Safety car, Korea, 2011

Lapped cars allowed to pass safety car in 2012

2012 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Safety car, Korea, 2011
Expect longer safety car periods in 2012

The FIA has brought back the rule allowing lapped cars to pass the safety car.

The rule was last used in F1 in 2009. It proved problematic because of the large amount of time lapped cars needed to pass the safety car and re-join the train, as most F1 tracks are over five kilometres long.

As a result the rule was enforced inconsistently as the race director occasionally chose not to allow unlapped cars to pass the safety car, in order to prevent the safety car being kept out for too long.

At Suzuka in 2009, the restart was given with four laps to go while leader Sebastian Vettel had the lapped Romain Grosjean behind him.

However allowing lapped cars to pass the safety car will mean more cars will be in their running order at restarts.

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79 comments on “Lapped cars allowed to pass safety car in 2012”

  1. I rather wait for the restart than have a backmaker right between the leader and the chasing pack.

    It’ll be tricky to apply here and there, but all in all, it’s a good thing. It’s good news for HRT, Lotus and Virgin too, I guess, as this will boost their chances of finishing higher up than 13th place (although I think Lotus will do it on their own anyway, Safety Car or not)

    1. I agree. Not only does it promote racing in front, it also promotes racing behind.

    2. all in all..

      that’s what Vettel likes to say a lot ;)

    3. Completely disagree. This decision is anti-sport much like the safety car itself.

      Why build up a lead if you are going to have it taken from you by someone else crashing into the barriers. At least before the leader would have the cars they had lapped and 2nd had not inbetween, now there is nothing.

      With all due respect to the 2nd and 3rd tier teams, the race is what happens at the front. Maintaining some semblance of the lead built up is more important than not ruining the battle for 12th and 13th. If you don’t want to lose a lap on the guy ahead of you, don’t go a lap down.

      Of course this could all be avoided if we ditched the SC for a full course speed limit. If you really do need a large gap between the cars and not just have them slowed to walking pace at one part of the track for the marshals to do their job, then stop the race, and restart the cars single file from the pit lane with the same gaps they had before the stoppage. This would be the solution best for the “sport”.

  2. makes the safety car a bit pointless if cars a re allowed to pass it.

    1. Exactly.

      Why not just have minimum times for each split?

      1. Agreed and why not have lapped cars slow down even more and be passed until they get in their rightful position, the pits can organise this easily via radio ” Jarno you need to let 4 cars past you and rejoin behind Petrov and in front of Ruebens”

        1. this is a much better idea – quite an obvious one too. might get a bit confusing and would have to involve a fair bit of jiggling if people are pitting as well

    2. I agree. The point of the safety car is to slow the traffic for obvious reasons. If cars are uncapping themselves they’ll either be going much too fast past the scene of an accident, or we’ll be waiting forever, neither of which is too appealing. It’s nice that front runners won’t have backmarkers in their way at the restart, but safety should be paramount.

      1. But remember, Safety Car would only let the back markers past when it is safe to drive at full speed. In other words, Safety car would have to do an extra lap. Had the safety car not done the extra lap, to allow the backmarkers to go past, it would have gone in and the front runners would have driven at full speed anyways.

        1. extra lap

          Several extra laps.

  3. Well I’m not so sure about it. Sure it garuntees excitement when the leaders get closed right up again but its annoying for te driver who builds up a 20sec lead and suddenly has his nearest rival right behind him, whereas at least having the backmarkers in tere gave him a few corners grace.
    the only thing i find positive here is say te SC comes out whilst its lapping a battle for 9th,10th,11th and 12th and has lapped 11th and 12th. At the restart 10th is almost a lap clear of 11th- ruining the battle.
    So that is the 1 positive.

    I assume you can only make up 1 lap maximum at a time

    1. Cautions bunch up the field by their very nature. I don’t consider it more or less fair because it’s to be expected. In many other series, restarts are an art and a part of racing that must be learned to succeed.

      1. Yes Joey and unfortunately it seems the organisers are using cautions to bunch the cars up and add a little excitement , in my opinion the safety car as used in oval racing is a major cause of crashes and therefore does not add to the safety of the drivers.

