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Safety Cars: Outdated & Unfair - time to get rid?


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#1 FirstnameLastname

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 15:26

https://www.motorspo...paign=widget-22

An interesting piece on Motorsport.com (and presumably AUTOSPORT too) about safety cars and their unfairness on the competition.

With modern VSC abilities, is the safety car an outdated idea?

I thought part of its usefulness was having the cars grouped together so work on the track could be done without the marshals needing to dodge traffic while sweeping debris (for example)

It would also rob us of chances of the race being reignited... but that’s where the argument for it being unfair comes in. In the article it says in America it’s regarded as ‘part of the spectacle’ and isn’t that so in F1, as artificial as that may be.

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#2 TomNokoe

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 15:43

VSC and SC are called far too often in F1 for incidents that do not require them, all in the unimpeachable name of safety.

At least in the past when we genuinely needed one you just shrugged your shoulders and said "well, that's racing".

I don't care for the bunching up per se, as long as the full SC is necessary. I do care that too many races are being influenced by free/cheap pitstops and that VSC/SC are very close to becoming a regular fixture in a grand prix. I'll also throw in my disdain for the prolifery of red flags that are suddenly being bandied about, too.

IMO race control should do everything they can to avoid calling VSC/SC, but in many cases it feels like exactly the opposite. The illusion that a high performance formula car being controlled by an elite athlete, in dry weather conditions, cannot drive within 20 metres of a marshal because it's "unsafe" is ridiculous to me, especially under reduced speed VSC conditions. Maybe I'm in the minority.

O/T pit lane speed limit
Spoiler


I was rewatching the Sakhir GP earlier and the justification for calling a full SC to collect a front wing that was sitting at the side of the track was bonkers. VSC, message to drivers "stay right on pit straight", send a marshal out, done. Why F1 still doesn't have a coordinated radio system between race control and all of the drivers boggles my mind.

I would be able to live with all of the above if they closed the pit lane during VSC periods, and only called the SC for major accidents. But no doubt if the pit lane was closed under VSC the teams would have valid complaints about the Pirellis losing temperature that is likely irretrievable once back up to racing speeds, which is dangerous in of itself.

Edited by TomNokoe, 20 February 2021 - 16:03.


#3 ensign14

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 15:48

Ahead of the game...



#4 pdac

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 15:52

I'm sure they could (and should) use the VSC technology to bunch the cars up, control their pace and separate them correctly, before restarting the race. That would be the fairest and safest way to deal with incidents without having to stop the race. Of course, the pits must remain closed throughout.



#5 PayasYouRace

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 15:55

F1 currently has the technology to bunch all the cars up (if a clear up is needed) and then restore the gaps when ready to go racing without the need for a safety car to determine the pace (hence why they were always called pace cars until F1 decided it needed to call it something else). It's the delta system as used for the virtual safety car. Each car can be given a delta time that would limit the driver's pace as is done with the VSC at the moment. Once done, then it only required one lap to reset the field to how it was. If necessary, time taken in the pits can be added on to negate the advantage of pitting under yellow. Or the pits can be closed.

 

I advocate only closing the pit lane exit. Cars with damage can pit, and they should be allowed to without additional penalties, but they need to wait at the pit exit for the train of cars to go past, or whatever criteria works best.



#6 NixxxoN

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 16:15

Nope. It's an opportunity to bunch up the field. Random factor, yes, unfair? maybe, but it spices up races and it contributes to the show.



#7 HP

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 16:22

IMO it's not one of the most pressing things that needs to be fixed in F1, if it needs fixing at all.

 

If anything the SC car needs to be there just in case the VSC computer stuff breaks down. Since the SC car driver needs practice as well, it makes sense to use the SC car as the preferred way of doing things anyway.

 

Use the SC more sparingly though, then all  seems all pretty OK  with me.



#8 Imperial

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 16:30

SC's and restarts are part of motor racing, there's no issue to be found.

The 'lottery' aspect of motor racing wil always be present, from SC's, to the lap rain begins, to a mechanic messing up a pitstop.

#9 pdac

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 17:19

SC's and restarts are part of motor racing

 

... since 1993



#10 JHSingo

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 17:36

Is this the same publication that, for years, has vouched for reversed grids in F1? Right...

 

I'm not a fan of VSC. It's supposed to be a "fairer" system than safety cars, yet always seems to cause as many problems as it is apparently solving. 

 

Don't fix what ain't broke. Is the safety car 100% fair all the time? No, of course not. But that's racing. It's not a fair sport. If you wanted to look at making things fairer, there's probably better things to be considering rather than getting rid of the safety car. 



