There’s been an excellent discussion in the post on Nick Heidfeld’s misfortune in the Spanish Grand Prix about how the problematic safety car rules might be fixed.
Part of the difficulty in finding a solution is how to safely slow down a pack of racing cars when the safety car is deployed. This video shows what happens when it goes badly wrong:
I originally posted this video of a GP2 race during last year’s French Grand Prix weekend. The chain of events begins with two drivers crashing at the start, which causes the safety car to come out as the cars are halfway around the first lap.
As the first cars to get the message about the safety car slow, others behind them are caught unaware, with disastrous consequences.
Ernesto Viso hit Michael Ammermuller’s car so hard he cleared the safety barrier and almost hit a bridge. Viso was fortunate to to be very badly hurt.
The problem F1 had with the pre-2007 safety car rules was that drivers were rushing back to the pits when the safety car came out to get in a ‘free’ pit stop, potentially having to drive quickly through the scene of an accident.
It was in circumstances similar to this that Fernando Alonso crashed in the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix:
So what’s the safest way of slowing the pack down when the safety car is deployed? Some have suggested having automatic systems to slow the cars operated by race control, but I wonder if they can be reliable enough to be safe?