Safety Car starts not abolished in 2017 rules

2017 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Rolling starts behind the Safety Car will remain possible in 2017 despite new rules to increase the use of standing starts in wet conditions being introduced.

New regulations have been drawn up for next year following criticism of the use of the Safety Car to start the Monaco and British Grands Prix this year, which were affected by rain.

Under the new rules, published today, races may begin with a Safety Car period which is followed by a standing start. However if the race is suspended during that period a rolling start behind the Safety Car will be used to resume the race.

Laps spent behind the Safety Car at the start of the race will count towards the overall race distance except for the initial formation lap.

When a race begins with formation laps behind the Safety Car any drivers who are due to start from the pit lane will be allowed to join the field for the formation laps but must return to the pits for the start when the Safety Car does. At this time all other drivers must start the race from the grid and will receive a penalty of they follow the Safety Car into the pits.

New sporting regulations on standings starts for 2017

If the formation lap is started behind the Safety Car (see Article 39.16) the number of race laps will be reduced by the number of laps carried out by the Safety Car minus one.
5.3 (c)

Each lap completed while the Safety Car is deployed will be counted as a race lap, except the first lap when the procedure set out in 39.16 is followed (see also Article 5.3).

If track conditions are considered unsuitable to start the race at the scheduled time the start of the formation lap will take place behind the Safety Car. If this is the case, at the ten minute signal its orange lights will be illuminated, this being the signal to the drivers that the formation lap will be started behind the Safety Car. At the same time this will be confirmed to all teams via the official messaging system.

When the green lights are illuminated the Safety Car will leave the grid and all drivers must follow in grid order, no more than ten car lengths apart, and must respect the pit lane speed limit until they pass pole position. The Safety Car will continue until conditions are considered suitable for racing.

Any cars that were starting the race from the pit lane may join the formation lap once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane for the first time. Any such cars may complete all formation laps but must enter the pit lane after the Safety Car returns to the pits and start the race from the end of the pit lane as specified in Article 36.2. A penalty under Article 38.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who enters the pit lane under these circumstances and whose tyre(s) are changed before leaving the pit lane.
Overtaking during the lap(s) behind the Safety Car is only permitted under the following circumstances:

a) If a car is delayed when leaving the grid and cars behind cannot avoid passing it without unduly delaying the remainder of the field, or
b) If there is more than one car starting from the pit lane and one of them is unduly delayed.

In either case drivers may only overtake to re-establish the original starting order or the order the cars at the pit exit were in when the formation lap was started.

Any driver delayed in either way, and who is unable to re-establish the original starting order before he reaches the first Safety Car line on the lap the Safety Car returns to the pits, must enter the pit lane and may only join the race once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane after the start of the race.

A penalty under Article 38.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who fails to enter the pit lane if he has not re-established the original starting order before he reaches the first Safety Car line.

With the exception of those cars required to start from the pit exit, once the Safety Car has entered the pit lane all cars must return to the grid, take up their grid positions and follow the procedures set out in Article 36.9 to 36.13. A penalty under Article 38.3(d) will be imposed on any driver who enters the pit lane at this time.

However, if the race is suspended before the Safety Car is called in, the procedures described in Articles 41 and 42 will be followed and there will be no standing start

2017 F1 season

Browse all 2017 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

14 comments on “Safety Car starts not abolished in 2017 rules”

  1. Alright, thats OK.

    I am sick to death of the Virtual Safety Car…Gone of the days when I car stopped out on track and the safety car came out and mixed everything up…now, yes, the virtual safety car lasts for around 2 laps as opposed to the 5 laps, but rather than having 5 laps to anticipate a mammoth 20 car restart all in close proximity, instead we wait for the very artificial restart of the Virtual Safety with very boring consequences.

    1. By respecting the gaps between cars, the VSC – quite fairly – rewards the drivers/teams who’ve built up gaps.

      While an SC rolling restart was exciting, the arbitrary bunching up of the pack led to unfair advantages for some cars. While that is exciting, it is random.

      If shaking things up was the order of the day, then we should pursue some of the whackier ideas that Bernie has considered, like sprinklers, or even do away with qualifying and instead use a random grid – just to shake things up.

      I’m not saying your viewpoint is wrong, just that’s its one of many different viewpoints on the topic.

      1. I love the VSC, even though it still has quite a few imperfections. In my opinion, the Safety Car with its unholy habit of distorting races randomly ought to be a thing of the past. It’s useful when the conditions are really unsafe, for instance in torrential rain, or when the drivers need a few reconnaissance laps in wet conditions before making a standing start.
        For everything else, the VSC, hopefully in connection with WEC-style slow zones, does the job perfectly.

