Get Rid of the Safety Car! .pdf
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Get Rid of the Safety Car!
Seriously, let's get rid of this artifice once and for all. Since it was introduced, what we'll shorten by
SC is more than launching a safety system, but it also creates lotteries and actions that the sport would
avoid with pleasure; just as watching cars following each other for so many laps. What a spectacle this
is for a discipline that cruelly lacks of it.
The Safety Car has been experimented for the first time in F1 during the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix
held in Mosport. The pace car, as it was called at the time, went out after an incident of FranĂ§ois
Cevert, but it would eventually turned the race upside down, distorting it by going out in the middle of
the field instead of ahead of the leader. Peter Revson won the race following this unexpected
combination of circumstances, even though the official results would come only a few hours after the
end of the race! The safety car then was denigrated, despised and considered as a North American
In North America, the pace car is much more used than in F1, due to the will of bringing spectacle,
and also matters of logistics (narrow tracks, ovals and cities). In NASCAR the use of the pace car is
almost abusive: caution, launched starts and mere debris... The maximal speeds may justify this, or
also it may be the marshalâ€™s safety on oval tracks - by definition, NASCARâ€™s playground. Besides,
this system is so firmly rooted in everyday life that managing cautions may make a distinction. Yet,
overall these rules are still unfit for F1, as well as for the IndyCar's system, which remains despite a
few trials and errors, much easier and more logical than the several experimentations we have seen
The SC then came back into F1 rules in 1993. The FIA definitely decided to be in favour of it instead
of the yellow/red flags dilemma in case of accident. As if it wanted to repudiate the transition, the FIA
would call it Safety-Car and no longer Pace-Car; yet the observers remained dubious on its use although it was more moderate than expected. The car in itself had been a question mark from 1993 to
1996! The model was chosen by the organisers! If people sometimes consider the AMG-Mercedes as
slow cars, what should one say about cars that were totally unfit to a circuit? The notion of slowness is
relative, but the SC driver is not being idle, far from it. The Imola 1994 Opel Vectra was the perfect
example illustrating the idea, for the drivers were unable to warm up their tyres behind the SC, as they
were losing tyre pressure.
The 2007 rule was a step in the direction of a better integration. With a weird adaptation of
NASCARâ€™s Lucky Dog's rule, the race control allowed the lapped drivers to overtake to go in the
same lap as the leader. In the same way, a new rule was set and it forbid drivers to pit until the pitlane
was open. People could see that there was certain logic in this rule. Unfortunately, this rule has been
removed in 2009, which was quite surprising at the dawn of the refuelling ban.
But the biggest problem remains the one of starts and rules under the SC. Starts are increasingly
numerous with time, but they are also increasingly long! There are suspicions on Fuji 2007: the 17
laps run under the SC may have ended because the SC was about to be short of fuel. A few years
earlier, a similar problem occurred in ChampCar series, with a second pace car that replaced the
original one, which created great confusion in the middle of the field. What happened next is what
anyone could guess. As for rules, there are too many successive changes, just like in F1. Drivers
rushed into the pits, there was a refuelling ban, then they prohibited this ban, as well as erasing a 1-lap
gap, then allowed and banned. There are too much confusion remaining, letting races turned into
unfair lottery. Without counting the famous new lines of SC used for the restarts, as for lap times that
from 2010 on should not be too quick unless drivers get a penalty. Let's remember the quasi-collective
5-second penalty given after the Valencia race this year. Or the penalties Villeneuve and Vettel
received for driving too slowly behind the safety-car (the former got a one suspended race ban, the
latter a drive-through).
It would be more honest to ban/report the races under the rain and to allow again the monsoon tyres or
even revising the flat ground turning F1 into surfboards instead of imposing us an uninteresting
parade. The SC is only replacing in a very bad way the intermediary and fictional yellow flag/red flag.
The drivers have to assume the risks they take when an accident occurs. If they're going out of track,
they deserve it. The drivers have to put their balls on the table. There have always been GPs starting
under the rain, and they did not always end like in Spa 1998. Because we can argue anything, but
today, the Koreans of Yeongam are not the ones to blame, but it is the roving of race control. Pity, the
GP would have been even more spectacular - paradoxical, for it is what we are looking for in F1...
Between sport and show, who will win? Today, none of the above do!