Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Whiting not convinced by Vettel’s VSC complaint

2018 Spanish Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel describes F1’s implementation of its Virtual Safety Car rules as “poor” following the Spanish Grand Prix but FIA race director Charlie Whiting is not convinced the system needs to be changed.

Vettel narrowly lost a position to Max Verstappen when he made a pit stop during a VSC period. The Ferrari driver pointed out it’s possible to minimise the lap time lost under the VSC by driving unusual lines.

“The FIA’s supplying us with a system that makes us follow a delta time and everybody has to slow down,” he said. “But I think everybody’s aware that you can have a faster way to go under Virtual Safety Car than just follow the delta by saving distance.

“So I think we should have a system that hasn’t got this loop or this hole because it forces us to drive ridiculous lines around the track. Everybody’s doing it, I don’t think it’s a secret. Our sport should be in a better shape than supplying software that’s too poor and allows us to find some extra performance that way.”

The VSC works by setting all drivers the same target lap time, 30% slower than a typical lap, which they must not drive quicker than. “Drivers have to follow that lap and it’s measured every 50 metres of travel along the track,” explained Whiting. “It measures where it is relative to the reference lap and it’ll give you a plus or minus.”

“They are allowed to go negative [quicker], as long as they are positive once in each marshalling sector and at the Safety Car line,” Whiting added.

“[As] it’s measured every 50 metres then any advantage you can get from using a different line on the track is going to be absolutely minimal.

“I can sort of see what he’s saying but given that the racing line is the optimal one, normally the shortest distance, one would think it’s a little difficult.

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“If they have evidence of this we’ll obviously have a look at that and see if it can be manipulated. But from what we can see over the course of a lap and a half, or whatever it was, as long as they’re zero at the VSC ending point then I don’t think any advantage can be gained.”

Whiting said there is another area of the VSC rules which teams can exploit, which the FIA is working on a solution for.

“Where the advantage can be gained, as we’ve found out, is coming into the pits and going out. But everyone knows that, it’s now new. What we’re looking at now is to also use the SC1 line, SC2 line and the timing line as mini-sectors so as to minimise any advantage a driver might be able to get.”

Vettel also admitted he had lost time through his pit stop in the VSC period due to his own error on cold tyres.

“It’s my mistake, I came into the box a little bit hot and overshot the position and then the guys have to reshuffle and that cost us a bit of time. I had some traffic in the pit lane as well, I’m not sure, I need to have a look.”

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24 comments on “Whiting not convinced by Vettel’s VSC complaint”

  1. I didn’t hear him complaining when it worked out for him in Austraillia. Funny that.

    1. Those two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

      1. @Nase in what planet does the two things not have something to do with the other?

        1. @pking008
          Planet Earth, Solar System, Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way spiral galaxy, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster.
          I should’ve specified that right away, my mistake.

        2. I was under the impression that Vettel’s advantage in Australia was due to an error on Mercedes part in calculating Hamilton’s VSC strategy, not Vettel gaining time due to taking some strange line.

          1. @knewman
            Correct. I mean, Vettel was indeed taking some strange line, but so was everyone else. The mistake on Mercedes’ side consisted in an incorrect calculation of the VSC window, which is why they told Hamilton to take it easy before he was safe. Vettel then did what everyone else does when entering the pits under a (virtual) safety car: He tried to minimise the time needed to reach the first safety car line. And, due to Mercedes’ miscalculation that had an impact on the gap before the VSC was deployed, he stayed ahead.

  2. Lol, I get both sides.. Whiting is a technical person.. 1% is usually small enough not to count when doing some engineering equation.

    But in racing 1% is the difference between first and no points at all. So Vettel, the racing driver must care about every tiny margin that he can get.

    So this should be changed then, considering racers drive the cars not engineers.

  3. I’m confused. Is Vettel saying that, since the delta is based on the distance drawn over the midline of the track (?) that you can “beat” the delta by driving a shorter distance, e.g., driving the shortest distance? I suppose this could make up maybe a couple meters in a very long corner, maybe. Maybe the effect is cumulative based on how the deltas are checked, though I’m struggling with the head-math on this.

    1. Well I geuss they all have to drive a certain why to ensure they are not going too slowly when it goes green otherwise they could be passed straight away or lose a load of time. It probably lead to Verstappen hitting the back of Sirotkin and Alonso overtaking Leclerc. If it goes green in a long corner you want to be able to accelerate out fast so you take a different line (exagerating the slow in, fast out, and if you are on a straight you dont want to be a sitting duck to a faster car behind but you don’t want to to reach the split / marshalling point ahead of schedule.

