Safety Car, Baku, 2018

Whiting against F1 drivers’ calls for faster Safety Car

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting says he isn’t convinced by F1 drivers’ requests to make the Safety Car faster.

The new Safety Car introduced this year is the most powerful ever used in F1. But Whiting said “it’s a continuous request from drivers to make the Safety Car faster – not just to be driven faster but to make it a faster car.”

The Mercedes AMG GT R which is being used this year produces 585bhp. “Every year we try and make it a little bit faster but how fast do you want to go?” said Whiting. “The thing’s there to slow them down.

“They all complain about cold tyres and cold brakes but it is the same for everybody and they just have to drive accordingly afterwards if they’ve got less grip then they have to drive a little slower until they get more grip.

“I know it’s probably not very pleasant for drivers to have to deal with that but it’s meant to slow them down and control the cars. [This] is why we use the Safety Car, for example, past the marshals when they were recovering Grosjean’s car. We couldn’t rely upon the drivers to go that slowly past that incident, that’s what the Safety Car’s there for.”

Whiting added he didn’t receive any complaints from drivers during Sunday’s race about the speed the Safety Car was being driven at.

The Safety Car has been used in three of the four races so far this year. Whiting responded to criticism of its deployment at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, saying it was not kept out for any longer than was necessary.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in pictures
“I don’t think there was anything wrong with the length of time the Safety Car was out, personally. It was brought in as soon as it could be brought in.

“We were un-lapping the car which is a requirement. At that point [Romain] Grosjean had his accident so we left the Safety Car out for a bit longer. It took a little while to clear the car up because it was a very difficult place to recover a car from.

“I don’t think it could have been any shorter under those circumstances. When the Safety Car restarted we were pretty confident everything was clear on the track. So I’m perfectly at ease with the decisions that were made around that Safety Car intervention.”

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  • 32 comments on “Whiting against F1 drivers’ calls for faster Safety Car”

    1. I understand the basic need for a safety car and the principle of slowing the field down. What I don’t understand is the rule that allows the lapped cars to make up the lost ground just like that. In Baku 2017 this helped Bottas to finish 2nd, eventhough he had no real business to be anywhere near the podium after losing a lap earlier in the race…before the safety car deployment.

      1. @gpfacts What’s wrong with that rule? I don’t see any problem with it; in fact, it’s better the let the lapped-drivers un-lap themselves so that they aren’t in between the leading drivers at the re-start.

        1. Hmmm…so what would be wrong with lapped cars being mixed among the leaders, if that is their real on track position? Cars are being lapped all the time during any race and that’s that…nobody should get an entire lap back for free.

          1. Well, otherwise the restart would happen and 2 or 3 cars would be going slowly along the side of the track letting everyone through because they’ve been lapped, then in Bottas’ case where he was much faster than the people who hadn’t been lapped, he’d have then had to unlap himself then and get involved in the battles right after the safety car and it’s just much easier and safer if anything to let the cars unlap themselves, than cause even more chaos. Think back to Ricciardo’s triple overtake last year, now imagine 2 lapped cars going slowly alongside that 3 wide moment. Just not a good idea.

            1. So the poor drivers, who are being paid millions for being the best in the world cannot be inconvenienced by things like dealing with slower traffic and having to unlap themselves on their own. I agree with @valkrider that VSC is a better option, but does it really work and could the drivers be trusted to play it fair? I remember at least one instance where Rosberg gained some 3 seconds on Hamilton in a matter of two laps during the VSC…not sure which race it was. Anyway, I just personally don’t agree with this unlap rule, yet have a suspicion that the FIA does not care about what I think and the rule is here to stay.

          2. When you have slow lapped cars between the leaders it essentially ruins the race for spectators. Sure it is annoying to wait for the lapped cars to go but the alternative is worse. If your top 3 is say hamilton, vettel and ricciardo and each with different tyres you know someone may try overtake when the safety car goes away. But if you have ericsson and stroll between each pair then you know there will not be any overtakes. On some tracks it is very horrible, on some tracks it is just bad.

            When there is a battle for the lead the lapped cars only get in the way and ruing a good fight. See massa last year in russia for example. The change happened for a good reason to let the lapped cars go before safety car ends. I’m not saying lapped cars are not part of racing. All I’m saying is the current system gets rid of them quite nicely and it is a good idea to remove the lapped cars from the grid before safety car ends.

