Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Whiting explains decision to use Safety Car following Vettel criticism

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting defended the decision to use the Safety Car during the Chinese Grand Prix following criticism from Sebastian Vettel.

The Ferrari driver said the timing of the Safety Car deployment should have been arranged to ensure he and race leader Valtteri Bottas were not put at a disadvantage.

However Whiting said race control do not consider the potential impact of the Safety Car on a race when they choose to use it.

“If we decide to use the Safety Car it’s for safety reasons and I don’t look to see who’s going to be advantaged and disadvantaged,” he said.

Whiting also explained why there was a delay between the debris appearing on track and the Safety Car being used.

“We waited until there was a good gap in the traffic,” he said. “The debris was scattered over a large area and I wanted to wait until the Safety Car had got the cars behind it before I was prepared to send any marshals out.

“Even at Safety Car speeds I don’t think it’s safe for the marshals to come a long distance to get out there. So I wanted to make sure there was a sufficient gap to make sure they could do that, in the event they had to go out there once, clear it all up, get them back in again, wait for the whole train to go past and then go again.”

Vettel also said the Virtual Safety Car should have been used at first in order to limit the potential disadvantage to the leaders’ races. Whiting said he saw “no point” in doing this.

“It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this has all come into sharp focus,” he said. “We’ve had the VSC since 2015, we’ve had the Safety Car for 20 years. We know at every intervention there will be winners and losers. And if we have to sit there and work out who’s going to be advantaged and how we’re going to work it so that everybody has then we haven’t got time to do that and it’s not our job to do that.”

Using the VSC instead of the Safety Car would not give the marshals adequate cover, Whiting added.

“If you’ve got the marshals have come a long way, they’re just exposed out there. I know they’re doing 30% of a real lap but it’s still quite fast and I’m not sure you can totally trust drivers to do the right thing.”

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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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48 comments on “Whiting explains decision to use Safety Car following Vettel criticism”

  1. How would “The Finger” loved the VSC, wouldn’t he? It’s what bought him the victory in Melbourne, after all…

    1. Hamilton failed to build an gap with his speed advantage while in the lead in Melbourne. That’s why he lost.

      Build a gap and the VSC would have been a non issue. Would have had a comfortable victory.

      Lesson learned. Hamilton was too complacent with the lead.

      1. ihavenoideawhatimtalkinabout
        15th April 2018, 13:04

        if vettel would have just parked at the entrance to the pit the whole race he would have never been caught out………whose fault is that?

      2. The team were giving Hamilton a delta to drive to in Australia, and he did exactly what his engineer asked him to in the first stint, he didn’t fail to do anything! Mercedes messed up as was extensively covered after the race, I am surprised you missed that.

        1. @ju88sy he probably didn’t miss anything.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      15th April 2018, 17:35

      Of course, Carlos defended the safety car and of course, Max got a 10 second penalty after back to back incidents while he was right behind Lewis in DRS zone.

      1. Don’t know why but under the VSC Vettel always recovers time to the people in front. Plus, he raced like there is no tomorrow the length of the pitlane at full race speed, almost missing the required speed at pitlane start lane. That’s why I don’t like him, he’s an opportunistic spoiled crybaby under that cool and humble appearance.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          16th April 2018, 0:21

          Vettel makes it really hard for anyone nice to like him.

  2. Fair enough that safety is paramount, but this statement seems to be at slight cross purposes:

    “If we decide to use the Safety Car it’s for safety reasons and I don’t look to see who’s going to be advantaged and disadvantaged,” he said. […] “We waited until there was a good gap in the traffic,”

    Why wait for a gap to introduce the safety car? Just send it out right away if safety is paramount. And if you are going to wait, then isn’t a VSC a convenient way of slowing things down and freezing the gaps?

    I’m not sold on Vettel’s complaint, and I feel race control should have just let it slide, but Charlie just had to wade into this and give some muddled reasoning.

    1. @phylyp, I don’t think it is necessarily at cross purposes when you consider that Whiting has to balance the risks to the drivers against the risks to the marshals – people tend to focus on the drivers alone, but Whiting also has to take into account the welfare of the marshals who have to go out there to pick up that debris.

      In this situation, if the potential risks to the marshals were greater than they were for the drivers, I can understand why Whiting would have had a greater focus on their welfare and might have slightly delayed the introduction of the safety car if it was to their benefit.

