Safety Car, Interlagos, 2019

Surprise Safety Car was called because Bottas’s Mercedes got “stuck”

2019 F1 season

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The Safety Car had to be deployed to recover Valtteri Bottas’s car because his Mercedes got stuck on a bump, FIA race director Michael Masi revealed.

Several teams, including Mercedes, expressed surprise that the Safety Car was needed to recover a single car which had experienced a technical failure. “We were surprised by because he parked quite neatly,” said the team’s technical director James Allison.

Bottas suffered a suspected power unit failure on lap 52 and came to a stop approaching turn four. Masi said Bottas parked his car off the circuit so “I covered it under a double yellow flag originally”.

However the marshals experienced difficulty moving the Mercedes to a safe place which meant a recovery crane was needed. “The marshal said ‘it’s stuck on a bump’ and left it at that,” said Masi. “And obviously, as soon as I have to use a crane it’s a straight Safety Car.”

“In that circumstance, particularly with the way the surface road is there, we all know ride height and everything, [there] wasn’t anything more in that,” he added.

Bottas’s retirement inadvertently handed an opportunity to team mate Lewis Hamilton, who took the lead of the race as Red Bull decided to pit Max Verstappen. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was also surprised by the Safety Car deployment.

“It looked like [Bottas] pulled off in a in a sensible place,” he said. “It certainly brought the race to life and made it a bit too exciting maybe! But it was the same for everybody.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto backed the decision to use the Safety Car. “We were even expecting it a bit earlier,” he said. “I think the FIA correctly tried to to avoid it but they realised that there was no opportunity.”

Once the Safety Car was deployed it remained on track for several laps as 13 cars and were waved by to rejoin the lead lap.

“The first [delay] was actually getting the leader behind the Safety Car, which took a little bit longer purely because of car positioning,” said Masi. “And then getting the list from timing of all the cars and then putting it in. The first focus is obviously to clear the incident and then the un-lapping of cars is secondary.”

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2019 F1 season

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25 comments on “Surprise Safety Car was called because Bottas’s Mercedes got “stuck””

  1. I covered it under a double yellow flag originally […] And obviously, as soon as I have to use a crane it’s a straight Safety Car.”

    This might not be important but the wording sounds a bit arrogant to me – for sure, Masi himself was not steering the crane? In F1, people mostly refer to ‘we/us’ in similar situations – even if they tend to have a high opinion of themselves…

    1. I’m guessing Masi meant something along the lines that “when I have to order a crane to move something”, instead of what the quote says directly.

  2. Was there seriously any chance of another car hitting Bottas’s car where he parked it? I can’t remember exactly, but it seemed to me virtually impossible to hit at all, yet alone at high speed. So why not just leave it there and finish the race?

    1. He was rather close to the apex, so yes danger involved.

      1. Seeing the image @stefmeister posted below, I really can’t see how the car would be an issue if just left there. The crane, yes, given the difference between a car striking the two.

    2. The chance was more then 0%, so yes there was a chance.

    3. There was a chance i guess.

  3. Even with the car getting stuck & requiring a crane that should have been a VSC rather than a full SC.

    The car was well out the way & there was minimal risk of any other car making it over there, Additionally it also looked like the tractor that was called wasn’t even in-front of the barriers wither neither it or marshal’s been anywhere near the firing line.

    That to me would have been totally fine to cover with a VSC where you could bring it out for 30 seconds to get the car moved & quickly get back to racing like as they did with Vettel’s car at the Russian Gp. A full SC just seems totally unnecessary in this instance.

    1. A safety car has the advantage of bunching the field to give more time to the marshals between cars

      1. @glynh The car was cleared about 10-15 seconds after they called the SC which was well before cars were bunched up.

        Cars are going no slower under the SC as they would be under a VSC, Especially initially where they were running to the same delta splits as they would under the VSC until they catch the SC. Although even once they catch the SC there lapping at similar speeds as they would be under the VSC.

        I just feel that a full SC should only be used when there is a clear danger, Debris on track or if something is going to take time to clear up. For instances like this where it’s a car well out the way of danger with minimal risk & that won’t take long to clear I think that’s perfect for a VSC & the exact sort of situation they said they had created it for.

        1. @stefmeister Tottally agree with you, SC isn’t needed on Bottas situation. VSC is definitely enough and it’s created to precisely handle situation like this. If we want to go conspiracy theory route, the SC is called just to bunch the field up, either for add drama to the end of the race, or giving most benefit to Ferrari that already out of contention to join the fight for the win again.

  4. So useless. I bet even a quad bike could have towed him out in no time as he was parked on an exit.

    And which track organizer has an exit with bumps where racing cars can get stuck at? Seriously. Seems there’s always something at Interlagos. No drainage at the wettest part of the track, falling advertsing signs, locked exits etc etc.

  5. There was no reason at all for a Safety Car. The car could have been left there without any issue if it was really stuck.
    The risks created for packing the field so close to the end were much bigger than just leaving the car there.
    Packing the cars together so close to the end could easily trigger a Hubert-crash like, today there was no injured on the crash between the Ferraris, but F1 is playing with in own luck with this “let’s join everything together at the minimum issue”. Bianchi death remembered us that F1 should learn with its own mistakes, but what F1 is doing now is the opposite of learning, F1 with this policy is taking a completely backflip in the yellow-flag policy without regarding the consequences. I watch F1 since the 80s, and between the 80s and 2014, and in that period I only remember very few crashes that could be avoided with Safety Car, all of them in wet weather. In fact, I remember a race in street circuit that ended up with a lane of cars parked in a certain straight without any issue for all the race.

