Для чего нужны safety car
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Для чего нужны safety car

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F1 Safety Car explained: Full or virtual, and how it all works

F1 Safety Car explained: Full or virtual, and how it all works

As its name suggests, the safety car is a vehicle that is deployed to the track in order to control the field if and when there is a need to bunch up the pack to allow for vital recovery work to be completed.

However, there is the side effect that a compacted field of up to 20 cars will often spark some added on-track excitement, something that can sometimes transform even the dullest of races into a feast for the senses.

Never more was this true than at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but more on that later.

Rules: What is a safety car, and when is it deployed?

The first instance in which the safety car can be used is during the formation lap in the case of wet weather. This was seen at the controversial 2021 Belgian Grand Prix and last year in Monaco.

To signal this, orange lights are illuminated on the start gantry 10 minutes ahead of the race start time. In these instances, it is mandatory for drivers to fit full wet tyres.

These laps count towards the race distance, given the limited fuel loads carried by the cars.

During a race, the FIA sporting regulations dicate: «The safety car may be brought into operation to neutralise a sprint session or a race upon the order of the clerk of the course.

«It will be used only if competitors or officials are in immediate physical danger on or near the track, but the circumstances are not such as to necessitate suspending (through red flags) the sprint session or the race.»

The introduction of the safety car onto the track is signalled through the use of yellow flags and safety car boards; the letters ‘SC’ are also displayed on the illuminated signs.

When it is safe to do so, the race director will send a message to all teams instructing lapped cars to overtake the field and join the back of the train. The safety car will return to the pits at the end of the lap, which follows this signal being issued.

A following instruction will then be given to inform that the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the current lap, at which point the lights on top of the vehicle will be extinguished as a direct reference to the lead driver.

What is a Virtual Safety Car?

The virtual safety car is different in that it does not bunch the field together. If this system is used, the race director has determined that any recovery work can safely be carried out with drivers lapping at a significantly reduced pace.

This, again, is shown through the use of yellow flags and VSC being shown on the illuminated signs.

Drivers are required to stick to a specific lap delta that is between 30-40 percent off their normal pace.

F1 safety car and pit stops – how it works

At most tracks, a pit stop in normal green flag conditions will see drivers lose between 20-25 seconds to rivals.

But with cars lapping at a significantly reduced pace under either safety car or VSC conditions, this time loss is significantly reduced.

This can advantage or disadvantage any driver and is very much down to luck.

Let’s not mention the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix too loudly at this point!

Abu Dhabi 2021: Michael Masi and the most famous safety car of all

We said we’d get back to here!

The confusion and controversy surrounding the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were caused by a blurring of the lines between the unofficial ‘let them race’ principle that had been requested by teams and the regulations.

When Nicholas Latifi crashed on lap 53, Lewis Hamilton led Max Verstappen by 11.9 seconds. At this point, both drivers were on hard tyres.

Verstappen elected to pit to bolt on a set of soft tyres, something that put him behind some traffic but maintained his second position. Hamilton could also have stopped but did not.

At this point, it was not mandatory in the regulations for race director Michael Masi to allow the lapped cars to unlap themselves, meaning that he could restart the race at the drop of a hat.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley were both on the radio with Masi, arguing their cases, either not for resuming the race or for allowing lapped cars past. In this respect, Wolff has since conceded that this communication went too far.

On lap 57 of 58, Masi then indicated that only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen could overtake. Ignoring the requirement to complete an additional lap before returning to green flag conditions, Masi immediately followed this with the announcement that the safety car would return to the pits at the end of that lap.

He later defended this decision, saying that teams had previously agreed that it was desirable for races to end under green flag conditions, referencing the let them race principle.

The last-lap shootout for world title honours was subsequently won by Verstappen, with Mercedes electing not to pursue a lengthy legal procedure despite initially protesting the outcome of the race.

As mentioned, the regulations have been cleared up, and the grey areas that allowed the confusion have been eradicated.

How often does the F1 safety car come out?

There were 25 safety car interruptions and 18 VSCs in the 2022 season.

What model is the F1 safety car?

As was the case in 2022, there are again two safety cars in operation this term, with Mercedes and Aston Martin sharing duties.

Mercedes supplies the $325,000 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, while Aston Martin offers the $146,986 Vantage.

Both cars are capable of setting extremely fast lap times by normal standards, but given the other worldly pace of F1 cars, it is not uncommon to hear drivers venting frustrations at the ‘slow’ speeds.

The Mercedes registers impressive power at 730bhp, a figure that sends it to a top speed of 202mph.

The more modest Aston Martin uses a 4-litre turbo V8 pumps to produce 528 bhp. This gives a top speed of 195mph.