  4. Why not have the lapped cars enter the pit in their running order and then exit the pit when the safety car and following cars have passed pit exit.
    The we wont have to wait for the cars to catch up again

    1. use the starting grid for that matter, all cars line up on the grid in race order, and then a formation lap behind the safety car to get a rolling restart

    2. They won’t have gained the lap back though. They’ll still be +1lap on the timing.

      1. And why shouldn’t they be? The safety car is there to ensure a safe environment for marshals working on the track, not to interfere with the race. It already effects the race far too much for my liking, this just worsens it.

    3. Andy G (@toothpickbandit)
      7th December 2011, 14:50

      But that would be incredibly unfair to the car that had been lapped last.

      Consider this scenario. Vettel 1st, Petrov 12th, Buemi 13th. Petrov and Buemi and battling it out when Vettel comes up to lap them. As Vettel laps Buemi, the SC comes out for a crash in another part of the circuit. Buemi is currently behind Vettel while Petrov is allowed to join the back of the SC tail.

      Under this new rule, Buemi is released and can catch up to the back of Petrov where he was before.

      Under your proposed rule, Buemi would be lapped by Petrov. As would the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th etc. placed cars. Not exactly fair.

      Basically your proposed rule would automatically create over a one lap gap between those who have been lapped by the leader and those who haven’t. The new rule ensures cars return to more or less where they were before… and makes things more exciting at the restart.

      1. Just award the drivers that had to go through the pit lane an extra lap, and the problem described above is solved. It would be just as if they had been allowed to pass the SC, without the danger and time taken to actually do so. Everyone’s happy!

        1. The added benefit of the pits solution is that the SC can come straight out and need not wait or wave-past in order to pick up the race leader. Anybody in front of the leader can be included in the pit line along with those not on the lead lap. So there will be nobody racing round the track without the SC at all. I also agree with closing the pit lane to pit-stops as soon as the SC is released.

          1. But the pits will be still very busy during the end of the SC, creating a traffic jam, and associated risk, at the end of the last SC lap.

    4. Just have the unlapped cars (racing order) being able to pass lapped cars, behind the safety car. Job Done. Within a few corners the racing order will be restored. Cars that are lapped +2 should allow lapped cars +1 through, etc…

    5. Initially seems like a great idea, but the waiting cars would likely experience in a drop in brake, tyre and engine temperatures beyond what they already suffer behind the safety car. This could result in failures and/or accidents (possibly bringing the safety car straight back out!)

  5. I wonder if it would be easier to see lapped cars do a drive trough, wait at pit exit with a red light then rejoin the back of the pack when the last car has passed.

    This means no waiting cars to lap, of which might take time because of the sector time limits imposed.

    It does mean cars which have been lapped more than once might be mixed up with others… but letting them get in the way of other slower cars is less of an issue than getting in the way of the leaders.

    Thoughts?

    1. It seems too logical for the FIA.

      1. Yeah you got that right.

        I’m not asure how the current SC / pit lane rules work, so this idea might mean that backmarkers might mix up with others pitting. Still… who waits until a couple laps of the safety car to pit?

      2. One lap’s less tyre wear.

    2. Andy G (@toothpickbandit)
      7th December 2011, 14:52

      I’ve explained in a previous comment why this would be incredibly unfair:

      But that would be incredibly unfair to the car that had been lapped last.

      Consider this scenario. Vettel 1st, Petrov 12th, Buemi 13th. Petrov and Buemi and battling it out when Vettel comes up to lap them. As Vettel laps Buemi, the SC comes out for a crash in another part of the circuit. Buemi is currently behind Vettel while Petrov is allowed to join the back of the SC tail.

      Under this new rule, Buemi is released and can catch up to the back of Petrov where he was before.

      Under your proposed rule, Buemi would be lapped by Petrov. As would the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th etc. placed cars. Not exactly fair.

      Basically your proposed rule would automatically create over a one lap gap between those who have been lapped by the leader and those who haven’t. The new rule ensures cars return to more or less where they were before… and makes things more exciting at the restart.

      1. Exept if they dont count the lap while the cars go round, or count it a lap when the cars are in the pitstraight.

        But the bigger problem would be the heat of the cars. they would have to stand still for about 2 mins with running engines & without air cooling. Its a problem as Heidfeld demonstrated it in Hungary, and several other races.