            1. Invisiblekid
              4th May 2018, 17:38

              Why would there not be any overtakes. They’ve already been overtaken to be a lap down.

              …unless I’m missing missing in your post.

        2. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
          4th May 2018, 15:04

          @jerejj agreed, but wouldn’t it be faster to let the non-lapped car overtake the lapped ones? In this case, however, a lapped car would slip further back, dunno if it’s right.

          1. I like your proposal.

      2. @gpfacts The reason they move lapped cars out of the way is to prevent situations like we saw in the past where they were in the way of the faster cars on restarts & interfering in battles for position at the front.

        The reason they let them un-lap themselves rather than just moving them to the back is because it was felt that it would have been unfair if you had a close fight for position going on (Especially a points position) with the leader getting in-between them just as a SC comes out which would result in the car yet to be lapped getting essentially a lap advantage over the one he had been fighting with previously. By letting them all un-lap themselves nobody is disadvantaged in that way.

      3. Over the years (not just in F1), different safety car strategies have been tried, and it just comes down to the current one is the best overall. You are right that it does give some people an advantage, but it is still the best overall.

        At one time, the safety car would wait and pick up the leader. But if the leader happened to be between the 8th and 9th place cars, then 8 got to pick up the back, and 9 was stuck a lap down.

        They had a time when the safety car came out immediately, and stayed there. That split the field randomly, but then people were ‘racing the safety car’ to try to be sure they got to move around to the back. Not very safe…

        It has been tried to have the safety car come out immediately, then when the track is clear, let the drivers in front of the leader past the SC, while keeping the rest in line… but again, that breaks up mid-field battles. And also, when the race restarts, the backmarkers get in the way of the 2nd/3rd/etc place people trying to catch the leader.

        Nothing about any of these systems is perfect… but the current one is the fairest overall (IMO). And the VSC is a great addition to maintain the field if the danger is minimal.

      4. The other thing about letting lapped cars un-lap themselves is it avoids issues with blue flags right after the restart. Just imagine the radio cries from Hamilton and Vettel if they had to restart behind lapped cars!

      5. I don’t know why they don’t just tell every unlapped car to pass the lapped car in front until there are none left and everyone is in race order. Just needs a bit of coordination via the radio, but it could be started sooner in the SC period and would probably be a lot quicker.

        1. Or, for example, on the main straight, tell all lapped cars to pull to the left and slow down, and unlapped cars to proceed ahead on the right. Repeat procedure on next lap, if necessary, for any double lapped cars.

      6. I always saw it more from the lapped cars’ perspective and preventing the chance of those cars losing a whole lap:

        E.g. the first backmarker has just been lapped by the leader and the safety car comes out. He has to took up behind the leader while all his other on-track rivals can race around at a much higher pace to join the back of the pack. At the restart, the lapped car would have to let all the leaders through under blue flags. The net result is essentially a whole lap lost through bad timing on the safety car deployment.

    2. This car is wonderful though!

      1. @spoutnik Indeed! I saw the press and launch vehicle in Hell Green Magno paint at Goodwood last year, FIA should use that colour for the safety car rather than the dull silver!

    3. The problem I have with the safety car is that it closes the field up. A VSC is a far better concept in that it keeps the gaps the same and no one gains an advantage. It does make for exciting restarts but for someone who has spent say 50 laps eeking out a comfortable lead to be overtaken on the restart because of the safety car is just unfair imho. More use ought to be made of the VSC and less of the safety car.

      1. VSC gives advantages to those who didn’t pit yet as well!

      2. Remember that vsc doesn’t give the big track gaps necessary to clear debris or a blocked track. This seems to have eluded the tv pundits i heard from in china

    4. I think the issue is that Charlie is loosing touch with reality. Drivers are not requesting to go faster past the indicent places. Drivers are asking to drive faster through safe parts of the circuit to keep temperatures higher. What is wrong with that? Very legit request.

