Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2016

Virtual Safety Car blamed for US GP anti-climax

2016 United States Grand Prix Rate the Race result

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This year’s United States Grand Prix didn’t reach the heights of last year’s intense wet-dry contest.

The untimely intervention of the Virtual Safety Car left many wondering what might have been. In particular the prospect of an on-track battle for second position between Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo vanished when the VSC appeared.

The upshot was an average rating of a little over six out of ten, the second-lowest for a race at the Circuit of the Americas. Here’s what you had to say about last weekend’s race.

With a good start by Hamilton there was never going to be a battle for the lead but at least a battle for second was expected. Well, Verstappen and the VSC ruined it.

Rosberg started well but then I didn’t understand his move to the outside. If he was trying an outside pass on Hamilton, it was way too optimistic. He conceded the inside to Ricciardo who got past. Had he kept the inside line, Ricciardo would have never passed him there. Not that it mattered much in the end, anyway.

Great moves from Perez, great drive from Sainz, and very entertaining aggressive moves by Alonso. The track limits should have been enforced, but they weren’t at all so why not take advantage of it?
Hyoko

Nice overtaking by Verstappen. Overtaking Button in the double-S was just superb. Perfect braking in the corner when overtaking Raikkonen.

But then it was a little bit boring. Alonso spiced it up by overtaking Massa and Sainz with commitment. Loved the enjoyment with the last overtake.

Hamilton very controlled and deserved the win.
@Ruben

The loss of two of the front-running cars presented opportunities for the midfielders but some were unhappy to see them drop out:

Fell flat after the loss or Verstappen and Raikkonen, like a sandwich that had lost a lot of its filling, and the loss of the Ricciardo-Rosberg battle that was also bubbling up but was neutralised by the VSC. It had the intriguing build up without the climax.

It pains me to give an average score at one of my favourite tracks (the best modern track in my opinion), but some of the DNFs just spoiled the overall event for me.

Great that we had some great battles in the lower midfield, Alonso taking advantage of the great design of the end of the track, where you can take multiple racing lines to position for an overtake
@3dom

Is there an obvious fix for this Virtual Safety Car problem?

The VSC ruined the race. There needs to be a change to the rules which closes the pits while under the VSC to avoid the ten-plus second gain made by those who pit.
@Homerlovesbeer

The Circuit of the Americas has plenty of corners for drivers to get their teeth into but some found they didnt get a strong impression of speed:

When I started watching in 1998 points were awarded to the first six places, so most of the coverage was focused on those first six drivers. The broadcast had less to focus on but they made the coverage exciting by following cars around the track, with filming that conveyed the high-speed the cars carry.

Also many battles were fought in the pits especially during the refuelling era, so broadcast conveyed the excitement with frequent time splits etc. Footage from old days also looks exciting because of the sound. Nowadays the filming makes the cars look slow, they hardly follow drivers around the lap, and although more drivers are fighting for points, the battles seem less exciting.

I think the sport can do much better to convey excitement and speed by improving the way they film and broadcast the race.
@Oni

America’s F1 broadcaster seemed to find another way of broadcasting speed and excitement, according to @Gweilo8888:

For an indication of how boring this race was, note that in the host country NBC ditched almost the entire last hour of their scheduled coverage with barely any post-race wrapup at all, so they could instead show a NASCAR race which was already live (and remained so) on NBC Sports.

Dishwater drivel like this race is not going to popularise F1 in the US market. When your own broadcasters feel they’re better off showing an alternate program on two of their channels simultaneously instead of letting anyone see what you have to offer, you have a major problem with your product.
@Gweilo8888

2016 Rate the Race Results

RaceAverage score
2016 Spanish Grand Prix8.706
2016 Austrian Grand Prix8.097
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix8.013
2016 Chinese Grand Prix7.853
2016 Australian Grand Prix7.757
2016 Monaco Grand Prix7.747
2016 Bahrain Grand Prix7.382
2016 Belgian Grand Prix7.249
2016 Singapore Grand Prix7.112
2016 Japanese Grand Prix6.979
2016 Canadian Grand Prix6.583
2016 British Grand Prix6.478
2016 United States Grand Prix6.044
2016 German Grand Prix5.814
2016 Russian Grand Prix5.396
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix5.052
2016 Italian Grand Prix4.944
2016 European Grand Prix4.728

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2016 United States Grand Prix

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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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24 comments on “Virtual Safety Car blamed for US GP anti-climax”

  1. The VSC ruined the race. There needs to be a change to the rules which closes the pits while under the VSC to avoid the ten-plus second gain made by those who pit.

