Safety car, Montreal, 2011

Whiting defends Canada safety car decisions

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Safety car, Montreal, 2011
Safety car, Montreal, 2011

FIA race director Charlie Whiting defended the extensive use of the safety car during the Canadian Grand Prix.

During the 70-lap race, 30 laps were run under caution, including four at the start of the race and 11 when it was restarted following the suspension.

In an FIA Q&A Whiting said: “We look at what the likelihood of bad visibility is. That’s the main thing. We have to make a call as to whether we think visibility is acceptable or not.

“[In Canada] we didn’t think it was. I think the conditions were quite bad and when we actually got the race underway it was on the limit for visibility. My personal view is that this was the right decision.

“I know we can all go back 25 years and remember worse conditions but I think we are expected to do things slightly differently these days.

“As far as the race resumption is concerned, I think we did eight laps behind the safety car. It’s always going to be a judgement call and we have to make that judgement but I think it’s better to err on the side of safety.

“I maintain that it was the right decision to start the race with the safety car. I’m not expecting everyone to agree.”

A poll of F1 Fanatic readers found 84% felt the safety car is used too much during wet races.

Whiting explained how the FIA take note of drivers’ views during severe weather conditions and added they do take the drivers’ race situation into consideration:

“We listen to all the drivers’ conversations [and consider] a selection of opinions from drivers’ whose opinions we think count. We also take account of what position they’re in.

“In Canada, we were listening and you get the odd driver, usually the same one or two, who say ‘come on let’s go, let’s go’, and then there are others who say it’s not ready yet. We usually take their advice. It’s very worthwhile listening to the drivers.

“A good example of that was in Korea last year, where it was getting dark towards the end of the race. We were listening to the top six drivers, only two of whom were complaining. One of those two, his rear tyres had completely gone, so he had another reason for wanting the race stopped.”

The Canadian Grand Prix was the second consecutive race to be suspended. Whiting said other changes were being considered following the interruption in Monaco:

“I think there are two things we’ve learned from suspending a race this year. One is we need to discuss with the teams whether or not working on cars should be allowed and whether a change of tyres should be allowed during a [race] suspension.

“Also ?ǣ and I never would have thought it ?ǣ we maybe need to think about a maximum time for the race. At the moment, as you know, the time for any suspension is added onto the two hours [maximum race time], that’s why we ran for four hours and four minutes. We’re going to discuss that with the teams.

“I think the procedures worked perfectly well. Unfortunately, quite a few spectators left. I don’t know what happened with television broadcasts, that must have been quite difficult for TV companies, to know when to cut to something else and how long it was going to be.

“It would be nice to have been able to say during the suspension how long it might be, but it was almost impossible to say, because apart from knowing when the rain was likely to stop there was the problem of clearing up water on the track, which was quite serious. I think the guys that did hang around got a good show.”

The Canadian Grand Prix set a new record for the longest ever F1 race at over four hours in duration, following an interruption of more than two hours due to heavy rain.

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