Friday, 12 February 2010

What other alternatives are there to the safety car?

When for some reason it's too dangerous for the drivers to be racing at full speed, the safety car joins the track. It slows down the pace of the cars, which makes the race much safer. The drivers must follow the safety car until it goes back in the pits and the race continues.

But the safety car means one more thing that can go wrong in a race, as you can see in the video:

WTCC 2009 – Safety car crashes with Franz Engstler

There are some alternatives to the safety car. In case of the danger being on the pit straight, like in the German GP in 2008 when Timo Glock put it in the wall in the last corner, there are better things to do then to bring out the safety car – but unfortunately, the rules don't allow that. In Timo Glock's case they could just tell the drivers to drive through pits every lap, but continue racing normally on the other parts of the circuit. There would be a problem with pit stops, as drivers could do them without losing much time, but that can be fixed. At every pit stop a driver would have to stop for additional 15 seconds, and at that time noone would be allowed to touch the car.

Video of Glock's crash in low-quality:

The race leader instead of the safety car is the second alternative. That actually happens in the formation lap, where the driver on pole position leads the grid around the circuit to warm their tyres. The driver would simply drive around slowly, other drivers would follow him.

But at both alternatives, and the rules f1 is currently using, all the gaps between the drivers are lowered to around half a second, which can get a bit unfair sometimes. That's where my third idea comes in.

When the safety car period would be announced, the cars would automatically start using a system that would limit their speed. The speed would be lower around the circuit, and very low around the danger zone. In case of caution due to too much rain on the circuit, the speed would lower a lot around the whole circuit. The drivers would still be able to brake, and even accelerate in case when it's neccessery (a driver with much higher speed closing up).

The gaps would stay almost completely the same and there would be no need for safety car appearing on the track whatsoever.

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1 comment:

  1. I think third option is what FIA is trying to do in the long run. Before the standard ECU it wasn't possible but now they are going towards it. If I recall correctly once in Monaco there was a safety car without the safety car - there were boards ''SC'' and double yellow flags waved at every marshal post but there wasn't any safety car at track.

    However, safety car does some other stuff - he brings the cars closer together as he is slower then the F1 car and there is an easy visual aid for drivers to know when he is returning to pits - his lights go off lap before that happens. Radios can get broken (I think Kubica had one last year) so this is a failsafe measure.

    Also, safety car tests the track conditions when there is heavy rain (remember qualifications in Brazil last year).
    In the video you linked safety car driver is an idiot - if nothing else he didn't respect the white line at the exit from the pit which is there to prevent accidents like that one...