Does the F1 Safety Car lap too quickly?

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    Hi Fellow F1fanatics! I had a question for anyone who knows about the safety car procedure right now. The safety car periods are too long in my opinion (7 laps in Canada with no lapped cars?!). But I was wondering if my eyes deceive me, or does the f1 safety car go significantly faster than other series’ safety cars (i.e. NASCAR, Indycar, etc.) Certainly those safety cars are not near as powerful as the Merc in F1, and by the looks of things, Bernd Maylander really hustles that car around the track. I was wondering if safety car periods could last fewer laps if the safety car drove more slowly.


    @mcmerctn Good point, though it could break the not-designed-for-a-slow-Sunday-drive F1 cars’ internals.


    You are right – the safety car is actually being driven as you would at a track day most of the time in F1 (not past the crash scene, obviously, but it is for most of the lap) because this is ‘slow’ for F1, and going slower could cause problems. In fact, I remember reading somewhere (on here?) that one of the possible contributors to Senna’s crash, which was just after a safety car, was that the Opel Vectra being used wasn’t fast enough, making the tyre pressures go down etc., even though it was really being driven on the limit (Max Angelelli, who was driving it, complained about brake fade).


    @mcmerctn I haven’t checked the data but just from watching them I would say they do go a bit quicker in F1. Though of course in the case of IndyCar on ovals they’re lapping at significantly higher average speeds than F1 does to begin with.

    I suspect the main reason the Safety Car laps so quickly is to help drivers keep their tyre temperatures and pressures up. When the Safety Car first entered widespread use in 1994 there was much criticism over how slow it went, which was considered a contributory factor in the crash that killed Ayrton Senna.

    This is partly because tyre warmers are allowed in F1 – unlike in IndyCar, GP2 and other series – which means F1 tyres don’t have to warm up quickly from cool temperatures. And drivers are dead against banning tyre warmers.

    As for reducing the number of laps spent behind the Safety Car to improve the racing, I don’t think the value of that is perceived by those running F1. I say this because at some wet races we’ve seen up to half the race distance spent interminably lapping behind the Safety Car when they should either red-flag it or just start racing. So I don’t think we’ll see any improvement in this area.


    @Keith Collantine

    Spot on! In 1994 you see Ayrton driving to the side of the safety car and waving at him to go quicker as the tyres were so cool. A factor in his death? Maybe, but who knows.

    With the current compounds of the Pirelli tyre being so hard for the driver to get to temp, it is an issue at quali within the time frame, but under a safety car even more so. Also they do spend far too many laps under it, no more unlapping a great start, what a terrible rule (again)!

    The F1 safety car is seriously quick and I would love a few laps as a passenger. But its not quick enough for the F1 boys to keep the tyres to temp, but I guess thats when the skill of being one of the best in the world comes in!!

    Iestyn Davies

    I don’t think it laps too quickly.. if anything it’s almost too slow, and can’t go much quicker. Perhaps it would be better to stop the cars more to prevent laps being wasted, but that also has a rigmarole attached in the whole warm-up and start procedure for the cars.

    However, what could improve the situation is the lapped cars being set free from the delta times. I thought this was a no-brainer… but apparently not. They start overtaking once things have been cleared up, so there can be local yellows if the section is not totally clear just yet. But this would allow them to catch the back before the cars start the next racing lap clear of the safety car (and the slow down that happens just before this).


    @fastiesty I don’t see why having cars lap more quickly behind the Safety Car is desirable. The safety implications notwithstanding, it would just ensure more laps are wasted under yellow when nothing can happen.

    Iestyn Davies

    @keithcollantine True, behind it now the speeds are good enough to keep tyres warm and laptimes quite slow. But releasing the cars not behind it to get back to it quicker means possibly at least 1 lap less under safety car. This should be possible as usually they are released once the incident is sorted out, or can at least be done with local yellows at the area affected.


    Would implementing slow zones like they did at Le Mans this year be beneficial in F1?


    I think the slow zones would definately be worth trying at least. It would save a lot of lost action without compromising safety. It’d be policable through the already built in GPS systems.


    Maybe utilise the slow zone under SC for the lapped cars? Send the lapped cars off after 1/2 laps under safety car and they go full speed in areas not around the caution/slow zone. It would make the unlapping process less painful (if they are going to keep it.)

    Iestyn Davies

    Indeed, the slow zones sound better as that allows more marshals to clear away the remnants of an incident if still not 100% clear, or allow one or two to point the cars around the others who are working. F1 taking a leaf out of Le Mans’ book! Technical innovation at last…. how long have we had yellow flags? Flashing boards and in-car lights are recent though.

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