#11 Kalmake

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 17:38

If anything the SC car needs to be there just in case the VSC computer stuff breaks down.

No it doesn't. They can use the red flag in that rare occasion.

#12 cpbell

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 17:52

Jules Bianchi evidently failed to make any impression on the OP.  Until double waved yellows are enforced properly in F1, there is a requirement for something short of a red flag to ensure safety.  VSC can't do it as it preserves the gaps between cars and therefore won't provide a sufficiently lengthy interval without any cars passing the scene of an accident which is necessary to enable marshals and recovery teams to clear the track and get slow-moving ambulances, fire vehicles etc. to the scene.



#13 FLB

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 17:57

... since 1993

Well.... 1973, actually. A consequence of Roger Williamson's fatal accident at Zandvoort. However, the first use of the SC in F1 was so utterly chaotic (at Mosport the same year), that it wasn't used again until 1993.

 

What caused it to be used again were two races: Magny-Cours 1992 (which had a red flag because of rain) and Brazil 1993 (which also had a red flag because of rain). In both cases the races were awarded on aggregate times and did not go the full distance. The SC was brought back for good at Silverstone to avoid such a thing in the future.

 

The sporting regulations did not even have to be changed for the SC to be used, just applied...



#14 ARTGP

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:01

The drivers act like children under yellow. As do some of marshalls occasionally... So no. It's not time.


Edited by ARTGP, 20 February 2021 - 18:02.


#15 ANF

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:12

What caused it to be used again were two races: Magny-Cours 1992 (which had a red flag because of rain) and Brazil 1993 (which also had a red flag because of rain). In both cases the races were awarded on aggregate times and did not go the full distance. The SC was brought back for good at Silverstone to avoid such a thing in the future.

We always hear that red flags because of rain is something new!

#16 loki

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:14

Trivia time!
 

The first use of a pace car was in 1911.



#17 Imperial

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:18

... since 1993


Nearly 30 years.

#18 azza200

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:19

Well.... 1973, actually. A consequence of Roger Williamson's fatal accident at Zandvoort. However, the first use of the SC in F1 was so utterly chaotic (at Mosport the same year), that it wasn't used again until 1993.

 

What caused it to be used again were two races: Magny-Cours 1992 (which had a red flag because of rain) and Brazil 1993 (which also had a red flag because of rain). In both cases the races were awarded on aggregate times and did not go the full distance. The SC was brought back for good at Silverstone to avoid such a thing in the future.

 

The sporting regulations did not even have to be changed for the SC to be used, just applied...

 

Is kinda stupid when you look back at that though that they stopped races cause of rain pre 94 I get different era's rules etc 



#19 absinthedude

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:29

Jules Bianchi evidently failed to make any impression on the OP.  Until double waved yellows are enforced properly in F1, there is a requirement for something short of a red flag to ensure safety.  VSC can't do it as it preserves the gaps between cars and therefore won't provide a sufficiently lengthy interval without any cars passing the scene of an accident which is necessary to enable marshals and recovery teams to clear the track and get slow-moving ambulances, fire vehicles etc. to the scene.

 

You hit the nail on the head there. Motor sport has yet to come up with a better solution. Especially as it gets increasingly safer, and drivers become ever more professional and obsessed with winning. In past decades, significant risk was just accepted...drivers would crash, get trapped in burning wrecks while while their competitors hurtled past. Thankfully today we care more about people and have full on rescue teams in the event of a driver requiring assistance and to move the cars off the racetrack. But unless we physically have a slower "safety car" on the track, the other racing drivers cannot be trusted to slow down sufficiently. 

 

In F1, before the SC, a stranded car was often left at the side of the track. That's something else we just don't do now. If a driver required medical assistance and his car was on or beside the track, the race was red flagged and the two sections run on aggregate. We have very few red flags now. And apparently the average F1 fan isn't able to figure out aggregate times. 

 

Also please don't take the more frequent use of the SC and indeed red flags in 2020 as typical. The plague meant that fewer marshals were available and they often had to work in different ways to a typical season. 



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#20 ensign14

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:29

Jules Bianchi evidently failed to make any impression on the OP.

Bianchi's accident was in part because of the safety car.  Bombing around on the wrong tyres waiting for it to come out so he could save time.  



#21 cpbell

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:32


 

Also please don't take the more frequent use of the SC and indeed red flags in 2020 as typical. The plague meant that fewer marshals were available and they often had to work in different ways to a typical season. 

Indeed. 