    2. Yeah, I can’t see how saving distance helps much when the delta is time-based. That having been said, it’s definitely true that drivers seem to drive at differing speeds on the same part of the track during VSC, I’ve noticed it often and wondered how. Let’s face it, if there is a loophole it will be found, but Vettel would use it the same as anyone

  4. The only fair way for the VSC to work is have all the cars slow down enough to allow Seb to make a pitstop and return to the track in front of all the other cars.

    1. was just gonna say that you beat me to it :)

      1. dont forget only fair racing would be when merc are not as fast and tyres/compounds/threads needs to benefit ferrari more than others… if not everything is unfair! same with safety car restarts, everyone has to speed up early and not do anything funky in front of a ferrari, but when roles changed around same driving is considered unsportsmenlike driving and not fair!

  5. I don’t get what the point of this statement is. Generally, the fastest line is the racing line, and for small 50m checks of delta speed it must be pretty marginal to go a shorter distance to gain time. I don’t understand what the big deal is, considering that everyone is doing the same under the VSC (Vettel included).

    Just seems like another classic Vettel whinge because he lost the position to Max. It’s amazing how he hasn’t complained about these VSC rules previously until he loses a position to a driver. It’s ridiculous how Vettel thinks he has earned the right to question the FIA just because he’s a Ferrari #1 driver. Such a cry baby.

    1. The out of the pit burst is more concern actually. We see drivers accelerating on the main straight to get ahead of another and then break and slow down heavily to get back into their time delta having gain a position.
      Feels strange to have those duels for position under vsc… Wouldn’t it be easier to have a limiter like in wec, all drives 90 (cold for the tyre but could make for good racing when vsc ends).

  6. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
    14th May 2018, 8:31

    Is there a reason why they don’t put a second speed limiter like the one they have for the pit lane?

  7. So the way it works is that every 50m you have a test spot on the track. These basically update the delta the driver sees but these are not used for penalization if you go too fast here. Then you have marshall positions and safety car lines where the delta needs to be above the minimum time or you get a penalty. Interesting thing (according to the sporting regs) is that the software is in the ecu in each individual car and it is not something fia is measuring and enforcing with their own computers, sensors and by tracking each car.

    In practice I can imagine couple of ways how this is done. One is that the system looks both the speed of the car and the position at each timing gate. So if your speed at the measuring points is higher you get more negative value. So if you drive fast between the measuring points and then slow down every 50meters at the measuring points you get a little higher average speed. I really doubt it is that though.

    My guess here is that if the speed is used then maybe the ecu code or sensor reading frequency is not really good enough for doing integrations (to get average speed when your speed changes a lot is not that simple). So when a car does really fast accelerations and then slows down or drives in really sharp corners the ecu calculates your delta wrong in those cases.

    The reason for using the speed measured by the ecu is that maybe the code in the ecu doesn’t have access to gps positioning data. Other thing I can imagine is that the ecu is not using acceleration data but wheel speed for calculating the delta. If that is the case then the weird lines comment makes more sense as you can use the track elevations and different lines to game the distance the wheel speed sensor measures. Doing sharp corners and driving as straight as possible. In other words finding the shortest line around the track instead of the fastest line.

    It could be a combination of all of these things. If someone wants to really figure it out he needs to see what rosberg did with vsc back in cota some years ago. He seemed to have gained lots of time under vsc and I don’t really remember how he did it exactly.

    Another example I can imagine is that the deltas don’t carry over. So you need to be aggressive in some places simply because of how the marshalling positions are set on the track. You never want to be in the positive a lot because you just lose lap time by doing so.

    1. Thank you! This is the best explanation of the technical details for VSC that I’ve found. It works totally differently from what I’d imagined. I figured the VSC would maintain interval times between all the drivers albeit at a much reduced speed.

  8. This is really funny. When Vettel used that very same trick to overtake Lewis in Australia I didn’t hear any complaint from him or Lewis for that matter.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that Vettel is a complainer and he doesn’t feel right as a driver until he has gotten any perceived issue he has out of his system and Sergio Machionne telling him to complain less is not sitting right with Vettel as he is a vocal driver both on and off the steering wheel.

    1. What are you talking about? Those things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
      I think you’re falling for a suggestive, but irrelevant sentence in this article, namely “Vettel narrowly lost a position to Max Verstappen when he made a pit stop during a VSC period.”
      The thing is, even if the wording implies a connection (continuing a recent tradition of covert attacks on certain drivers by forcing them into a context that portrays them in a negative light; I honestly think that sucks and amounts to poor journalism), there is none.

