The new safety car rules are an improvement but could still go wrong

The safety car rules aren't as clear-cut as we thought

The safety car rules aren't as clear-cut as we thought

The final 2009 F1 rules published by the FIA a few weeks ago revealed that the much-derided ??pit lane closure? rule, which ruined several drivers’ races in 2007 and 2008, is finally being dropped.

But today the it has revealed that instead of returning to the pre-2007 safety car rules, drives (and fans) will have a new complication to get to grips with.

In 2009, whenever a safety car is deployed, drivers heading to the pits will not be allowed to do so until a minimum amount of time has elapsed. This is to prevent drivers racing back to the pits at a time when the track is supposed to be neutralised for safety reasons.

Charlie Whiting explained the change to the rules:

The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we’ve gone back to the 2006 regulations. The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits.

When we deploy the safety car, the message will go to all the cars, which will then have a “safety car” mode on their ECUs. As soon as that message gets to the car, it’ll know where it is on the circuit, and it’ll calculate a minimum time for the driver to get back to the pits. The driver will have to respect this and the information will be displayed on his dashboard.

If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That’s gone now, as you won’t be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to.

But how will the drivers treat this time limit?

Is this actually going to work?

If the FIA imagines the drivers will back off and cruise to the pits when the safety car is deployed, I think they?re mistaken. The drivers will want to cross the pit lane entry line the second their counters tick over to zero and as close to the car in front as possible. The best way to do that is to race back to the pits and only slow down once they?re in sight of the pit lane entrance.

There is potential for this to go wrong. What happens if a driver who is rushing back to the pits comes another who is not? This could be especially problematic in wet conditions or on narrow street circuits. What if one team chooses to use one of its driver to delay several of their rivals? How much of a penalty will drivers get if they break the rule – and could it ever be worth them deliberately breaking the rule in order to gain track position?

I?m not sure this is the best solution but it is was always going to be a compromise and it?s certainly better than the previous approach of penalising drivers for pitting ??illegally?, and the many problems that caused.

Happily, with refuelling during the race finally being banned in 2010, the problem should go away next year.

How well do you think the new safety car rule will work?

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47 comments on The new safety car rules are an improvement but could still go wrong

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  1. Just seems a load of rubbish to me, its too complicated. Fans will not be able to understand this very easily. Good job they’re gonna get rid of refuelling altogehter next year.
    Im an avid racing gamer aswell, and this just gives codemasters another thing to do!

  2. Pedro Andrade said on 27th January 2009, 20:49

    What a mess…

  3. Why not just make every hit the pitlane speed limiter?
    If that’s too slow to keep temps up etc, make a safety car speed limiter?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th January 2009, 21:07

      Because if two drivers are following each other closely and the driver in front hits his speed limiter, something like this happens:

      Video: the safety car rules danger

      Admittedly it’s probably impossible to be certain this sort of thing could never happen, but making the drivers hit their pit lane speed limiters would make it much more likely.

    • What if everyone’s standard ECU engaged the pit limiter simulataneously, perhaps giving a second or two’s warning to let drivers get out of dangerous situations beforehand? Technologically it should be possible because the FIA has Race Control and a device necessary to the function of the car within its remit. All it would need is to add a wireless system to send the signal round.

  4. scunnyman said on 27th January 2009, 21:53

    What they need to have is a system whereby the f.i.a can send a signal to all car when the safety car is deployed. This would cause the electrics to put the engine into a kind of pit lane speed limiter. This would be the same for all cars. of course it would have to made so that the drivers cannot turn it off. just make it shut off automatically as it enter the pit lane.
    This way nobody could gain an advantage as everyone would be travelling at the same speed.

  5. steve said on 27th January 2009, 21:55

    Simple – when a safety car is on the track there should be a maximum speed for all cars….. some people wil luck in and some will luck out – but the important thing i to have the marshalls safe.