#22 FLB

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:32

Is kinda stupid when you look back at that though that they stopped races cause of rain pre 94 I get erent era's rules etc 

Well, they also had races where they did not stop, but generally those races were declared wet races from the start. Magny Cours 1992 for instance was a started as a dry race. Montreal 1989 was a case in point: it had stopped raining at the start. Some drivers started on intermediates, others on wets. Mansell and Nannini tried to change to dries (sp.?) at the last minute and were caught out by a closed pitlane, resulting in a DSQ for both.

 

In Montreal, I saw the greatest drive I have personally witnessed that day (Ayrton Senna), but the race could easily have gone to either Riccardo Patrese or Derek Warwick. Nicola Larini lost a podium when his electrics failed.


Edited by FLB, 20 February 2021 - 18:37.


#23 absinthedude

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:34

We always hear that red flags because of rain is something new!

 

Nothing new, but perhaps F1 is more risk averse than in the past. The 1989 Australian Grand Prix would never go ahead today. F1 was lucky that day. The usual reason for red flagging a wet race was a track blocked due to an accident. But by the 90s, especially following Adelaide 1989 and 1991, there was more readiness to stop a race due to rain. 



#24 cpbell

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:35

Bianchi's accident was in part because of the safety car.  Bombing around on the wrong tyres waiting for it to come out so he could save time.  

Eh?  Like that, in the event of a motorist crashing and going through their windscreen due to not wearing their seatbelt, you'd blame their injuries on the existence of seatbelts rather than the person's failure to use it.  What killed Bianchi was a culture of failing to respect double waved yellows and the fact that the Safety Car should have been used to slow cars while vehicles cleared Sutil's car.



#25 Anderis

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:40

Let's get rid of Safety Car in favour of a "fairer" solution. Cars already no longer break down, drivers barely make race-ending mistakes anymore, set-up and strategies are optimised with NASA like precision due to computer technology and hundreds of people working to field 2 cars on circuits of which most look almost the same. The final thing we need to complement that is to get rid of the SC lottery and then we can finally announce a success of almost every race looking exactly the same. :)



#26 FLB

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:50

Nothing new, but perhaps F1 is more risk averse than in the past. The 1989 Australian Grand Prix would never go ahead today. F1 was lucky that day. The usual reason for red flagging a wet race was a track blocked due to an accident. But by the 90s, especially following Adelaide 1989 and 1991, there was more readiness to stop a race due to rain. 

Oh dear me, Adelaide 1991! :lol:

 

The shortest race in the history of the World Drivers' Championship: 24 minutes, 34 seconds and 899 thousands of a second...



#27 PayasYouRace

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:53

SC's and restarts are part of motor racing, there's no issue to be found.

The 'lottery' aspect of motor racing wil always be present, from SC's, to the lap rain begins, to a mechanic messing up a pitstop.

 

It's important to not lose sight of why they're part of motor racing. The S stands for safety. They're only used to meet a particular requirement of keeping things safe. If a superior solution presents itself, there's no reason to hold on to it just because it's been done like that for the last thirty (or much more depending on the series) years.

 

It looks like superior solutions are already being used in part, and can be implemented.



#28 azza200

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 18:54

Also in some series these days the bring out Full Course Cautions V8 Supercars and sometimes in IMSA to remove a car off the racing line when the car is not really in a dangerous place out of range. They can ruin the flow of a race or as previously mentioned SC or FCC for some debris off line. Somethings the race director throws that call to often 



#29 Peat

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 19:29

F1 has made a very conscious decision to throw an SC for borderline hazards in the past year or 2.

 

And you know what? I applaud them for it. 9/10 they will turn a yawner into a belter. A Grand Prix is a sprint race, it's bad enough we have to watch them nurse the tyres and manage battery levels. If you're not prepared to get your elbows out every now and then, why bother watching?

 

In terms of 'the slippery slope of gimmicks', I think the balance is just about right. 

 

 

 



#30 DeKnyff

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 20:07

SC's and restarts are part of motor racing.

 

No, that's a relatively new thing. At least in Europe, it started being widely used only in the nineties. My very humble opinion is that it was imported from the USA in order to artificially provide more entertainment.



#31 DeKnyff

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 20:11

In F1, safety cars are bad, but they are even worse, catastrophic I'd say, in Formula 2. The less experienced drivers make a lot of unwanted contact and you have plenty of safety cars which kill the show. It's unusual to see ten laps without any interruption.