        The aspects that do need to be looked at are:
        – the sudden deceleration (maybe a new procedure in which drivers have to accept the VSC message on their steering wheel, thus triggering a flashing light that warns other cars, before they are allowed to slow down after a few seconds)
        – the time loss or gain depending on where on the track a driver is released from the VSC (if you’re released near the end of a long straight, you’re going to lose up to several seconds compared to someone who can accelerate down the entire length of the straight – that might be solvable with refined software that takes the cars’ positions on the track into account, delaying the release of some cars slightly to avoid disadvantaging other drivers)
        – “staying positive” – driving several seconds slower than allowed under the VSC in order to be able to accelerate earlier and more aggressively when the VSC ends (could be discouraged by recalculating a driver’s allowed time if he’s driving too slowly, as well as allowing cars that are being held up to overtake under the VSC)
        – pit stops (reduce the advantage of pitting under the VSC by issuing an automatic 5 second penalty before the mechanics may work on the car if the car enters the pits during a VSC)

      2. But I don’t like drivers/teams to built up gaps in the first place I prefer close racing. Therefore I can understand Jacks problem with the VSC as a lacking element of the unknown development of a race i.e. classic safety cars.

        1. The purpose of a physical/virtual safety car is to neutralize the race. Bunching up the field is a side-effect of the SC, not its primary purpose.

          What would we do in a race like Suzuka, where there were no incidents necessitating an SC/VSC, and gaps were so large that cars were being lapped? We can’t just send the car out to bring the field together :-)

          I get your concern about close racing, and fans have been mentioning the need to de-emphasize aero grip and increase mechanical grip to achieve closer racing. I’d say that is a more focused solution to the problem, rather than relying on the SC to achieve this. Else, switch the format of the race to a few sprint races instead of one 300-km long race.

    2. The safety car’s job is no to mix things up. Look elsewhere for finding a solution to the problem.

      1. @john-h
        Total agreement. In fact, that’s one of my pet peeves in US racing, with their countless interruptions that all too often alter the outcome of the races based on sheer luck. I want F1 to steer clear of anything like that. There’ve been a few steps in the right direction, but more remains to be done to remove this kind of artificial entertainment from the sport.

  2. I reckon Pirelli and Mercedes were on the blower to Whiting last night telling him next year’s rain tyres are a no go….

  3. In fact, I never minded starts behind a safety car when it was very wet. Of course, the excitement of the start is not there, but in some cases, the conditions are simply not suitable for a normal start.

    What I did mind a lot is that in the last five years, whenever the race started behind the safety car, the safety car staid out far too long. This is obvious as in many races, cars switched to intermediate tyres only a single lap after the safety car was back in the pits.

    1. @mike-dee Could you explain “conditions are simply not suitable for a normal start”? A few points:
      – The drivers do not know, or the car design does not allow, how to let the clutch in. The drivers are mostly among the very best in the world (a few “above average with a lot of money”) and the FIA claims a certain amount of “road-car relevance”, so this shouldn’t apply.
      – The Pirelli wet/intermediate tyres do not allow a standing start. Pirelli already have a problem, and widening the tyres next year is going to increase the requirement for water evacuation to avoid aquaplaning, but this is not a low speed problem.
      – The starting grid has fixed spacing between slots (and a green flag to say that all drivers are wide awake and ready), but behind a “safety car” the drivers can bunch up as closely as they want, randomly as far as track position, and sometimes speed, are concerned; this might suggest that a grid start could be less chaotic for safety purposes.
      It might not be a majority view here that only sideways, screeching, unpredictable-offs, bare-tooth motor racing is why I have watched F1 for sixty-six years (on track, then TV); it’s also politically dubious to say that total “safety-pampering” is required, and I’ll get flamed if I say that soccer deaths are far higher than in F1.
      But F1 is now totally over-regulated, competitiveness is dumbed down, TV commentators can’t explain the rules unless they have a law degree, management of tyres and fuel are overwhelmingly predominant, audiences are in general being turned off and my hard-core love of F1 is seriously challenged.
      So what is “suitable” and what is a “normal start”?

      1. @paul-a, I cannot help but feel that you are setting up that question in a way such that there will be no answer that will be able to satisfy you.

  4. Jonathan Parkin
    15th October 2016, 13:45

    I’m sorry but this procedure is way too complicated for me to follow in a single reading so heaven help the commentators who have to explain it to viewers. The simple solution would be to either a) abolish it completely or b) use it only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ i.e. When it rains heavily shortly before the race start just like Belgium 97 and Silverstone this year. To reduce the need for it they need to end parc ferme rules, bring back morning warm-up and allow the teams to fully change their cars to a full wet set-up

    1. Jonathan Parkin, most teams have said that there actually isn’t that much of a difference between the set up for dry and wet conditions. They might make a few minor suspension changes (mainly adjusting the heave spring stiffness), but now that the teams have designed the cars taking into account the greater limitations that they have on setting up the cars, there isn’t that much of a difference any more between the two settings.

Comments are closed.