  6. Fer no.65 said on 27th January 2009, 21:57

    just rubbish…

    they are trying to avoid the danger of something that never happened or happened very few times in recent years…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th January 2009, 22:11

      they are trying to avoid the danger of something that never happened or happened very few times in recent years…

      Better that than wait until something does happen – it has happened in other series, I think a marshal was killed in a CART race in 1990 in similar circumstances. Martin Brundle hit a marshal at Suzuka in 1994, although in his defence the conditions were appalling.

  7. bernification said on 27th January 2009, 22:08

    I have no sympathy for the drivers on this one.

    This rule was introduced because of the drivers irresponsibility. Alonso’s crash at Brazil was ridiculous- he must have been told by his pit that Webber had crashed and the pit car was out, but he put his life and others in danger. That is unforgivable for me.

    Okay, some one might lose some places through having to pit in the SC part, but hey, thats life!

  8. Terry Fabulous said on 27th January 2009, 22:24

    I vote that we make every car pull over to the side of the road as soon as there is an issue of safety. The drivers then have to get out of their cars and sign autographs for the fans in that area.

    No, thats too silly.

    Lets have double waved yellows in the area of the race track affected by the incident which the drivers need to obey.

    Although that is probably too sensible since it works in every other form of motor racing.

    • bernification said on 27th January 2009, 22:59

      Do drivers think they are more important than the sport in other forms of motor racing?

      I think not- in many of them people are thinking about having to work as well and their families welfare.

    • If there’s a Safety Car, there are automatically double-waved yellows in every part of the track. If drivers always automatically obeyed double-waved yellow flags, the only reason a Safety Car would ever be needed would be if the marshalls needed a time when they could guarantee no cars were in the area (for example, to send in cranes).

      The moment a Safety Car is needed, then people will lose out, but if people obeyed double-waved yellows consistently, then they’d already be slow enough.

      There’s another advantage to this year’s method over last year’s version. The 2008 rule did nothing about people who’d pitted and then dashed round to rejoin the back of the queue. The fact that some would receive a penalty for this depending on their timing would merely make it more important for them to dash round – but it’s still dangerous. Now there will be no point because there’d be a separate drive-through penalty.

  9. Only a slight tweak to the current rules are required. Make it okay to take fuel while pits are closed, but ban teams from taking tires. Cars who need it will take enough fuel to make it until pits are fully open, then make a full pitstop with everyone else.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th January 2009, 23:37

      I don’t think that would work either: Any of the drivers who had to take on on fuel in your example would be sent to the back of the field just for having the misfortune to need a fuel stop when someone had crashed…

      Really the best solution to this problem is to ban refuelling. Good thing it’s coming next year.

  10. Steve K said on 28th January 2009, 0:05

    Whats wrong with having cars race back to the pits and have the danger area yellow flagged a couple of turns before and one after and then have all hell break loose before and after? If you wreck your car, you get to deal with the consequences. Why so complex?

  11. I think they should only be allowed to pit after being cued behind the safety car. Normal cautionary rules applying up to that point.

  12. The FIA/FOM where a long time in introducing the safety car to begin with, and now I think they are just using it as means to create enough time for a decent advertising break. They could keep it nice and simple and just use double waved yellow flags, but now everyone has to slow down, wait for the SC to come out, then wait for the SC to return to the pits before they are allowed to race again.
    Of course, there are occasions when there is debris all over the circuit or recovery vehicles in awkward places, and then the SC should be used in a similar way to other racing series, and slow the cars down and either lead them into the pits or to the grid ready for a restart.
    Why does everything in F1 have to be so complicated? Are the FIA trying to catch the drivers and the teams out with the rules?

  13. I agree with that point Ross. That sounds like the best solution. No one will be speeding then and no one will get an advantage or disadvantage.

    When Refueling is banned next year. Does that mean races will be shorter? Or will they modify their fuel tanks

  14. Just to make it clear. Everybody has to Cue behind the safety car. When the Safety Passes the Pit entry, whoever whants to pit, can pit. No one will be speeding then. When leaving the pits to join the back of the SC no one is allowed to pass another car.

  15. Banning refuelling won’t fix anything unless they also ban tyre change.

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