      1. I’m not sure why Charlie or you are conflating deployment of the safety car with deployment of the marshals. They are two separate events. One can still get the SC out quickly/appropriately, and then wait to give the marshals the go-ahead only once the cars have all been collected to Charlie’s satisfaction.

        1. Charlie was asked one thing and answered another… Lost in translation a bit.

        2. Quite possible, Geomal.

      2. I could be mistaken, though, and maybe the rules state the marshals can head out once the SC is on track (though that doesn’t sound very safe to me!)

        1. ihavenoideawhatimtalkinabout
          15th April 2018, 13:06

          yeah im going to guess that charlie isn’t trying to sabotage merc and ferrari. im just saying. ive lived for a couple of years………

        2. I also wondered about that @phylyp – it would seem the marshals should always first make sure it is safe enough to go on track, really, and only then move (or let race control know they can’t yet).

    2. Why wait for a gap to introduce the safety car?

      It sounds like the gap he is talking about is for the marshalls not the safety car.

      “We waited until there was a good gap in the traffic,” he said. “The debris was scattered over a large area and I wanted to wait until the Safety Car had got the cars behind it before I was prepared to send any marshals out.”

    3. The most “concerning” remark by Mr Whiting in this article is: “… I’m not sure you can totally trust drivers to do the right thing.” It might be true (and I’m not going to get into that one), but it’s insulting to people he’s obliged to work with, it shows that he has lost the respect that surely he deserves from the drivers, it shows he believes that it’s not just Vettel who might bad-mouth him, and it goes totally contrary to his extraordinary decision to consciously delay the SC.
      I think I remember seeing a car (Toro Rosso?) driving over debris and pulverizing it *before* the SC was deployed. (Does anyone have a recording? Am I mistaken?)

      1. @paul-a, Whiting probably knows from experience that there are drivers who do not obey the flag rules – for example, Hakkinen used to say that, whenever he was a yellow flag, he’s wave to the marshal to acknowledge him, but would usually ignore it and just keep driving flat out through that section (and didn’t seem to particularly care what danger that might have posed to the marshals).

    4. Martin – Charlie did not wait for a gap in the traffic before deployiong the safety car. Please read the article again. Charlie waited for a gap in the traffic before deploying the marshalls – and had to deploy them twice to ensure the job was done.

      1. Martin – Charlie did not wait for a gap in the traffic before……

        I assume you meant to say Phylyp not Martin because that is exactly what I was saying.

    5. @phylyp I think the “gap” Charlie is referring to is the one created on track after the SC is deployed & the cars have bunched up behind it. The “gap” that he needs to explain is the two minutes between the crash & SC deployment. Calling it after the front runners had passed the pit lane appears suspicious.

  3. The Safety car needs to be deployed as required to ensure safety….simple really.

    1. Formula 1 should poach the Formula E race director. Yesterday they timed the VSC to not advertantly affect anyone paricular or deliberately shake up the race. Between incident and action they trust the drivers to respect the yellow flag zones.

  4. It’s silly for Vettel to even question it. It was obvious that marshals would have to come on to the track and clear the debris, which is very different from a car parked on the side of the road, that gets cleared by a crane.

    1. Vettel was not saying that the SC shouldn’t been deployed

      1. Oletros
        We know that. Put it this way. Would Vettel be complaining if deploying the safety car advantaged him? I doubt it.

  5. Vettel always ranting when he is not leading the grandprix and things not going his way. How he quickly forgets that he was a beneficiary of a well timed VSC in Melbourne when clearly Lewis was winning. I don’t see Lewis or Mercedes blaming Charlie.

    1. ….and whilst he admitted he was lucky in Melbourne, he never said a word about it being unfair to Hamilton and certainly did not suggest that the timing should have favoured the front runners. As some have said, Vettel is an immature, self obsessed, cry baby

  6. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    15th April 2018, 13:47

    I thought the marshals did a rather poor job at dealing with the debris. They did a very light job of it brushing some of it off the track but leaving some of it on the edge. And several pieces not even touched. And they all just ran back to the side of the track. You then saw on the coverage, Whiting didn’t look very impressed. I was guessing he was watching the same thing. And as soon as you saw that clip, they ran back out and finished their job. And they did this when cars were coming past so I don’t think they ran back to avoid doing it at this stage. They could have dealt with it far faster. And compared to what the marshals usually have, I have to say those brushes looked rather useless. They usually a much bigger and wider brush to get more of the job done faster! They usually do better than this.

