Throwing caution to the wind?

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Safety Car, Monte-Carlo, 2005I was intruged to read on that several Formule One drivers are asking for a change to the rules regarding safety cars.

They are asking for a change to the system common in American racing where lapped cars are allowed to pass the safety car and return to the rear of the field, gaining a lap back and allowing the leaders a clear shot at one another when racing resumes.

Although this may be good for racing, I am not convinced it would be good for F1.

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The calls for a change to the safety car rules have been prompted by the late-race safety car period in the Canadian Grand Prix where Alonso enjoyed a buffer of several lapped cars between himself and a pursuing Kimi Raikkonen. One of which was Jarno Trulli who dawdled at the start, holding Raikkonen up.

The argument in favour of it is obvious – it can help provoke actual on-track racing for position, which is something F1 sorely lacks.

But the counter-arguments are, to me, more persuasive. First, fairness: why should a leading driver who has had his time advantage over the opposition eroded by the safety car be further compromised by rules that allow the car behind a clear shot at him?

Second, fairness again: why should a driver who has fallen a lap behind the leader by being slow be allowed to gain a huge amount of time by unlaping himself?

Third, and most controversially, it presents too much of a temptation for race directors wishing the engineer a competitive race. Increasingly in American racing such as NASCAR, IRL and Champ Car we are seeing the use of ‘competition yellows’ – safety car periods ostensibly declared for safety reasons which are actually to bunch the field up and provoke racing.

I applaud efforts to improve the on-track sction in Formula One – but the best wasys to do this are by banning refuelling and severely restricting aerodynamics. Although F1 has much to learn from America in how it interacts with the fans and presents itself to the outside world, it should not hurry to adopt the more contrived aspects of American motor sport.

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