#32 loki

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 20:16

No, that's a relatively new thing. At least in Europe, it started being widely used only in the nineties. My very humble opinion is that it was imported from the USA in order to artificially provide more entertainment.

The pace car was introduced to pace the field for starts and reduce the pace under yellow conditions.  Even though there are competition cautions used the primary deployment of the pace car is for safety.



#33 FLB

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 20:20

The pace car was introduced to pace the field for starts and reduce the pace under yellow conditions.  Even though there are competition cautions used the primary deployment of the pace car is for safety.

At Indianapolis, they used to have a complicated system of yellow pacer lights to slow the drivers down (nobody ever told Bobby Unser, though). They only started to use the pace car during the race in 1979.



#34 ArchieTech

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 20:32

F1 has made a very conscious decision to throw an SC for borderline hazards in the past year or 2.

 

And you know what? I applaud them for it. 9/10 they will turn a yawner into a belter. A Grand Prix is a sprint race, it's bad enough we have to watch them nurse the tyres and manage battery levels. If you're not prepared to get your elbows out every now and then, why bother watching?

 

In terms of 'the slippery slope of gimmicks', I think the balance is just about right. 

I agree, the implementation in F1 is about right really these days and can change the perspective of the race in interesting ways without it feeling unfair. It's another variable to deal with.

 

In contrast, the implementation in Indycar I often feel has too much of an effect because the pit closure can hugely disadvantage those that were just about to stop, especially as they can't then just try and extend the stint because they need to pit due to fuel regardless.



#35 ensign14

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 21:09

Eh?  Like that, in the event of a motorist crashing and going through their windscreen due to not wearing their seatbelt, you'd blame their injuries on the existence of seatbelts rather than the person's failure to use it.  What killed Bianchi was a culture of failing to respect double waved yellows and the fact that the Safety Car should have been used to slow cars while vehicles cleared Sutil's car.

Agree on the double waved yellows.  Disagree on the safety car for the simple reason that, if it is unsafe to do something with cars going around, then stop the race.  That shows that the primary focus on the safety car is television rather than safety.

 

Plus the race fatality before Bianchi was also down to the safety car.



#36 PayasYouRace

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 21:14

At Indianapolis, they used to have a complicated system of yellow pacer lights to slow the drivers down (nobody ever told Bobby Unser, though). They only started to use the pace car during the race in 1979.

 

In effect, the pacer lights system was what we'd call the virtual safety car today, but it was an attempt with the technology available. The technology wasn't really up to scratch, so they decided to have a special car to go out and set a safe pace.

 

I guess the point of the thread is that we now have means to dictate the pace and even adjust gaps on the track without the need for a specialised car to go out and set a pace.



#37 D1rtyHarry

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 21:19

Drivers shouldn't be allowed to pit during the safety car IMO unless it's to retire.


Edited by D1rtyHarry, 20 February 2021 - 21:20.


#38 cpbell

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 21:23

Agree on the double waved yellows.  Disagree on the safety car for the simple reason that, if it is unsafe to do something with cars going around, then stop the race.  That shows that the primary focus on the safety car is television rather than safety.

 

Plus the race fatality before Bianchi was also down to the safety car.

Bianchi's accident would not have been as serious under the Safety Car; at worst he would have spun into the runoff without hitting anything.  Saying that there isn't any appreciable difference between driving at speed and cruising behind the Safety Car is, IMO, an incorrect assessment - just because conditions were bad and a vehicle was been moved, it doesn't follow that a red flag was needed.



#39 Clatter

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 22:29

No, that's a relatively new thing. At least in Europe, it started being widely used only in the nineties. My very humble opinion is that it was imported from the USA in order to artificially provide more entertainment.

 


It was brought in to try and ensure the race stayed within the 2 hour limit for the TV companies.

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#40 Clatter

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 22:33

The pace car was introduced to pace the field for starts and reduce the pace under yellow conditions.  Even though there are competition cautions used the primary deployment of the pace car is for safety.

 


Disagree. The system before the SC was introduced was to stop the race if an incident was bad enough. That was far safer for the track workers, but meant the race sometimes overran, which the TV companies were not happy about.

#41 absinthedude

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 22:38

Agree on the double waved yellows.  Disagree on the safety car for the simple reason that, if it is unsafe to do something with cars going around, then stop the race.  That shows that the primary focus on the safety car is television rather than safety.

 

Plus the race fatality before Bianchi was also down to the safety car.

