Safety Car, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Longer Safety Car periods to prevent repeat of Imola near-misses

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 is prepared to extend Safety Car periods to prevent a repeat of the near-misses seen during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, race director Michael Masi has said.

A group of six drivers who had been released by the Safety Car to un-lap themselves passed close by marshals working at the side of the track. One of them, Sebastian Vettel, described their proximity to the marshals as “very dangerous”.

Speaking to RaceFans, Masi said teams and drivers have been advised of new procedures during Safety Car periods “with regards to what happened in Imola.”

“We have already changed the processes in how we would deal with an un-lapping procedure, which we’ve discussed with the team managers and drivers,” he said. “But also I’ve advised them in these circumstances that it may take an extra lap or two if we’re going through an un-lapping scenario.

“That’s just one of the parts that everyone’s accepting of. We had a good discussion both with the team managers on Thursday in Turkey and then with the drivers on Friday night. And at the moment with the way the regulations are, it’s more a a process and a procedural side of how that’s enacted than a regulatory side.”

An F1 marshal explains why Stroll’s Imola near-miss raises safety concerns
Further concerns over marshal safety were raised at the Turkish Grand Prix. Drivers criticised race control’s decision to begin the second stage of qualifying, in wet conditions, while marshals and a crane were still on the circuit at turn eight recovering a car which had crashed during the previous session.

While Masi has previously said he was comfortable at the time with the assurances he had been given that the crane would be moved, speaking to RaceFans he admitted the outcome was “absolutely not” ideal.

“I’d be lying to say that it was an ideal situation,” said Masi. “But you need to deal with it in the best way in the circumstances when it arises.

“It being an out-lap as well, we extended the double yellow zone, so not just from turn eight but all the way through to the start of turn seven to give everyone ample warning. And, as I said, being an out-lap there is actually, not no, but far less, of a reason [for drivers] to push so much.”

These incidents prompted some to claim race control have prioritised keeping ‘the show’ going over safety considerations, a view Masi emphatically rejects. “It’s not [the case], point blank,” he stated.

Masi said he has made it clear marshals need to be given sufficient time to make incident scenes safe.

“We have a meeting with the clerk of the course at each of these events on Wednesday. I have always said from last year and throughout this year that if it means that we have an extra lap under Safety Car or that we have an extra five laps under Safety Car or whatever, I much prefer the trackside marshals to take a deep breath before reacting, as we may have seen 10 years ago.

“Because times have changed overall, access to information has changed. There’s no reason to rush that. I much prefer it to be done. And as I said, we live and learn every day.”

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39 comments on “Longer Safety Car periods to prevent repeat of Imola near-misses”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    23rd November 2020, 7:38

    I wonder if this is in conjunction with a plan to put advertising on the safety car?

    Joking aside, lapped cars should stay lapped. Move them back. It would be safer and quicker.

    Sometimes I despair with the FIA.

    1. I can already hear Lewis complaining the SC needs to speed up and move longer SC period? I would say shorter given the tyres status these days. Oh and while I am at it. After 450 years you might want to update the SC driver to one that actually has some nowadays fitness and skills. Like a recently retired F1 driver or so. I am sure grandpa behind the wheel isnt helping either

      1. May I propose you watch videos of Bernd Mayländer driving the SC on youtube. He is pushing the car to the limit.

        1. So is my grandma. Still, her granddaughter will do better

          1. Um, compared to F1 cars, anyone driving the AMG SC is going to look like a grandmother driving it.

          2. Mayrton, why are you referring to Bernd Mayländer as a “grandpa”? I think you’re rather overestimating Bernd Mayländer’s age, as whilst he might have been in that role since the early 2000s, he’s only 49 years old. He’s not that old, comparatively speaking – after all, we’re in an era where we have a 41 year old driver actively racing in F1.

            Furthermore, as has been pointed out before, part of the reason for the safety car existing is to slow down the cars in order to create gaps for marshals to carry out activities – for example, clearing debris from the track – that would otherwise be much more hazardous if you had the cars travelling past at higher speed. Beyond a certain point, making the safety car faster starts to counteract the very reason why you deployed it in the first place, which is to control the pace of the cars and to make things safer.

      2. You might want to listen to the interview with Bernd Mayländer on the “Beyond the Grid” podcast. He is driving flat out around corners, but limits speed on straights per the directions coming from race control.

    2. agree its safer to have them pull over and let the pack pass them. but the lap charts would have to be manually adjusted and they would complete less distance for the GP.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        23rd November 2020, 14:29

        Why would the lap charts need adjusting?