    1. @thegianthogweed – unfortunately, that is something that is very circuit-dependent, isn’t it? The FIA and Charlie set some standards, but are probably unable to micro-manage it to their satisfaction.

      So you get some circuits with a rich motorsport heritage that have marshals on top of their game, some circuits in the Middle East (IIRC) that hire some European marshals to bolster their abilities, and other circuits with varying levels of competence.

      Of course, you also end up with cases like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6URo_2XMKHE

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        15th April 2018, 14:46

        I remember that race! Man that was a marshal that was trying too hard! But I still sometimes think the cars should go a bit slower than they do.

  7. Personally I’d rather see the end of the VSC entirely. The full safety car is a lot easier to understand and, yes, it makes for a more entertaining race. I am sure it is also safer, and that is the reason for these periods in the first place!

  8. Funny that after Melbourne the VSC was unfair to Hamilton and it should be lookes into it as it completely offer a victory to another driver. But there are no such claims this time around.

    Regardless the debris were on the appex, it was SC or punctures all around

  9. He should get used to it as I wouldn’t be surprised if Liberty took a page out of the IndyCar book and issued full course yellows/safety car for just about everything. Periodically closing up the field and throwing a wrench in strategies can add excitement to a processional race. Not that I’m for that sort of thing.

  10. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    15th April 2018, 17:33

    Sergio Marchionne has come out and stated that Carlos Bianchissimo’s bonus is in peril!

  11. How strange, this did not occur to Vettel in Australia when he gained a race winning advantge from the very same time of deployment issue. Hypocrite.

  12. «Champagne» Charlie is not young…

    He probably was napping…

  13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    15th April 2018, 19:46

    Truth be told, though, this is the 2nd race out of 3 where the Safety Car has affected the outcome and given the win to a different team. In Lewis’ case in Australia, he was practically a mile ahead.

    Now, had Lewis not forced Max to make an error, Max would have probably won this race. I wouldn’t expect Max to make the same error on Vetel without being on tilt after going off and seeing Daniel pass him – 3rd consecutive race with victory on the line where he messed up.

    Same outcome for Red Bull – not a great outcome for Daniel who desperately needed to assert himself on track – the safety car definitely did that!

    Anyway, 2 races out of 3 determined by Safety Car.

  14. I don’t accept Whiting’s explanation, he and the stewards were sleeping on the job, as shown by the fact it took nearly 2 laps to make the decision.
    If the SC had been declared immediately it could be seen there was carbon fiber across the track and it had caused this set of events for the leaders. It would have been acceptable, but after that amount of time, you have to be kidding.
    Time to thank him for all the good work he has done and show him the door.

  15. I’m not buying Charlie’s reasoning. These comments clearly contradict each other:
    “If we decide to use the Safety Car it’s for safety reasons”
    “We waited until there was a good gap in the traffic”

    He doesn’t explain the two minute delay between the crash & the safety car. If driver safety was diminished, that’s a long of time to make a decision.
    The quicker he called the SC the quicker they’d have bunched up to allow the marshals to clear the debris. It seems strange he waited until the first few cars had passed the pit entrance before doing so.

    1. I’ll be the first to don the tin foil hat…..Liberty made him wait to mix up the results.

  16. I don’t think the question for the delay of the safety car was why it took so long to get it cleaned up. The question was why a few laps before the safety car was called when it was obvious the debris wasn’t going to move after the initial incident. I wondered why they chose after the leaders went past turn 14 to call the safety car then and not before they hit the hairpin where the debris was. I wonder if they thought about shaking up the field a bit because it was a boring race until then. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’m glad it did shake things up for the fans.

  17. Does anyone know why we didnt have a standing restart following the safety car??

    I thought the rules had changed this year.. it would have been wild!

    1. The rules have been changed to allow standing starts after a race has been red-flagged (suspended), not after a regular Safety Car period (which was a proposal made a few years ago).

  18. I really love all the conspiracy talk. Whatever subject we are talking about people always seem to see it in some funny way against their favorite driver or team in some way.

    It makes me want to grap some popcorn and read it. It’s very amusing.

    Most of the times the answers from the people involved are probably right from their perspective. And I think it’s also the case here. Debris needs to be removed, SC decision is made and it’s deloyed in such way that the marshall’s safety is guaranteed best in the eyes of the people in charge.

  19. Pitting should be banned under the safety car, real or virtual, unless a car is on fire.

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