Marshals wave yellow flags during a Safety Car period, Singapore, 2014

Drivers to test new 80kph ‘slow zones’ during practice

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Marshals wave yellow flags during a Safety Car period, Singapore, 2014Formula One will test a new safety solution this weekend, similar to the ‘slow zones’ used at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The tests will be conducted following first and second practice. Drivers will have to reduce their speed to a maximum of 80kph (50mph) through two consecutive ‘double yellow sectors’. The Yas Marina circuit has 31 separate sectors for marshalling purposes.

Drivers will be shown a red triangle warning on the light panels prior to the beginning of the restricted speed area. The light panels in the zone itself will display ’80’ with a flashing yellow border to indicate the speed limit.

The speed of any drivers who are already in the sector when the limit is activated will not be monitored.

The FIA described how the test will work:

There will be a speed limit test at the end of P1 and P2. The procedure will be as follows:

i) All cars on the track when either of these sessions finish may complete a further two laps and cross the line on the track for a second and a third time.

ii) As soon as the last car on track has taken the chequered flag for the first time two consecutive double yellow sectors will be activated. A few seconds later these light panels will change and show ’80’ with a flashing yellow border. The panel at the start of the sector prior to the first “80” will show a warning sign (red triangle) which is to alert drivers to the fact that at the next panel they will have to adhere to an 80km/h speed limit.

iii) The average speed of each car in the double yellow sectors will be monitored by calculating the time each car takes to cover the known distance between panels. The average speed of all cars through these sectors should not exceed 80km/h. If a driver is in either sector when it goes double yellow the speed will not be monitored.

iv) Once every car has been through the double yellow sectors the track status will revert to ‘Clear’ and the three panels concerned will show green for approximately 10 seconds.

The FIA has evaluated potential new means of slowing cars when incidents occur on the track following Jules Bianchi’s crash in the Japanese Grand Prix. A previous test of a ‘Virtual Safety Car’, where drivers had to reduce their speed to stay above a target minimum lap time, drew some criticism from drivers.

The use of 60kph ‘slow zones’ was successfully introduced at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours:

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    Keith Collantine
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    14 comments on “Drivers to test new 80kph ‘slow zones’ during practice”

    1. FlyingLobster27
      20th November 2014, 9:43

      My feeling is that F1 didn’t need Slow Zones. While these are undeniably an interesting innovation for the Le Mans 24 Hours because the track is unusually long (13.6 km, three times your average F1 track), Safety Cars in F1 allowed the race to reboot with a rolling start, and tinkered with teams’ strategies. But of course, next year, SCs will imply a ludicrously unfair and heavy standing start procedure, so yeah, in that light, I’d say F1 is in desperate need for Slow Zones… for the wrong reasons.

    2. I think this would be the best solution. The start of the sectors has to be chosen carefully not to cause potencial source of further accidents but this doesn’t sound difficult to achieve.

      1. @f1mre, I agree; best solution so far.
        Simple and effective! Only an automated speed/hp limiter is missing.

        I am not too worried about possible accidents at the start of the zone. How often have we seen cars piling up at the pit lane entry line?
        And I would start any zone (if possible) at at a turn when cars have to break (hard) anyway.

        1. @coldfly an automatic speed limiter is simply a bad idea. Suddenly taking control away from the drivers in a safety-related situation is both dangerous and inane, moreso when it’s raining. Look up “throttle off oversteer”

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            20th November 2014, 16:11

            @satchelcharge – The solution seems relativly obvious to me. The drivers say that their attention is spent looking at the delta time on the dash… Why not make it a sound instead? If you go above the speed, it starts beeping until you slow down and get back under the delta time. Their eyes would therefore be on the road ahead and not on their dash but they are free to control their speed.

            I was all for speed limiters but the more I think about it, the more problems it throws up!

        2. By carefully I mean not in the middle of a long straight, not metres after a blind corner, not in the middle of a quick corner.

    3. i think the question we should be asking is why this hasn’t been considered before if it was shown to be effective in le mans. i know they are not totally comparable styles of racing, but a good idea is a good idea. F1 seems to be awash with reactive thinking in the last few years.

      1. It was only introduced at this years Le Mans. However after seeing how effective it was F1 should have immediately started to trial it. I completely agree that F1 is reactive rather than proactive sometimes.

        Lets hope that they implement this system for the start of 2015

        1. Should be noted that even the WEC haven’t been using the slow zones everywhere this year, They ran them at Le Mans but didn’t use them again until the past month.

    4. I prefer this – the way F1 did the Virtual Safety Car seemed overcomplicated.
      But I think F1 should have a full-course yellow option too so it’s fairer to the whole field, if it’s a brief yellow-flag like a marshal running on to pick up some debris. The Bahrain WEC race had a couple of FCYs, everyone slowed down briefly and gaps were maintained, and it worked a treat.

      1. Full course yellow is bad for the show. Why neutralize the whole track when you have the chance to do the same in just one small sector?

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          20th November 2014, 16:08

          Sure but it would be bad for the show if the leader passed the zone and then the yellows came out which left them half a lap ahead of everyone else…

          If you don’t slow everyone, whoever gets caught has their race ruined if the incident is cleared quickly which would be even worse for the show…

      2. Problem with a full course yellow is it does not solve the issue that this has been brought in for. Racing drivers are tuned to push to the limit in all situations to minimize time loss. In a standard yellow flag situation. This means that you get (as has happened in the past) some drivers just shoving their arm up as if to say “I’ve seen it” and carry on their merry way. The speed limit gives a quantifiable limit to the rivers. They will still ensure that throughout the whole Slow Zone, they will be bang on 80kph. Never 79, because that is not in their nature. The number at least gives them a maximum ceiling. The VSC seemed a bit crazy, as they had no set figure to aim for, but a moving target. This is probably why the drivers weren’t fans at the end of the day, because they are being limited but they don’t necessarily know exactly by how much. Slow zones (or even the use of a full course slow zone if they wanted to go for fairness and nobody being disadvantged) is the better option out of the two.

    5. Why not keep it very simple, after an incident show a red triangle on the relevant light panel, then on the next panel a Yellow so that drivers immediately go onto the Pit-limiter and keep on it for the whole circuit until the incident is over and a green is shown again. Nice and simple, gaps to other competitors stay the same and no one benefits from the incident (Crashgate).

      Pit lane should also be closed to avoid any competitor gaining a free pitstop/tyre change from the misfortune of others.

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