        Lapped cars ALWAYS complete less than the full GP distance even if there are no safety cars. When a car takes the chequered flag its stops even if it hasn’t done all of the laps.

        A non stop trip through the pitlane would be the best way to shuffle back lapped cars.

        WHY AREN’T THE FIA DOING THIS. AM I MISSING THE OBVIOUS? Someone help me. I’m losing the will to live.

        1. Some seem to think that lapped cars will have an unfair advantage (one extra lap of fuel plus one lap less tyre wear). My view is they’re a lap down and those are miniscule advantages don’t make much difference.

          George Russell almost certainly missed out on points this season because Raikkonen was able to unlap himself under the SC, then overtake Russell once racing started again.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            23rd November 2020, 20:08

            Haha those people are a bit dim, if you let cars unlap themselves, that extra lap is way more of an advantage than a bit of extra fuel and tyre life. Madness.

      2. By definition lapped complete less laps than the full race distance and have done since the very first GP.

        In the 1950s men with stopwatches, clipboards and pencils could keep track of what was going on, but despite all the high-tech available to F1 today, it seems it’s too hard to count laps for 20 cars.

        1. Ehh lets pretend they always got it right and there wasn’t controversies like Canada 1979 shall we?

    3. Eh, if the front lap cars get to close their gaps, I think its fair to close the laps behind too.

  2. I would not mind having longer safety car periods, we ll get used to that like we got used to the introduction of the halo (nobody mentions it anymore btw). However, what concerns me is if a safety car happens in the closing stages; I wouldn’t want a race to end under the safety car. So maybe there must be a rule that a race will be red-flagged if there is an accident in the last 10 laps for example.
    As for cars un-lapping themselves maybe during the last lap or 2 of the safety car period, the leading cars can pass from the pitlane so that lapped cars can un-lap themselves passing from the track at higher speeds.

    1. Personally, I wish they would “streamline” the red flag procedure and use it more often. 10 laps under the safety car is 10 fewer racing laps, whereas the same time under red flags doesn’t reduce the race length. It would also be safer and more exciting.

      1. Most intelligent and relevant comment I have ever seen on this website. I had not considered it at all, but it makes perect sense. Awesome! Good call @drmouse

      2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        23rd November 2020, 20:12

        No need. Just shuffle the lapped cars back with an extra non stop trip through the pits. Safer, easier and quicker. See my posts above.

  3. There’s two great things from this. Firstly the ability to change their policy so quickly is great! And of course the new policy sounds much safer too.

    1. Yes, and yes. Overall a good way to go, I’d say @drycrust. Even if it does mean that a late Safetycar will maybe not allow for much racing after it ends. Then again, by that stage the leader would have deserved their win, so I guess that evens out.

    2. @drycrust are they necessarily changing their policy all that much, or is it more of a case of going back to how Whiting used to do things in reality?

  4. What happened in Imola was only an exception to the rule rather than a norm. An isolated case, so a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to a one-off problem that was caused by communication or lack of it between the race control and marshal posts, not by the unlapping rule itself. BTW, the Turkish GP qualifying thing wasn’t possible to bring up in the equivalent drivers’ briefing as it happened before qualifying had happened. Nevertheless, I stand by what I pointed out before in that there wouldn’t have been any bit of need for the rush had the session started 60 minutes earlier, and there wasn’t a justifiable reason not to do that. Yes, qualifyings usually last less than races, but still, with enough delay, there’s a chance to get tight with the sunset in some cases, so 60 minutes more wouldn’t hurt in this regard. Baku last year also started to face a little problem with low Sun altitude because of the session starting later than the race and featuring red flag delays caused by Kubica and Leclerc.

    1. @jerejj

      Every lethal F1 incident was an exception to the rule. Yet they get more common, the riskier situations you accept.

      Ultimately, the biggest issue I have is with Masi’s flippant remarks, where each time it seems that there has to be outrage before he walks back his comments. He just doesn’t seem to care much about safety.

  5. Well it had to be forced on them but at least the changes have been made, “the show must on” despite the risks is absurd and I hope we’ve seen the last of it. I still have concerns about how the safety car will be used in the future though regarding it being used to close up the field to add a little spice.

  6. Even longer? The last couple of safety car periods felt so long, it seemed more logical to red flag the race, clear the track and restart. Rather than having the cars drive 10 to 20% of the race behind a safety car.

    I don’t understand why lapped cars should be unlapped in the first place, they already get the benefit of the entire field bunching up.