      We are seeing Charlie again and again playing safe and just doing his own way. He doesn’t care about entertainment, he doesn’t care if he calls the safety car 20 seconds later than he should have to disrupt the leaders, he doesn’t care if recovery of a car takes 3 or 5 laps, he doesn’t care if some pieces of carbon fibre are laying on the main straight. Nope. That is very unfortunate.

      1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
        4th May 2018, 15:25

        @justinas-m to be fair, not giving safety maximum priority when an incident occurs on track would be far worse. Of course he’s playing safe, that’s the right thing to do. Entertainment? Do you think that a faster SC would produce more entertainment? We would see the same situation we have now, with drivers trying to warm the tires up, but slightly faster. I was angry too when Vettel position was compromised, but I’m fairly sure race director’s eyes were on different problems in that moment. Yes, that recovery was long AF, I agree: but the piece on the main straight was caused by Gasly-Magnussen contact after the restart and wasn’t probably large enough to deserve another race interruption.

        Note that overall I share the same frustration I feel you have, but it’s probably better to prioritize things other than entertainment in those moments.

        1. Invisiblekid
          4th May 2018, 17:42

          If anything the not as fast as an F1 safety car makes it more entertaining. With nicely heated tyres and brakes, going into that first corner or two would be just like any other lap.

      2. As long as there is no risk of tire tire damage or car damage I think the speeds is fine. I agree that charlie is a bit out of touch but here I agree 100% with him:
        “They all complain about cold tyres and cold brakes but it is the same for everybody and they just have to drive accordingly afterwards if they’ve got less grip then they have to drive a little slower until they get more grip.”

        Essentially just deal with it and stop complaining. If the car drives little bit differently on colder tires, has little less grip or handles differently then the best drivers on earth should see that as a challenge where they need to be the best. Not something that needs fixing. The cars are already very easy to drive and full of electronics. Little bit of curve ball is nothing but a good thing.

        Of course if there is chance of tire damage or car damage it needs to be reviewed. But driving behind safety car is a normal requirement for a racing tire. If the car starts bottoming out because the tires lose pressure and ride height then it is worth looking at it but only if everybody has that problem. If only someone has that problem it is a car design issue for them.

        1. I don’t think Charlie has lost touch with reality but probably more in touch after the Jules Bianchi crash. They know drivers wont slow down unless you make them. He isn’t doing his own thing (I think there are around 20 people in race control with him) and he certainly knows about the entertainment factor.

          Many were calling for his head after Jules crash but a few years later its forgotten and “let them race!” – cant have both. As @socksolid said above, they are the best in the world and paid millions- just drive your car not so flat out for a lap or two guys.

    5. The bigger question is, why wasn’t the race red-flagged.

      1. Because it didn’t need to be.

        Red Flag is/should only used for serious accidents or when there is a lot of debris on the circuit which cannot be quickly or easily cleared away under the SC.

        In this case the debris from the Red Bull crash was easy to clean away quickly & there was no risk of cars having to drive through it as they could go through the pit lane. And while Grosjean’s car was a bit awkward it could be got to fairly easily, The car was not blocking the track & there wasn’t any debris on the track itself.

        1. i guess you didn’t see the very dense and massive recovery vehicle maneuvering while cars went by at the same speeds at which Grosjean had his moment.

    6. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      4th May 2018, 15:14

      The point should be to create a restart as safe as possible. Glazed brakes and cold tires can be dangerous, and Charlie can’t ask drivers to drive carefully (read: slow) because they will never do. Anyway, even with all the complaints in Baku I haven’t noticed anything particularly dangerous.
      Any road car in front of them would be too slow; of course, I’d love to see LaFerrari leading the group but it is true that it is a safety car, safety should be number one priority under its regime.

    7. The yellow should be also accented on the side trim, it is a safety car after all

    8. Pedro Andrade
      4th May 2018, 16:38

      Another alternative would be for the cars to maintain Virtual Safety Car speeds one lap after the Safety Car exits the track (or maybe a bit higher speeds). Maybe this way they could control better their tire and brake temperatures (safer for the actual re-start) while maintaining stable gaps.

    9. To be fair, it always seems to be the same few drivers that whine about the safety car speeds. That may just be because it only their radio conversations that we get to hear and everyone else is saying the same thing, but I get the impression that it generally only a few of them that make a big issue about it.

      Others it seems, actually do deal with it and drive accordingly.

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