Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Vettel criticises Safety Car decision in Chinese GP

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel criticised the use of the Safety Car during the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver was running second behind Valtteri Bottas when the Safety Car was deployed due to debris. Both had already passed the pit lane entry when the Safety Car was deployed.

Vettel said race control should have timed its deployment in a way which did not put them at a disadvantage and should have used the Virtual Safety Car initially to ‘freeze’ the race.

“The timing of the Safety Car was bad for Valtteri and myself because we had no chance to react,” said Vettel.

“And the race wasn’t frozen either. Normally the race is frozen for one or two crossings of Safety Car line. But it wasn’t, the Safety Car was there straight away so basically we were taken out of the race and didn’t have the chance to [decide to] jump on fresh tyres or stay out.”

Vettel said he would have pitted for fresh tyres had the Safety Car been deployed before he reached the pit entry. He said the sport should have learned from past races where Safety Cars compromised the leaders’ races.

“I think after 2014 in Hungary we were in a similar situation where the leaders were disadvantaged because the Safety Car came once they came past the pit entry. I understand if something happens and you have to react straight away, that you can’t always respect where cars are relative two each other.

“But we had two laps of the debris on the track so why not call the Safety Car half a minute sooner and then everybody has a chance to decide whether they pit or not.”

However Vettel agreed it was correct to send the Safety Car on track.

“I don’t know the gaps but I think yes the Safety Car was justified because you have to give the marshals a one-and-a-half or two-minute window to clean the track. But in my point of view it’s not right to send it when you actively change the race.”

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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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26 comments on “Vettel criticises Safety Car decision in Chinese GP”

  1. I sort of see his point, but also I wonder how doable is it to be that half a minute faster to decide though – I presume they only just looked at it, and reached the decision. Wait another half a lap, might not be a safe idea either.

    1. Race control probably recognized the need only after Gasly (IIRC) ran over the debris the next time around, got himself a puncture, and spread the debris around the inside line of the corner as well.

      Wait another half a lap, might not be a safe idea either.

      In this incident, it wouldn’t have been that unsafe if they elected to wait, in my opinion, @bosyber . It wasn’t the case that there was a stricken car at risk of being hit, the only risk was a puncture.

      I’m not saying they should have waited, either, as that brings into play other questions as well. I think Vettel and others must just take it as a draw of the luck and go on.

    2. @bosyber

      I actually don’t see his point at all. The reason a safety car gets out on track is because safety is paramount in F1. There were marshals who were required to get out on the track to clear the debris as quickly as possible, so the last thing they need to look at is Vettel’s race position and release a safety car accordingly.

      I didn’t see Vettel whinging about the VSC timing in Australia when it worked perfectly in his favour, so maybe he should avoid keeping double standards. I found it foolish that Charlie Whiting even gave a reply to his ridiculous statement. It’s a luck of the draw. It’s racing. Just get on with it.

      1. Old Mate Mick
        15th April 2018, 13:40

        He said specifically that they usually use the vsc first to essentially freeze the race for a lap or two, before bringing the SC out if it’s needed. This time they went straight for the SC, despite leaving that debris on the track for two whole laps. Why did they wait until precisely when they did, and then skip the vsc completely? He makes a perfectly valid point here: That race control left the track live for two laps with that debris at turn 14, and then brought out the SC right as he and Bottas were going past the pit entry. Bringing out the vsc at that point, and the SC a lap or two later, as they usually do, would have avoided ruining the leaders’ races.

        1. The VSC wasn’t suitable for this instance. With the cars so spread out, slowing them down is fine for something on the side of the track, they needed to clear debris on and around the racing line. It was absolutely the right decision to go straight to SC, and even more so the right decision not to look or care where the leaders were.

          I wouldn’t want them to look where the leaders are anyway. Safety should precede that, and I like the variability it throws up.

      2. @todfod, partly what Old Mate Mick says, partly just ‘I can understand some frustration’ even if I don’t agree with the SC being delayed (or advanced, let alone brought out) to change its impact on the race, rather than the prime reasoning being the overwhelming safety need for it.

    3. @bosyber

      Wait another half a lap, might not be a safe idea either.