 

No...the primary purpose is less interruption to the race. A red flag and restart requires all cars to stop, usually to come into the pits, and that means the restart is at minimum 20-30 minutes away. It's not TV...it's drivers frame of mind, and requires another parade lap, another standing start and a race run on aggregate timings which apparently is difficult to understand. One could certainly hold the view that it's unfair because the restarted race is not run purely on track position but on total time....therefore someone "battling" for position may gain position by being faster on track but not overtaking their rivals....or may fail to gain position because they're not right behind their rival 

 

No system is perfect. Mario Andretti once said of the IndyCar pace car....sometimes you gain, sometimes you lose....but over all it evens out. 

 

The fact is that the SC allows a race to be neutralised and the cars to drastically slow down without a full stoppage and all the procedure and delay that entails. The delay isn't just an issue for the TV companies and viewers....indeed today with dedicated F1 or sports channels perhaps it's not an issue at all for TV. It's a middle option between waved yellow flags and a red flag....when there's a clear obstruction on the track but no need to actually stop the race.


Edited by absinthedude, 20 February 2021 - 22:40.


#42 Viryfan

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 22:44

Well.... 1973, actually. A consequence of Roger Williamson's fatal accident at Zandvoort. However, the first use of the SC in F1 was so utterly chaotic (at Mosport the same year), that it wasn't used again until 1993.

What caused it to be used again were two races: Magny-Cours 1992 (which had a red flag because of rain) and Brazil 1993 (which also had a red flag because of rain). In both cases the races were awarded on aggregate times and did not go the full distance. The SC was brought back for good at Silverstone to avoid such a thing in the future.

The sporting regulations did not even have to be changed for the SC to be used, just applied...


Brazil 1993 was not red flagged, in fact it was the race safety car returned in f1.

#43 ensign14

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 23:01

the restarted race is not run purely on track position but on total time....therefore someone "battling" for position may gain position by being faster on track but not overtaking their rivals....or may fail to gain position because they're not right behind their rival 

 

So basically like the first-ever Grand Prix then?



#44 ANF

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 23:40

Brazil 1993 was not red flagged, in fact it was the race safety car returned in f1.

Ah, thanks. That's why I remembered watching Prost spin out but didn't remember a red flag.

Watching it again I notice that the safety car had already been deployed when he spun out! https://youtu.be/RVBzV0UZJS4 Longplay: https://youtu.be/dMyqBOlzmGA?t=2415

Edited by ANF, 21 February 2021 - 00:04.


#45 Murl

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Posted 20 February 2021 - 23:59

They could remote control all the cars, bunch them up, then space them out to the original gaps before the restart.

They could even get rid of the drivers altogether, just have their instagram pages.



#46 Garndell

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 00:02

I'd rather they fix the loose grey matter in the F1 decision makers skulls before trying to fix important stuff like the SC/VSC.



#47 Cornholio

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 03:02

Was (pleasantly) shocked to read that article on there, rather than the 14765347534th opinion piece in favour of reverse grids.

 

I've generally been "anti-SC" since they were introduced, in so much as I'd accept it as a safety device in favour of no other better option, particularly when it comes to marshal safety, but never particularly enjoyed it or had it enhance my enjoyment of any race I've ever watched. I've always treat it as the equivalent of that awful "it was all a dream" plot device in a movie or TV show, basically saying "90% of what you have been watching so far and been invested in is now completely irrelevant, forget it ever happened". And if we have better and fairer ways of ensuring safety - even if not 100% perfect - I much prefer those.

 

I also think the frequent SCs in modern F1 are the main reason for the driving-to-a-delta type stuff that is often criticised, rather than fuel/tyre saving, as they has been a thing throughout history, except in the past it was a legitimate tactic to push hard and try to build a lead even if you had to back off late on save your fuel/tyres to compenaste. In fact it was often the right thing to do, to cover off any potential issues (e.g. if Mansell had completed the first three quarters of Monaco '92 just 5 or 10 seconds quicker, he'd have won easily even with his late puncture).

 

But now with a very high probability of any lead you've earned being eradicated through no fault of your own, and possibly draining your fuel/tyres and actually disadvantaging yourself in the process, there's no motivation to go faster than you need to, it's made the long-standing myth of "winning at the slowest possible speed" become an actual reality.



#48 dutra

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 03:08

I like the idea that we could say that ANYthing in Formula 1 is "fair". What is less fair? DRS or Safety car?



#49 FLB

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 03:13

Brazil 1993 was not red flagged, in fact it was the race safety car returned in f1.

I absolutely thought I remembered a red flag...

 

Many thanks for the correction.



#50 jimjimjeroo

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 08:12

Teams just need an SC button. That triggers a speed limit remotely on the car