Bad safety car rules catch out Heidfeld

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nick Heidfeld, Fernando Alonso, Barcelona, 2008, 470150

Formula 1’s ill thought-out safety car rules ruined Nick Heidfeld’s race today. The BMW driver was leading when the safety car came out following Heikki Kovalainen’s crash, and even though he had two laps of fuel to spare he was forced to pit while the pit lane was closed, meaning he incurred an unavoidable penalty.

How long is it going to take them to fix these rules? We’ve known since last year they weren’t working properly. I even pointed it out in the 2007 season preview.

Everyone remembers the row that broke out at McLaren over their management of the safety car rules at Monaco. And at Canada Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg’s races were spoiled by the appearance of the safety car.

Complaining about the rules after today’s race BMW’s Mario Theissen acknowledged the teams are trying to get the rules changed before those two races, which often see several safety car appearances:

We tried to call Nick in but it was maybe two seconds too late – he had just passed the pitlane entry so there was no choice.

We could do another two laps and then we had to call him in. We knew it would be a 10-second penalty but there was nothing we could do about it. I know the team managers and the FIA are discussing this rule already and I hope they will come up with a solution soon.

It would be good if we get something before these races.

They clearly need to put in a short-term fix, such as only having the pits closed for a maximum of one lap, so that team know to always leave one lap’s worth of fuel in their cars.

In the long-term, I think they should just ban refuelling (which they couldn’t do tomorrow because the teams would need time to build larger fuel tanks). Allow the cars to make tyres stops if they want, but ban refuelling during the races.

It doesn’t make the races exciting anyway – I can’t remember a single race where I thought “wow, what an exciting strategic contest” but I can think of dozens that left me buzzing because of a scintillating pass or battle for position.