      VET’s idea is doing so by triggering the VSC though so I think there might be a point

      1. Whiting’s statement notwithstanding, at least @bosyber

        1. That is true @davidnotcoulthard, and I agree they have been using that to ‘calm the field’ before going to a real SC recently. Whiting said nothing that explains why that wasn’t possible here, apart from them knowing right away a SC would be needed, so perhaps previously they always thought they’d be able to get away with only a VSC (even though I think that doesn’t say much of their ability to read to circumstances).

  2. He does have a point. But on the other hand, since when does the position of the leaders determine when a safety car should be deployed. It is for the safety of everyone, so it shouldn’t matter.

    Maybe ask your team why they ruined your and your teammates race. Should have given Raikkonen fresh tyres during the Safety car. Should have given Vettel different tyres after the incident

  3. wow, that is so much nonsense. Safety car is about safety. Once you establish there is a hazardous situation on track you must deploy SC to neutralise the race, not start figuring out what will be fair, not that it can be fair for all really anyway…

  4. My reaction on seeing the carbon fiber spead across the track was “that’s going to be a safety car”

    Then when Cofty said “safety car deployed” I could see the first few cars already pat the pit entrance. And my second thought was “that’s #q6$* it up for the leaders”.
    And that’s exactly what happened.

  5. Bad luck on the timing but then got good timing with VSC in Australia. No argument.

  6. I’m guessing this is one of those ‘straight out of the car’ comments, blood still rushing, not thinking properly… he can’t seriously expect race control to sit there, waiting for the leader to be in a convenient place before throwing out the SC boards.

    It’s always been the case that the timing of SC deployments are dumb luck, and I’m sure he’s benefited from it in the past.

    1. It’s always been the case that the timing of SC deployments are dumb luck, and I’m sure he’s benefited from it in the past.

      +1 to this @neilosjames

    2. Old Mate Mick
      15th April 2018, 13:45

      I think his point is that these days they will use a vsc at first for debris, to neutralise the race, before deciding if a full sc is required. To be fair, they left that debris on a live track for 2 laps before doing anything about it, so I don’t buy that they acted as soon as they could have. I doubt there was any NASCAR-esque shenanigans going on, but race control certainly didn’t think at all before throwing a full sc, at a time when it was guaranteed to ruin the race of the leaders, who were fighting for the win at that point.

      1. The cars were spreaded, how VSC would work since the marshalls had to enter the track to remove the debris?
        Pure whine.
        In Australia it was perfect huh?

    3. @neilosjames Agreed. SC deployments doesn’t need to cater the needs of the favorites. It doesn’t need to be fair, it only need to neutralize the race as fast as possible.

      At first I don’t think a SC will be needed because I though the debris only on the outer part of the track, but from another camera angle, yeah, definitely a SC is a must.

    4. @neilosjames For context, it was a topic he returned to at least once without being prompted.

  7. Carbon fiber pieces on track—may caused tire damage—could be dangerous—Safety car out. Is there any problem? Vettel just returned to his whining mode…

  8. I agree with the SC call.

    However, it has to be said that Vettel was in the worst possible track position when the safety car was deployed. Having just passed the pit entry, he was in the place where safety car was able to come ahead of him when it was exiting the pits.

    Similar thing happened for Nico Rosberg in Hungarian GP 2014 after Ericsson had crashed.

    1. The SC giveth and it taketh away.

  9. Just Karma. Remember Australia? Stop having tantrums Seb.

  10. But no complaints in Australia…

  11. To all the safety conscious people here, I just want to remind that Safety-First-Charlie took 2 laps to understand that safety car was needed. So the point here is not if safety should be in front of racing or not, but the fact that safety was put in front of racing like 3 minutes late.

    I wouldn’t complain if a safety car deployment seconds after an incident cut the leaders in half; but this was not the case, they took way too much time to be a “safety first” decision and at that point, they could have waited 30 seconds to let the leaders pass the pit entrance. Or, again like Seb said, immediately deploy the VSC while overviewing the situation at that corner, than deploy the SC to let the marshals clean up.

    But we’re all joking here because 2 seconds after seeing the incident it was clear to everyone who watched more than 1 F1 race that a SC was needed to clean the track. Carbon fiber doesn’t evaporate.

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