    @Homerlovesbeer, that’s obviously not going to work, since the tires _will_ die if it’s their time to go, even under VSC.

    However, adding a stop&go of approximate the time saved for those going in would maybe make sense.

    OTOH, then you could also argue for doing that with the regular SC, and we’d some quite some races being spiced up from that… Something the VSC could also do if things fell together right.

    I’m not sure I really mind one way or the other, except for completely blocking the pits, that could be dangerous.

    1. In a GP2 feature race, Sirotkin made his one compulsory pit stop under a VSC and was clearly looking for the time advantage it gave. He was then made to make another stop by the stewards once the VSC ended.

      He still won the race as he had the pace while the stewards enforced fair racing :)

    2. The thing is, in this particular case the VSC prevented a battle, but I’m sure there are occasions where some drivers pitting could potentially have the opposite effect.

      1. @strontium That’s what happened with Massa/Sainz/Alonso. Without the VSC Massa would be 10s ahead of Sainz and so there would be no battle there.

  2. Wow those last couple regarding the coverage in America. I did not think it was such a dire situation with F1 and US. I know F1 isn’t on the top of the favourite sports list but not this bad. COTA makes you feel like there is a lot of support there when it’s just media propaganda. Ted Kravitz pointed out that ALOT of the spectators were there because this was the only show Taylor Swift was playing in US this year.

    The big heads talk about how they want to expand into the US market, i agree with that, but it looks like they need to begin growing the interest small rather than throwing races at them with probably a high cost associated with that.

    Are the other motorsports getting as much concern as F1?

    1. The Taylor Swift bit is so overplayed at this point. There were plenty of tickets bought just for that show, but so very few of those people who came just for the show were there Sunday for the race or even for qualifying earlier in the day before her show on Saturday.

      I also don’t have nearly the problems with the broadcasts here in the States as everyone else seems to, so maybe I’m the exception. It’s not a mainstream sport by any means, but it’s certainly not in dire straits as compared to previous levels of popularity; i’d argue it’s as relevant as it’s been in the 15 years I’ve been following the sport religiously.

  3. WeatherManNX01
    27th October 2016, 16:31

    I agree that something needs to be done about pit stops under the VSC. If the VSC is to maintain the gap between the cars, it defeats that purpose to allow pit stops to alter that gap.

    Rosberg was always going to overtake Ricciardo, simply because he was faster. But for a series that tries to hype overtakes, getting an advantage by pitting under the VSC is just as dull as getting an advantage with DRS.

    1. The problem with trying to “readjust” times for people pitting is that when we have a full safety car there are always those who are at a point on the track that is closer to the pit lane who can get in at full speed before being picked up by the SC. So what are we going to do in this situation state that the whole field has to line up behind the SC before any pit stops are allowed? Its pure luck if you are at the right point on the track or not to get an advantage. Its not like we are seeing SC after SC that have been modified like “Renault style in Singapore” week in and week out. The SC is a variable that all the teams have to deal with. The teams are able to work out even in the event of not having an SC how to get a car out into clean air while going at full pace. Then we get to the murky business of what to do about people who pit before a SC comes out and gain shed loads of places, doesn’t this ruin a race?

      What actually should be said is that if there is a need for a VSC then it needs to be ONLY for the sector of the track where the situation calls for it and not the whole lap, this will reduce the issues. The VSC is designed to stop closing the whole field up but if its there to cover an incident that are not so serious as needing a full SC do we really need the VSC?

      1. Closing the pits until everyone is picked up by the SC is exactly what they do in indycar and nascar and it seems to work well there. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad in F1.

  4. I had a random idea – get rid of VSC, and add another flag. Have yellow flags mean that there is an incident, you can’t overtake, and you have to clearly lift off, like lose 5 tenths or a second or something in that corner, or you’ll get a 5 second penalty from the stewards. That will ensure the drivers are careful through that section, so they don’t crash into the parked car
    Then the other flag is, for example, pink, and could be used when someone goes off the track, but has just gone wide or something and will be rejoining, or if they have a puncture or whatever, which would mean you don’t have to lift off so much, but you still can’t overtake. It would negate the whole pit stop problem, and let you go full speed round the rest of the track. This would also give a better idea of the kind of incident that is happening, and I don’t think it would be too complicated to learn.