    1. – its not about making the SC longer, they just changed the procedure and they said it “may” increase the time.

      – the cars in the same lap all closed the gap ni matter the distance, only fair the lapped cars get the same benefit.

  7. Nice, let’s have at least 30% of laps done under SC. Of course, that also means less tire wear, less fuel consumption etc. for less strategic variation and some cold grainy tires for random overtakes and failures. Perhaps you need to invest more in marshals, equipment, training, making tracks more approachable? Or at least extend races by a lap or two if SC lasts as long as 10-ish laps… Ah yes, having volunteers do the heavy lifting (literally) should be against the law. Or it’s about tradition? There is a guy driving around for over 40 mil. a year, but his life may be saved some day by a volunteer who risks his own life in doing so.

    1. Or at least extend races by a lap or two if SC lasts as long as 10-ish laps…

      Actually that would be a good idea, not 10 laps but say if the Safety Car was out for 10 laps extend the race by 5 or 6? I thought the point was to protect the Marshals.

      1. @johnrkh They used to do something similar in WTCC: from memory the first two laps under SC weren’t counted towards the overall race distance. I wouldn’t be opposed to a similar rule in F1, especially where the race is started behind the safety car.

  8. You just knew the worst possible solution would be chosen to this ‘problem’. That’s just how FIA is.

    And with more safety car periods as is more than likely Liberty’s whisper in the race director’s ear, a big part of the races will now be meaningless driving around, and not racing.

    1. Did you actually read and understand the article? (especially the paragraphs quoting Mask) Or did you just read the title?

      1. @yaru Yes, did you?

  9. I’m still yet to see a proper response to Leclerc and Gasly both driving racing laps without their seatbelts done up this year. It’s arguably as big a breach of safety as this, yet absolutely nothing was done about it. It really feels like safety has taken a step backwards this season, and I don’t feel like that’s every been the case one season to the next for as long as I can remember.

    1. Chris E, are you sure you’re not mixing up Kvyat and Gasly there?

      Kvyat was on the radio during the Portuguese GP complaining that his seat belts were coming loose and that he wanted to come back in to have them adjusted as he felt it was unsafe – however, the team overruled him and ordered him to stay out on track because there were only 10 laps to go until the end of the race. However, Masi has claimed that, even though the belts were “a bit loose”, there was supposedly no problem and that the team had apparently changed their procedures to prevent it happening again.

      I agree, though, that since Masi took over, there has been a marked decline in safety standards, and not just this year either – 2019 also saw the near miss in the Monaco GP, where somebody ordered marshals out onto the track without the FIA being aware of it. There are too many people involved who seem to be taking the attitude “things are safe enough”, and a feeling that figures like Masi are becoming dangerously complacent or even actively ignoring major warning signals in the misguided belief that things are “good enough”.

  10. I think Masi needs to go.

    There seems to be something every weekend. Sometimes it’s something minor like the safety car picking up the wrong Mercedes.

    But there have been numerous safety problems this year, including two incidents with marshalls on track and the seatbelt incidents Chris E mentions above.

    I think @aapje says something similar above, but serious incidents are often a combination of smaller lapses.

    Masi seems to lack either the enthusiasm, foresight, organizational ability, or whatever is needed to be racing director. Someone more capable is needed.

    1. Agree. I know he was thrown in the deep end, but this job is for swimmers. He seems hardly able to keep his head above water.

      Even my gran would wait till all cranes are out of harms way before sending cars on a wet track knowing what happened to Bianchi. With Imola, that’s two serious breaches that should just not happen. The annoying thing is that even with a serious accident, he would still be kept on.

      1. Absolutely agree with you especially about sending drivers out with the crane (and marshals) on track. Lessons clearly weren’t learnt by all from Bianchi’s tragic crash. What if one of the cars speeding to catch up the back of the pack had a blow out or some mechanical failure as they were passing the marshals or the crane? It beggars belief

    2. Much as I hate to admit it, I agree.

      The incident with the crane on the track was unforgivable and that alone should warrant serious sanctions for him from the FIA management.
      The Imola one, possibly less so but again it was wrong. At the very least the drivers that actually accelerated near the marshal despite there being double waved yellows should have received severe penalties but even that was glossed over.

      It just seems too many little things, or in the case of the crane, a huge thing, are being allowed to happen which suggests its only a matter of time before we see a serious incident.

  11. I think that unlapping the cars by making them pass through pit lane would be faster and easier. That would put them in the back of the pack without the time it takes to go around the track until they meet the pack with the SC speed limits.

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