      2. But in that case, both case will have caught right back up behind Vettel… Kinda unfair to him.

    3. could create engine cooling problems.

  6. I’ve never made my mind up on the right way to go with this – it’s an argument between fairness for the drivers and excitement for spectators.

    My only concern is that safety car periods could become even longer, especially now the lap delta time is in place – it would take a lot of laps for a released car to circle the track and re-catch the back of the train. Even this year the safety car has been brought in while a few cars are a much as half a lap behind the rest of the pack, essentially giving their rivals a huge advantage. Perhaps the delta time should be relaxed once the train has formed (except through the relevant part of the track, obviously) to save time.

    Alternatively, race control could talk to the drivers by radio and shuffle the lapped cars backwards in the train. I reckon that would get too confusing though.

    1. Alternatively, race control could talk to the drivers by radio and shuffle the lapped cars backwards in the train. I reckon that would get too confusing though.

      Personally, i feel that would be the best solution, not at all confusing, if race control just gives a clear message and the TV feed gets this in time (when they get the message the SC is comging in next lap) and displays the restart order on screen for half a lap.

      1. I agree, Having the cars run round gives them the advantage in terms of brake/tyre temperatures.

        This really is a silly rule to bring in for many reasons.

        1. Yes, completely agree. This kind of thing works for ovals, where you run a minimum of 200 laps, so it’s fine if you “waste” a few getting everyone sorted out.

          But I reckon it’ll probably be worse than it was 2009, with the imposed sector times.

          And I don’t think it’d work to just send the lapped cars to the back of the line and add a lap, as you’d start having questions as to fuel consumption and fairness as the now unlapped cars would effectively have run one less lap than the leaders.

      2. I meant confusing for the drivers more than spectators. Having the cars in position order after the safety is much simpler for viewers!

  7. Not sure i like this one about cars passing the SC.

    Yes, its good that these cars will not get in the way of exiting racing after a restart, like they did in Singapore this year.
    But having to wait another lap (or 2-3) before the SC pulls in is not much to my liking. Why couldn’t they have had these cars let the leaders past them on the straight before the restart instead?

  8. Ahh good. It was silly have lapped cars between the leaders on safety car restarts.

    1. Agree. I know plenty will be against it but I’m really pleased about it. I think it’ll be far less confusing this way too.

    2. Agreed. I’m pretty happy about this rule as well. It was such an anti climax when at the restart there were 3-4 back markers separating the cars at the front.

      The safety issue does bother me a little, but I’m sure if there if lapped drivers are given the right amount of flag warning and slow target sector times they will manage just fine.

  9. I have bad memories of Bernd Mayländer waving cars past with his arm in what can only be described as a farce. I hope this doesn’t happen again.

  10. This appears to be a good rule-change, but with the maximum time allowed per sector — or whatever it’s called — under Safety Car conditions, it will take ages for the unlapped backmarkers to get to the back of the field.

    Or does that rule no longer apply once the cars are allowed to pass the Safety Car? If so, this creates somewhat of a disadvantage for the other drivers, because they can’t warm their tyres and brakes to the extent that the backmarkers can.

    I very much feel for something along the lines of having the lapped cars enter the pit lane, and re-join the race once the field has passed. But what would you do with the amount of laps they are behind the leaders, then?

  11. I like the idea to get lapped cars out of the way, but it only makes worse a rule that I already don’t like, namely the delta times. With these delta times, it can take a very long time to get an ordered queue of cars behing the SC, and this year’s Canadian GP showed that this can be quite dangerous (with a marshal losing his footing twice in front of Kobayashi’s Sauber).

    With regard to the concern of safety car periods taking longer to allow the cars to bunch up (@BasCB, for instance), I guess the restart does not have to wait for that, although in practive Charlie Whiting probably will.

  12. We’ve been denied several good battles this year because of lapped traffic sitting there and getting caught napping as Vettel takes off.

    Get them the F out of the way and let the leaders go nose to tail for the restart.

    Who really cares if an HRT or a Virgin car get a lap back??? I don’t!