    Also, in sporting terms, football games don’t go back to 0-0 everytime a medical team enters the pitch. What is the sense in F1 to do that? What is the sense in giving the race director a power to change the result with a decision that will always be arbitrary, incoherent and lacking objectivity. Can you think of a way of not changing the race result everytime there’s a retirement or there’s a piece of rubber in the track? Or are we happy with the “everything can happen and sometimes there’s some cool accidents” approach that seems to be much more dangerous?

  6. Here is as good of a place as any to note yet another season where Hamilton’s reliability is better than his teammate’s reliability. The 2016 police never seem to take note of that. :)

    1. 2016 police also conveniently forget 2014 season.

    2. @hobo Who cares?

      The question is if it influences the result. Rosberg finished 9 times ahead of Hamilton in 2016 of which 6 races Hamilton was affected by issues outside of his control. Versus the other way only once. So that had a massive influence on the outcome of the WDC.

      On the other hand, suppose Bottas had finished this race. He would have been 6th? Would he then have been in contention of the WDC? Is that what you are trying to pretend?

      Small hint, he would not. There would have been no iota difference in outcome of the WDC. So that’s why no one is keeping score. Their technical issues aren’t that uneven and the few they had are totally irrelevant.

      Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bottas didn’t simply overheat his car by needless muddling around so close behind Leclerc. I was waiting for Bottas to drop back with an overheated car. They normally can only stay 2 laps so close and then they need to cool the car.

      Instead Bottas kept driving extremely close behind Leclerc for 8 laps in a row! It looked like his car first overheated so much that it started to smoke and then he still kept pushing until it failed completely.

      1. @f1osaurus – Clearly you care.

        The statement has been made over and over, in your comment here and otherwise, that the only reason Hamilton lost 2016 WDC was due to unreliability for him. This very site has pointed out how reliable his F1 career has been. I was simply pointing out that 2019 is the same story. So was 2017 and 2018, fyi.

        Anyone can pull out a single data point and make a claim. In context, this one is not true. Everyone has reliability issues, Hamilton has had fewer than any other WDC. That he had a bad year, or maybe even an average year (depending on what team you are asking), was statistically expected.

        No one claimed that Bottas would be champion with one less DNF.

      2. @hobo

        Clearly you care

        No cleary I don’t. I don’t care about any of the (top) driver’s reliability this season since it clearly had no influence on the overall results. Nor does this season’s reliability have any bearing whatsoever on the 2016 season.

        Nor do I care about 2017 and 2018. Even though in 2018 Hamilton had 2 major technical issues (including a technical DNF) and he was rammed by Raikkonen. While Vettel had 0 technical DNF’s. So Hamilton’s reliability was poor compared to his nearest opponent. It cannot even be expressed in a percentage. So yeas he could have won with a even bigger margin, but … again … in cases like that, who cares?

        This very site has pointed out how reliable his F1 career has been.

        Nope, it only shows that F1 cars don’t have that many DNF’s in recent years.

        The issue isn’t even DNF’s, but one DNF is quite killing. One DNF for Hamilton in 2016 meant that he had to beat Rosberg 4 times to get ahead in points again. So even that one DNF already had massive impact. Let alone 6 races affected by issues outside his control.

        The statement has been made over and over, in your comment here and otherwise, that the only reason Hamilton lost 2016 WDC was due to unreliability for him.

        Yes and it is utterly true. 6 out of the 9 races that Rosberg finished in front were (heavily) affected by it. Yet despite all of that Hamilton only finished a few points behind.

        So somehow Bottas having a DNF this year negates that fact?

        No one claimed that Bottas would be champion with one less DNF.

        So who cares that Bottas had a DNF then? Why pretend that that is somehow significant? What does it have to do with 2016?

        It’s just staggering what nonsense you post. Time and time again.

  7. Expect to see the Safety car used more going into 2020 because certain people who have a say in these things think it mixes things up so should be used more in order to do so.

    They are also talking about double file restarts to also help mix things up although it’s since been mentioned to them what happened when Indycar tried that & found the only thing the double file restarts added was more damage & more restarts.

    There was also talk at some point of not letting cars accelerate until the start line to ensure there as bunched up as possible heading to the first corner but I think they have since moved away from that idea because it’s felt having cars potentially get a longer run may be better “For the show”.

    And yes “For The Show” & “Spice things up” are 6 words that are been thrown around a lot at FOM/Liberty more recently from what I hear.

    Side note, Despite what Ross Brawn said regarding DRS in 2021 some at Liberty want it to be used regardless of the outcome of the regulations overall because having as high an overtaking figure as possible would “Work well for the marketing in the US where they are more susceptible to been impressed by high numbers in marketing campaigns”.

    1. @gt-racer, if it is really the case that they want to use safety cars simply to artificially bunch up the field, then frankly that is a disgracefully unprofessional attitude to have.

      The choice of a safety car should be based on a judgement of the merits of using it for safety reasons, not to try and artificially “spice things up” without thought of the consequences. If they really are going down that route, all I can see it doing is shredding any sense of credibility and trust in the stewards and race control and increasing hostility towards Liberty.

      1. Sounds too much like NASCAR competition cautions!

        1. A competition caution is a way for nascar drivers to adjust the car to new situations. Usually when they qualified during a dry weekend and heavy rain has washed all the rubber away for the race. The yellow gives everybody the chance to change the setup and prevent unpredictable cars. It’s actually the opposite of spicing things up, more like creating better racing.

  8. I don’t think they should explain this. They should say, “we found is necessary.“ and leave it at that. What you get now is that people wil go think alone the lines “when we have X situation we get Y safety reponse.” You don’t want that or have people second guessing you or give you unsolicited advice.

  9. VSC would be fine.

    If it’s wet, then a SC possibly, but they’d cleared the car in any case by the time the SC arrived and we then had 3 laps of Bert leading.

  10. So a VSC could have solved this.

    Instead we get 13 laps of SC?!?!?!?!

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