on the lifted car and/or hit the marshall busy loading the car onto the crane.

        The tractor is really not the issue. Bianchi simply should not have been going so fast through a double waved yellow zone. Apparently he hit the tractor still going 203km/h.

        1. Glenn slattery
          10th October 2014, 0:51

          How do we even know that Jules could see the yellow flags? At the beginning of the race we all heard Hamilton telling rosberg not to brake suddenly because he couldn’t see him and he was only about 25 ft away. The marshals post was at least 50 ft is not more from the corner at which he crashed. The only sensible thing that race control should have done is deployed the safety car.

          1. The flag signals are repeated on light boards and from the onboard footage from other cars at the time they look hard to miss.

        2. According to Suzuka officials, Bianchi aquaplaned just as the double yellow flags were being waved. Based on the sector breakdown of the track, there was not a great deal of lead-in to the corner. Suzuka also does not have sufficient Tarmac runoff especially in that area, so Bianchi was trying to brake on wet grass. Perhaps the flag sector should also be extended a bit earlier into that corner, because you could start to lose control even before you passed a double yellow and end up in that collection point. A very dangerous “perfect storm” of conditions if you pardon the expression. The fact that they were racing in a super-typhoon an hour from sunset also were contributing factors that cannot easily be dismissed.

  4. I have two relatively inexpensive ideas to improve safety in such circumstances:
    1. Use a speed limiting switch, much like the pit lane limiter, to be employed in a double waved yellow crash zone. When the vehicles are cleared and every race car on track has been through the zone an equal amount of times, then disable the limiter.
    2. Build modular armor that can be brought to each race and attached to recovery vehicles, like big padded Armco aprons that can be removed quickly and sent to the next event. This could be paid for with Bernie’s daughter’s pin money.

    1. Use a speed limiting switch, much like the pit lane limiter

      Or just use the pit-lane limiter itself. I believe that’s what they do in the WEC under Code 60.

      1. Indeed, 60 kph may not be slow enough, with non-pit-lane topography and rain.

        1. These suggestions would play havok with the fuel projections…

        2. Mick Nicholson
          9th October 2014, 21:24

          Telemetry shows Bianchi was doing over 200kph when it aqua planed. 60 may be too slow in fact.

          1. My investigations say about 85 km/h…

  5. As others have wrote and I have else where, Double waved yellows are waved not as part of a show of colour, but to Seriously warn drivers and others, that the area there are about to enter has dramatically increased risk to life or lifes, be ready to stop.

    Drivers are emotional people by nature, give them an unknown and the chances are they will react emotionally. Not hearing any drivers saying they need to change their ways though, it’s everyone else that need to change to make it safe for them to act without being responsible.

    Anyone of them could be where Jules is right now, that is what is shocking them. Change brings uncertainty and maybe a little bit of growing pains too.

    1. This is the thing. ‘Be prepared to stop’ needs to be respected, none of the drivers last week were in any situation to slow and stop the car on a track that was so dark and wet.

      1. Perhaps the speed under double yellows must be specifically regulated, and fines issued for non-compliance, like in the pit-lane.

        1. Maybe double yellows equals pit lane limiter? The drivers are always seeking clarification on this point, so an unambiguous limit should be set that is already in existence.

  6. Or when someone goes off when the field is on inters/wets and the tractor is in a run off zone they safety car.

    Or eliminate the tractor and use several cranes.

  7. I was thinking about merging the benefits of two systems. The cars may send data to the teams, but they cannot receive data – from the team, but it doesn’t mean they can’t receive data from somewhere else, for example the race director, like the yellow flag alert appears on the steering wheel. The other system is the pitlane limiter. My idea would be to forget the safety car, and limit the cars speed in a few seconds time to 80 or 100 or 120 kmph by the race director.
    – they don’t have to catch up with the safety car which could last minutes
    – lapped cars don’t have to take back their laps
    – all cars on the track would utilize a calculatable speed
    – no need to have a standing start as it is planned from next year
    – planning the pit stops you couldn’t count on or gamble with the arrival of the safety car

    so it’s like someone finds himself in the wall, a message appears on everyones steering wheel indicating that speed limitation will be forced in five seconds time, and the system slows down proportionally. when the car in the wall is recovered, the next time the race leader crosses the finish line triggers the lift of the speedlimitation and the race can continue

    1. A really fine idea, AndrewT. It would be like equally dialing down the speed of all cars.
      The difficulty would be that cars in different sectors would need to be going at different speeds to make the time-loss equal for all, as a car at the end of a long straight would benefit more from a double yellow being activated than a car before a long straight. But maybe “That’s racing!”
      Your plan is better than what they have now, and the lack of technology is no longer an excuse for the FIA.

    2. I also agree with u @andrewt, this is perhaps the most feasible option we could have right now. Also what @ferrox-glideh said, cars require different speeds at different part of circuit so may be we can have a pit lane speed limiter about 1 or 2 cornors(depending on the circuit) before the accident site and once cars pass the accident site, they can resume racing at safety car speed i.e max top speed of 200kmph. This way drivers won loose temperature of their engines, tyres etc and car can be removed safely. And once the car is removed, race director can send messages to all cars to resume racing.

      1. *wont loose

        1. Double waved safety car flags ;)

    3. I do think this a good idea also, it was brought up here the other day and on some other forums. I think that deploying the safety car is not the solution. It might take too much time for the safety car to gather the group on some circuits and it might be too late by the time its out. Whereas by using technology we have available the decision could be done in seconds leaving a lot less margin for disaster.

    4. Or a “full track” double yellow system, not just sector based. But that could be slightly more dangerous as in Senna’s crash, no heat in the tyres of brakes from a long SC period.

  8. If the safety car had come out, would the result have been any different? Possibly. But not because of the safety car as he wouldn’t have been behind it given he was a long way behind the leader and I doubt it would’e collected him before the accident scene was passed. What would’ve changed is the speed at which he was going through the corner, either avoiding the incident entirely or significantly reducing the violence of it. The safety car has it’s uses (Mainly when access to the track itself is required, and so needing the cars to be bunched up. Arguably it’s safer to not have them clustered together in other circumstances, it would certainly improve visibility in the wet). Other than that all that’s required is a speed limit and a way to ensure it’s kept to in the absence of a car blocking the driver.

    1. Agree – the safety car is useful to give a long period without any passing traffic which allows marshals to work on the circuit, but it doesn’t initially slow the field down a huge amount even with the lap delta thing. Stricter flag enforcement (the FIA would need to do this from the bottom up) or low-speed zones seem excellent options to me.

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