  13. The rule which they need to re-establish is closing the pit lane under safety car conditions.

    Firstly, the current situation is extremely dangerous. As we often see, once the safety car is called out the entire pack rushes in to the pits. 24 still fast cars, potentially loose wheels, and hundreds of mechanics in close proximity is an accident waiting to happen. We were lucky that no-one was seriously injured or killed in Hungary 2010. I’m amazed the FIA didn’t heed this wake up call.

    Secondly, it is vulgar. A safety car may be brought out because of a serious incident (perhaps with a fellow driver being injured or even killed). For this to trigger an opportunistic rat race is entirely inappropriate.

    Thirdly, it is an entirely unfair lottery. This may be the aspect that excites some ‘fans’ but ‘free pit stops’ under the safety car are not in the interests of fair or honest racing. Valencia 2010 proved just how contrary to sporting interests the safety car situation can be.

    And fourthly, it is an avenue for cheating. As we saw in Singapore 2008 the Safety Car ‘lottery’ is open to abuse, and F1 teams are not above putting their own drivers in danger to gain an unfair advantage from it.

    Closing the pit lane under safety car conditions would solve so many problems, and now that refueling has been banned there is no good reason that it shouldn’t be reestablished.

    Is anyone at the FIA even thinking about this?

    In fact with lap time deltas now easily communicated to the driver via their steering wheel, should we not be thinking about getting rid of the safety car altogether? The drivers should all be able to maintain a safety car pace on their own. In this way the cars would also maintain their relative gaps to each other and we would avoid the unfair bunching up that we often see.

    1. Good point actually. It was a bad idea in 2007 because it was too much of a lottery. When SC came out on the lap you are due to come in, you either obeyed the rules and risk running out of fuel or you had to dive in and get a penalty. Now we dont have refueling, so that problem goes away.

      That said, I remember “pit lane is closed when safety car comes out” rule was in place during Singapore 2008. Or else how did Alonso move up so many places in the first place?

  14. What you need is the bloke in the safety car sitting facing the streme of cars behind him. Not trying to look in the door mirror to work out who’s been lapped or not. He can’t see anything by tring to look over his sholder or in the teensy mirror.
    Sit him in the specially fitted out boot facing the cars behind him witha couple of pingpong bats like at an airport and he’ll be able to direct rtaffic. Otherwise its gonna be a classic —- up.

    1. Nice idea mate..just get a 3rd guy instead though. I like seeing
      that guys fat face next to Mylander.

  15. All we need now is to get rid of Blue Flags.

  16. Yes! Brilliant decision, too many times have there been back markers in the way of a battle for the lead or something. Ok it might take longer for the train to form up again but who cares, when the action gets going it’s all for position with no back markers, much better way of doing it.

    1. I don’t think it is a brilliant decision. In fact I think this is going to cause problems again and we will have situations where the safety car is out for 5-6-7 laps… that is way too long and extremely boring to watch as a substantial fraction of the race is lost behind the safety car.

  17. I think a better option would be to do as they do in V8 Supercars now, which is to force lapped cars to cycle through the pitlane just before the restart – it clears them out of the way, and doesn’t give them an unfair advantage.

    1. I think a better option would be to do as they do in V8 Supercars now, which is to force lapped cars to cycle through the pitlane just before the restart – it clears them out of the way, and doesn’t give them an unfair advantage.

      that would be a great solution

      1. I like that one as well.

        It’s not the fairest solution. But I don’t think fair is possible with what they are dealing with. Someone will always lose out.

  18. I don’t like this. I had a scenario in my mind to show it.

    One of the top drivers suffers puncture in the first lap, and re-joins the field a lap down. At some point, when backmarker team drivers have also lost a lap, he collides with one of them. This driver crashes into the wall, retires and SC is deployed.

    The driver who originally lost a lap gets his lap back. Even if he gets likely penalty in terms of drive through or stop/go he takes major advantage.

  19. I don’t know if I really like this. The race leader is penalized enough by a safety car in the first place. I think it is a bit fake to let the lapped cars pass the safety car just for the sake of the spectacle.
    The leading driver have put his race at risk by lapping a car, but then just because there is a safety car the car behind won’t need to worry about that. I think they should keep the rules as they were and just get that safetycar out of the way as quickly as possible, and then let the race go on from there, instead of trying to make it more exciting..
    Should it be fair, or should it be exciting?

