Lapped cars allowed to pass safety car in 2012

2012 F1 season

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. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 7th December 2011, 13:19

    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.

    • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 7th December 2011, 23:55

      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.

  2. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 7th December 2011, 13:19

    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.

    • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 7th December 2011, 23:58

      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

      • Mike (@mike) said on 8th December 2011, 0:57

        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.

  3. Bleu (@bleu) said on 7th December 2011, 13:49

    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.

  4. Mads (@mads) said on 7th December 2011, 13:59

    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?

    • Metallion (@metallion) said on 7th December 2011, 18:20

      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.

      • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 7th December 2011, 23:59

        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.

        • DVC (@dvc) said on 9th December 2011, 10:33

          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.

  5. Puffy (@puffy) said on 7th December 2011, 14:28

    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.

    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?

    • Mark Hitchcock (@mark-hitchcock) said on 7th December 2011, 20:11

      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.

      • Puffy (@puffy) said on 8th December 2011, 14:23

        @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.

  6. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th December 2011, 14:33

    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.

  7. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 7th December 2011, 14:34

    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.

  8. Andy G (@toothpickbandit) said on 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.

  9. katederby (@katederby) said on 7th December 2011, 14:59

    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.

  10. graham228221 (@graham228221) said on 7th December 2011, 16:18

    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?

    • Enigma (@enigma) said on 7th December 2011, 18:15


      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.

  11. Enigma (@enigma) said on 7th December 2011, 18:11

    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.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 8th December 2011, 1:00

      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.

      • Enigma (@enigma) said on 8th December 2011, 9:01

        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.

  12. sid_prasher (@) said on 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!

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 7th December 2011, 23:56

    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.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 8th December 2011, 1:16

      Next we should get rid of blue flags.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th December 2011, 13:01

        @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.

  14. GameR_K (@gamer_k) said on 8th December 2011, 8:31

    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?

  15. lordhesketh (@lordhesketh) said on 8th December 2011, 18:30

    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.

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