Who drives the F1 safety car?

Bernd Maylander has been the F1 safety car driver since 2000. During his time behind the wheel, he has led over 700 laps in the sport.

The 52-year-old German previously raced in DTM and finished second in his class at the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours.


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The Formula 1 Safety Car: All the Facts

The safety car certainly isn’t the most entertaining aspect of a Formula 1 race, but it’s nonetheless an important component of any Grand Prix. Aside from being an important safety tool, the presence of a safety car can also give a strategic advantage to the various race teams in certain circumstances.

Today, we’ll review everything you might want to know about safety cars in Formula 1. This includes the history of the safety car, its current purpose, and other trivia that might interest you as a Formula 1 fan.

What Does the Safety Car Do?

Generally, if something happens during a race that can potentially impede the other drivers, the race officials break out the yellow flags and signal for the drivers to slow down while the hazard is dealt with. However, the safety call will be called out if something happens that requires more time to resolve (such as heavy rain or an accident that leaves debris scattered over the track).

If the race officials deem it necessary for the safety car to come out, they’ll begin by waving the yellow flag and displaying «SC» boards. When the safety car enters the track, drivers must slow down and follow it in formation; overtaking the safety car or any other driver is not allowed.

The drivers will then follow the safety car around the track until any obstructions have been cleared, at which point the safety car will leave the track. However, the drivers still have to continue driving at safety car speeds until they receive a green flag letting them know they can resume racing.

Safety car driving ahead of Lewis Hamilton at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix, Morio, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

History of the Formula 1 Safety Car

The first-ever use of a safety car in a Grand Prix dates back to 1973 and the Canadian Grand Prix. In some of the previous races, there had been some accidents due to bad weather. So the FIA deemed it necessary to take some extra precautions for this event.

The first safety car was a yellow Porsche 914 driven by Egbert «Eppie» Wietzes. The Dutch-born Canadian had previously participated in the 1967 Canadian Grand Prix as a privateer driver. However, this first use of a safety car resulted in a serious goof that nearly ruined the race.

This happened when Wietzes entered the track. Wietzes mistakenly took the position in front of the wrong driver, who was not the race leader. Because of this, several drivers ended up being placed one lap down from where they actually were. As a result, it took officials several hours after the race had ended to determine who had actually won.

Safety cars as a permanent solution

After this, safety cars were used sporadically during Grand Prix events for a couple of decades. In 1993, safety cars were reinstated as a permanent feature for each subsequent Grand Prix. This is how it’s remained to this day.

Since 1997, the role of the safety car has been filled almost exclusively by a Mercedes-Benz, although in previous decades, safety cars were much more varied. Some of the cars used as safety cars over the years include the following:

  • Lamborghini Countach
  • Lamborghini Diablo
  • Honda Prelude
  • Fiat Tempra
  • Opel Vectra
  • Renault Clio
  • and latest the Aston Martin Vantage shown below.

Test 3

From 2021 Aston Martin is co-sponsoring the Safety car along side Mercedes. Mercedes has changed the colors of their safety car to red and the Aston Martin is green as seen here. Yoyodu10, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The safety car driver has also been pretty consistent for a while. Since the year 2000, the safety car has been driven by Bernd Mayländer, a former DTM driver. Except for the 2001 Canadian Grand Prix and the 2002 U.S. Grand Prix, he has served as the safety car driver for every race of the new millennium.

How Can the Safety Car Be Advantageous to Teams?

When the safety car is deployed, it can offer both advantages and disadvantages to the teams depending on the situation.

The main disadvantage of having a safety car on the track is that the cars are forced to slow down. However, as you may know, the tires and brakes on Formula 1 cars can only perform at their best once they’ve been heated up.

Since slowing down causes the tires and brakes to cool down quite a bit, the cars lose a lot of their handling as a result. That’s why you’ll often see drivers slaloming behind the safety car. This helps them retain more heat in their tires while maintaining the correct pace.

However, there are situations where the presence of the safety car can benefit drivers in ways other than preventing an accident. For example, teams have a maximum amount of fuel that they can use for each car. So the deployment of the safety car will help teams save fuel. This is because they’ll be driving more economically in the meantime.

The other advantage of deploying the safety car is that drivers are often still allowed to make pit stops while the safety car is out. If the team’s timing is right, they won’t lose as much track position during a pit stop because the other drivers will drive a lot more slowly.

Teams often spend time calculating the percentage probability of whether the safety car will be deployed during a race or not, and plan their pit stops accordingly. Strategizing like this can potentially make a big difference during a close race.

What Is the Virtual Safety Car?