    1. It seems like most comments here are positive about the reintroduction of this rule but I completely agree with you.

      I think it’s really unfair to the drivers who have already spent time behind the lapped cars and risked their race getting past them. The other drivers get a free ticket to attack after the SC with this rule. To me the logical thing would be that everyone has to fight the backmarkers.

      1. It seems like most comments here are positive about the reintroduction of this rule but I completely agree with you.

        Not all. I think reintroduction of this rule is a mistake.

        1. When I first read that they were reintroducing this rule, for the first time in my life I hated F1. There have been some ridiculous and anti-sport rules over the years, but they don’t often go back to the worst ones that have been thrown out.

          When we had this before it caused me to rant about it to people who didn’t even follow F1. I’m seriously thinking about giving up watching the sport circus for good.

  20. I’m very unhappy to see this rule back. I’ve always felt that the safety car already effects the race result too much. It should be there for safety, and should interfere with the race as little as possible. This hands a huge advantage to drivers that have been lapped, and to a lesser extent to drivers who had yet to lap them (even though there are blue flags, the backmarkers can’t melt away when another driver closes in). That’s on top of the huge advantage it currently gives to any drivers that were chasing others down.

    I’ve been bouncing the following idea around in my head, and here’s what I’m thinking:

    * Accident occurs
    * Red Flag is signalled
    * Drivers line up on the grid in the order that they are currently running on track
    * Tyre blankets and fans etc are applied to keep cars at correct temperatures
    * Restart is signalled
    * Grid cleared
    * Drivers are then given the opportunity to start based on the delta times at the point the red flag was signalled.

    Example:
    Lead driver is allowed to start. Driver running in second was 3.5 seconds behind and is allowed to start 3.5 seconds after the lead driver was signalled. A backmarker is next having just been passed by the 2nd place driver, and starts just after based on the gap the second place driver had pulled out. And so on and so forth.

    In my opinion this leads to the least impact on the race and also has the greatest safety. It also leads to some interesting battles at the restart, but only for drivers who were close to begin with, which I think is fair. I’d love to hear other’s thoughts?

    1. Sounds like an unnecessarily time-consuming process. Especially considering that you’ll have to add a sighter lap so the drivers can see if conditions have changed (something they would be able to do if they were behind the SC).

      Plus you’ve got the disadvantage of half the drivers doing another start on the dirty side of the grid.
      And also the fact that if the leader is close to a lap ahead of any of the drivers then he will be approaching the start-line at racing speed as they are doing their standing starts. An incredibly dangerous situation.

      1. @mark-hitchcock Time consuming, maybe. But we’d actually get more racing, I find the cars all travelling behind the safety car for laps on end to be tedious and a waste of good racing laps.

        There wouldn’t be a need for a sighter lap in most situations, I assume you’re meaning in the case of rain? Once it’s been deemed safe enough to race, I don’t see why they should have a lap to find there braking points etc, the same way they need to do it on the fly if conditions change during the race, ie it starts to rain. Perhaps I’m not quite understanding you though.

        Yeah, obviously the dirty side of the grid is a disadvantage, but I’d say it’s much less a disadvantage than allowing all the time you’ve pulled out from the person behind you to be wiped out. If the driver behind was so close that he could capitalise on your dirty side start, it seems a lot fairer than someone being able to capitalise on a restart behind the safety car when he was 20 seconds behind you on the road.

        You do make an excellent point about the safety, however bearing in mind that it’s a standing start, the leaders lap times will be a lot slower than a normal lap and so shouldn’t arrive near when the final back marker takes off.

  21. That’s good but won’t it take too much time to get things sorted out? I think only the top 10 cars should be cleaned.

  22. Surely a simpler solution would be allow the race order to be reordered behind the safety car. So noone is ahead of the safety car but lapped cars can get back to where they are meant to be.

  23. Andy G (@toothpickbandit)
    7th December 2011, 14:55

    To all those saying let the lapped cars just fall to the back of the pack rather than go around, this solution would be VERY unfair:

    Consider this scenario. Vettel 1st, Petrov 12th, Buemi 13th. Petrov and Buemi are battling it out when Vettel comes up to lap them. As Vettel laps Buemi, the SC comes out for a crash in another part of the circuit. Buemi is currently behind Vettel while Petrov is allowed to join the back of the SC tail.