      What Vettel means: The way the VSC is (or seems to be) implemented, drivers are encouraged to drive awkward lines to save a little bit of time, so they all do it. No exceptions. This should be changed because it feels ridiculous to drive like that just to exploit a tiny loophole.

      What Vettel doesn’t mean (but what the article partly insinuates): Boo hoo, Verstappen came out narrowly ahead of me because of something I totally did to cheat Hamilton in Australia.

      1. @Nase Vettel has used this very rule to his advantage in Australia i.e floored it in the last sector the pits entrance and dived into the pits before the next VSC calculating point comes up thereby gaining several seconds. I think it was around 5 lost seconds for Lewis that no one could account for and which Mercedes blamed on a software glitch or miscalculation.

        Now in Spain, Vettel again did exactly the same thing but unlike Mercedes that were not smart enough for his tactic in Australia Red Bull knew what he was doing and paced Verstappen to be ahead of Vettel when he comes out of the pits while still within the VSC delta time. In a lay man’s world this is pretty much what happens and no amount of technical jargon will alter that.

        So you can’t take advantage of the rules to work for you in Australia and when another team are smart enough to cover you in Spain when you pull the same trick you start complaining.

        Have you ever heard the saying “fool me once shame on you but fool me twice shame on me”?

        1. @pking008

          Vettel has used this very rule to his advantage in Australia

          Again, that has nothing to do with what he’s saying. Vettel’s isn’t even peripherally addressing the subject of pitting under the VSC (or Safety Car, which is exactly the same thing), which has been done in exactly the same way by everyone who has ever pitted under such conditions. Please read the article again. He’s saying that the VSC can be ‘exploited’ to lap a tiny bit faster by using an awkward line around the track, which is why absolutely everybody is driving that way. He feels that the way the VSC delta times are calculated ought to be changed to make this exploit impossible and enable every driver to drive around the track on whichever line they choose without losing time.

          Have you ever heard the saying “fool me once shame on you but fool me twice shame on me”?

          Here’s a saying for you: “Read the article before commenting, and then read a comment before replying to it”.

          Now in Spain, Vettel again did exactly the same thing but unlike Mercedes that were not smart enough for his tactic in Australia Red Bull knew what he was doing and paced Verstappen to be ahead of Vettel when he comes out of the pits while still within the VSC delta time.

          Nah, man. There was no way for Red Bull to “pace Verstappen to be ahead of Vettel”, as he had to adhere to the delta times in every single marshalling sector. The only exception from this is between the safety car lines for drivers entering the pits, so Ferrari knew exactly when (with an uncertainty of a few thousandths of a second at most) Verstappen was going to reach the second safety car line at the earliest. The one thing they didn’t forsee was Pérez driving past the Ferrari box at just the wrong moment, so that they had to delay Vettel by at least two seconds in order to avoid a penalty for an unsafe release. Vettel’s pit stop took over 5 seconds, over 2.2 seconds slower than his first pit stop, making it the third-slowest pit stop of the race, only surpassed by Vandoorne (5-second penalty) and Ocon (rear wheel nut took over 20 seconds to be tightened).
          This delay is what allowed Verstappen through.

  9. So you have to “straight-line” the track as much as possible while trying to keep heat in the tyres and brakes. Only way to do that is to accelerate and brake a lot, you cannot afford to lose distance by weaving. Maybe this discouraging of weaving is a deliberate intention of the rule to help prevent collisions, but the need to keep heat in the tyres (and brakes) possibly leads to rear-ending such as Max on Lance.

  10. I thought the VSC worked differently, i.e. by calculating a mandatory minimum lap time that applies to every driver while memorising the gaps between all drivers and “freezing” them, i.e. by not updating the calculated target times during the VSC deployment, except for drivers who enter the pit lane, in which case a new target time is calculated based on their relative track position when crossing the safety car line at the pit exit.

    In other words, if a VSC is deployed on lap 20, and the last measured gap between driver X and driver Y was 7.336 seconds, they (and everyone else) are told to adhere to a lap time of 1:50.115 while driving a steady pace throughout the entire lap. Now, if the VSC period were to last 10 laps, driver X’s and driver Y’s target times would still be precalculated in such a way that their target times are always 7.336 seconds apart, regardless of whether one of them occasionally drives a bit slower (within reason).

    That’s how I thought it worked, because that’s the only way of implementing a true neutralisation of the race, as far as I can see. The way Vettel describes it, the race isn’t really neutralised, the possibilities of gaining time are just extremely restricted, which leads to awkward driving.
    If this description is factually accurate, I’m inclined to say that he’s right, and that the implementation of the VSC should be looked at and eventually corrected.

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