After the tragic death of driver Jules Bianchi in 2014, which was caused by him crashing into a tractor crane that was in the process of removing another crashed car from the track, the FIA came to the conclusion that they needed a better way of getting drivers to slow down without having a safety car be physically present on the track. Hence, the creation of the virtual safety car.

Essentially, the virtual safety car is a lap time determined by the FIA that drivers must follow. These lap times are significantly slower than the lap times drivers set during a race. This is to ensure that drivers stay at the correct speeds.

To make sure that drivers don’t drive too fast for most of the lap and then slow down at the last minute to meet the lap time, each sector of the track is given its own time to complete. Therefore, drivers must ensure that they’re slower than the virtual safety car in each sector, not just overall.

The benefits of the virtual safety car are that it can be activated immediately; there’s no time delay between deciding to deploy the safety car and then actually deploying it. In addition, because there are no more transitional moments where the safety car is entering or exiting the track, it can make slowing the field of cars down a much safer process.

Safety Car F1: What are the rules? What happened in Abu Dhabi?

How does the F1 Safety Car work? Who provides the F1 Safety Car? Why was it notorious at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

28 Feb 2024

Aston Martin FIA Safety Car. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.- www.xpbimages.com, EMail:

The FIA Safety Car plays an important role during an F1 grand prix when required. But what are the rules surrounding how the Safety Car should operate? Since 2021 F1 has had two official Safety Cars, one supplied by Mercedes, and one supplied by Aston Martin. The Safety Cars alternate throughout the season and are driven by Bernd Maylander, who has been driving the Safety Car in F1 since 2000.

  1. The cars between the Safety Car and the leader firstly need to be let through.
  2. Lapped cars need to be allowed to overtake the Safety Car.
  3. The Safety Car returns to the pits at the end of the following lap.

Each lap completed under the Safety Car is counted as a race lap.

The FIA can also call upon the Virtual Safety Car to neutralise a practice session or a race.

This is normally used “when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of track and competitors or officials may be in danger, but the circumstances are not such as to warrant use of the Safety Car itself.”

The Virtual Safety Car — or VSC — was first introduced for the 2015 season after being developed in response to Jules Bianchi’s tragic accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Bianchi died nine months after suffering severe head injuries when he crashed into a recovery vehicle in heavy rain.

The use of F1’s Safety Car has made the headlines as a subject of great debate and controversy, particularly regarding the handling of race-ending Safety Car periods during the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and 2022 Italian Grand Prix.

The FIA published an updated version of the Sporting Regulations ahead of the 2022 F1 season that featured a revision to the Safety Car regulation regarding lapped cars.

Article 55.13 now reads: “If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message ‘LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE’ has been sent to all Competitors using the official messaging system, all cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the Safety Car.”

The change replaced the phrasing which read “any” rather than “all” lapped cars are required to overtake and rejoin at the back of the field prior to the restart. The alteration was made to prevent a repeat of the controversial 2021 title decider in Abu Dhabi.

What happened in Abu Dhabi?

Safety Car, Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG

Michael Masi left his job as race director after failing to apply the rules correctly in two instances during a late Safety Car in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

First, Masi allowed only the five drivers — Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel — sitting between title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves.

However, the lapped cars of Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher sitting between Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were not allowed to unlap themselves.

Masi ended up forcing a restart on the final lap of the race, which in turn failed to follow the requirement that races must be restarted “at the end of the following lap” after the message has been relayed that lapped cars can overtake.

Masi’s handling of the restart directly altered the outcome of the world championship.

Hamilton had dominated the race and was on course to win a record-breaking eighth drivers’ crown, but the last-lap restart handed the advantage to Verstappen, who, on fresh soft tyres, overtook the Mercedes driver to clinch the world title.

What happened at Monza?

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 leads behind the Aston Martin FIA Safety Car. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd

The 2022 Italian Grand Prix ended in anticlimactic fashion when it finished behind the Safety Car, with Verstappen denying Leclerc and Ferrari a home win in front of the Tifosi.

Unlike in Abu Dhabi, on this occasion the Safety Car procedure was followed to the letter of the rulebook.

Drivers and team principals were left frustrated at how long it took to clear the track and the rather clumsy nature in which the race ended.

The Safety Car was deployed on Lap 48, a lap after Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren broke down.

The failed restart was complicated by Ricciardo’s car getting stuck in gear, which considerably slowed the recovery process, as well as the fact the Safety Car picked up third-place George Russell instead of race-leader Verstappen.

Verstappen winning under the Safety Car was met by boos and jeers from a partisan home crowd, who were hoping to see Leclerc get the chance to challenge for victory.

The end to the race at Monza subsequently sparked a debate over whether F1 needs to rethink its Safety Car rules.

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Last Updated: 01/03/2024

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