    The only other idea is to close the pitlane under VSC, yes tyres go, but they hardly degrade at that speed, and you can’t overtake under VSC, so if they’re completely gone, you can just come in after the VSC ends and that’ll be fine, and you won’t have lost any time, as you’ll still be able to match the delta.

    1. @hugh11 I don’t think scrapping the VSC is the answer. The safety car was a complete mess the first few times that was used in F1. But instead of scrapping a good concept, they worked on it and now where would we be without it?

      Yes, the VSC needs work, and I believe closing the pit lane during the race (as we have seen in GP2) may be an obvious solution. However I still believe we should implement the FCY system used by Formula E and WEC instead of a delta time system as well.

  5. “Virtual Safety Car ended a crucial fight for second place”… that means twisting reality: fight was also open for win as Rosberg had medium tires and was trying to let them last til 40-45th lap for then mounting soft or super-soft.
    Every place was stil undetermined, expecially if Charlie had opeted for normal Safety Car, as he always do when Hamilton need to gain positions….
    This website (like many others) shoul be more impartial.

  6. I wonder why it is that as the year progresses the races decline in popularity. I find that really strange. There isn’t a single race that was more popular than the one before. It’s almost as though someone has made a mistake with their spreadsheet, but of course I’m doubt that is the case. My guess is the last race will be rated at about 2.5.

    1. Doh! I read it completely wrong! It is sorted in order of popularity!

      1. @drycrust It was a good effort, though! :-)

  7. The VSC is BORING, DULL, And a Waste of Time…as a view I would much rather see a couple of laps where the Safety Car Comes out, bunches them all together and all the cars can have a right scrap to the finish, over this rubbish, which LITERALLY Neutralises the race…there is nothing interesting WHAT SO EVER about watching the cars go round at 30 mph for us to know when the green flag shows, they all pretty much maintain gap…I really do not understand everyone else who seems to like this system. Yes the real Safety Car has its problems, notably the time taken…but the VSC is SO dull. If I am honest I prefer the inequalities of the VSC under GP2 which is done on speed limit rather than time, thus the gaps do change depending on where you are on the circuit and when the Green flag comes out…basically I am a viewer that likes watching a spectacle over boring processions.

  8. Virtual or real safety car is a necessity, tyres that wear out during a race are not. Once again we get a glaring example of how these artificially wear-prone tyres are detrimental to the racing and the show.
    One point about the VSC though, Why is the VSC speed limit imposed on the total length of the track instead of only in the sector(s) where there is danger to drivers and track workers?

    1. Why is the VSC speed limit imposed on the total length of the track instead of only in the sector(s) where there is danger to drivers and track workers?

      Then it would be just yellow flags on a specific sector (which we already have).
      I really don’t like the VSC rule, the way it is, in general. One idea that popped to my mind just now is that when there is serious trouble on a specific area of the track (e.g. Suttil’s crash, Suzuka 2014 ==> Bianchi’s accident), there is something smarter like yellow-black flags (shown on drivers’ dashboard, with mandatory speed limit for this specific area) or an automatic accident-limiter (similar to pit limiter but controlled and imposed by Charlie Whiting when and where needed). Both solutions are quite possible nowadays. VSC, the way it is, must go away.

  9. The best moment of the race (Alonso overtakes) was only possible because of the VSC. Otherwise Massa would be seconds ahead. So it’s a bit weird to say that this is the best moment and at the same time say that VSC ruined the race.

    1. We missed the giant battle between Rosberg and Ricciardo because of the VSC.

      Al we got back was Fernando playing bumper car.

  10. What’s with all this talk of the VSC ruining the race? The normal safety car has been doing the exact same to all racing series since its inception.

  11. close the pits during a VSC, open them back up after, simple, end of story.

  12. What about a second, lower, setting for the pit speed limiter only to be used during safety car and VSC?

    It is usually quite busy in the pit when a (V)SC erupts.
    Lowering the speed limit should help; both by reducing the risk itself and by making it less attractive to pit at that time, so less traffic.

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