    Under this new rule, Buemi is released and can catch up to the back of Petrov where he was before.

    Under the dropping behind rule, Buemi would be lapped by Petrov. As would the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th etc. placed cars. Not exactly fair.

    Basically this ‘dropping behind rule’ would automatically create over a one lap gap between those who have been lapped by the leader and those who haven’t. The new rule ensures cars return to more or less where they were before… and makes things more exciting at the restart.

  24. I’m all for getting back markers out of the way at a SC restart, all to often we’ve seen the leader get a free pass with nothing but an Lotus or HRT to “challenge”. And it’s not always as if the leader has a huge margin over 2nd place, sometimes the SC with back markers behind is a big help.
    But is passing the SC the best answer? Maybe but if it can be controlled, let cars pass behind the SC where it’s safe, ie away from the incident/accident that caused the caution.

  25. Lots of straw man arguments in the comments here :)

    Everyone seems to be assuming (and I guess the article implies it too) that unlapped cars will be required to rejoin the end of the train before the restart can take place, but is this actually the case?

    Why not just get the cars unlapping, and then chasing around at the allowed delta (which is a touch faster than the safety car’s speed), and the restart happens whenever race controls decides the track is clear – no matter whether the unlapped cars have caught up or not.

    Yes, you might have cars dotted all over the circuit rather than in a neat train but at least the leaders will be lined up in order for the restart, and the restart doesn’t have to be delayed.

    Granted I haven’t looked up the actual rule – has anyone seen it?

    1. @graham228221

      Before the safety car returns to the pits all lapped cars will be allowed to unlap themselves and then join the back of the pack, ensuring a clean re-start without slower cars impeding those racing for the leading positions.

  26. Just put blue flags out a lap before the safety car is in, so that you get drivers on the lead lap first, then those a lap down and so on, problem solved.

    It’s simple, quick and fair. The exact opposite of what FIA has done.

    1. Well, it’s not that fair… But it is simple and quick. Which beats the FIA’s method.

      The only thing I’d suggest is that a lap before might not be enough time. I’d say as soon as possible.

      1. Whenever it’s safe enough to do it, but when it is the safety car comes in, so there’s not much extra time. You can’t have people lapping each other when there are marshalls on track.

        And I think it would be more or less fair – it would be the same as it was this year, just more interesting and less trafficky.

  27. sid_prasher (@)
    7th December 2011, 19:45

    Cars in order at the restart makes sense…

    Why aren’t they changing the red flag rule – that should have been higher in the priority list!

  28. Strikes me as being fair. I’d rather drivers have the ability to unlap themselves so we can have some sort of a race on our hands. This will certainly shake things up at the back.

    1. Next we should get rid of blue flags.

      1. @mike I’m not convinced we should. I do feel a bit bad for the guys at the back, constantly having to make way. However, you could have a situation where it’s all too convenient for one backmarker to hold-up a leading driver when a championship is at stake.

        Say you had Caterham/Lotus at the back of the grid and one of their drivers was purposefully holding back a Ferrari from challenging for the win and potential championship victory. It all gets a bit messy when the Caterham/Lotus driver is powered by the same engine as the guy running in 1st place, a Red Bull.

        Perhaps a little over the top but it wouldn’t surprise me in Formula 1.

  29. Most seem to assume that it is Vettel who has benefitted most from safety car restarts robbing them of action *cough* Singapore *cough*. But say Lewis Hamilton is leading a race with 20 second lead with 10 laps remaining, but also nursing a problem which is costing him 1.5 seconds to the guy behind. If a safety car was to occur now, not only will his margin be wiped and the people inbetween the 20 second interval be allowed to unlap themselves leaving him vulnerable. In this case will people just call Lewis unlucky or blast FIA for having stupid rules?

  30. This is pretty amusing, really. In all the spirited discussion with points and counterpoints happening here, the most simple solution is clearly the one they’ve put forth. I’m glad they’re finally going to allow this.

    1. The simplest solution would have been to leave it the way it was.

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