Safety is of the utmost importance in the fast-paced world of Formula 1 racing. There is always a possibility of accidents and injury given the high speeds and fierce competitiveness involved. F1 has created a number of safety precautions, including the usage of safety cars, to lessen these hazards.
A safety car is a vehicle that is used in racing to control traffic flow and speed during a race. All drivers are required to follow the car when it is deployed and to keep moving at a predetermined speed that is significantly slower than the racing speed until the track is clear and the car moves off the track. This aids in ensuring the security of all drivers and track marshals.
Sam Collins takes a closer look at the Perez/Safety Car incident which is currently under investigation 🔍#SingaporeGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/eEoqRoV39H
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 2, 2022
In Formula 1, the safety car’s main responsibility is to safeguard drivers’ security including the marshals on track. The car is deployed to reduce the pace of the race and give the track time to be cleared when an accident or obstacle happens that makes it unsafe for drivers to continue racing.
The safety car not only keeps everyone safe, but it also controls traffic throughout a race. This is crucial early in a race when drivers are jostling for position and there is a chance of crashes.
When the car is activated, the race director who is in charge of overseeing the race and making sure it is run safely and decides whether to deploy the safety car, it drives onto the track from the pit lane and circles the circuit at a suitable speed for the circumstances. Following the car and keeping a safe space between oneself and the vehicle in front are requirements for all drivers.
The safety car contention
Safety cars have also been the cause of conflict on multiple occasions.
After Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to win the race, the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was marred by controversy. The crucial moment occurred when a safety car was sent out following Nicholas Latifi’s crash. The FIA’s regulations, which say that lapped cars should be permitted to overtake and un-lap themselves during a safety car period, were not adhered to in the deployment of the safety car.
Safety Car is in – one lap to decide the championship!#AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/LSJdZulMTt
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
Only five of the eight lapped drivers were permitted to pass Hamilton underneath the car, leaving three drivers who still needed to unlap themselves. The final three cars were still to unlap themselves when the safety car left the course, following the five cars that had advanced.
The race would have come to a conclusion with a yellow flag and Hamilton would have won if the final three vehicles had been permitted to unlap themselves. Verstappen won instead when the race was restarted post distancing Hamilton and Verstappen which gave the latter an undue advantage. It was debatable and against the letter of the regulations to decide to restart the race after the safety car interval.
Italian Grand Prix 2022 controversy
During the Italian Grand Prix 2022 when the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was about to win for the fifth time in a row when Daniel Ricciardo’s car went down, bringing out a safety car. Both Verstappen and Charles Leclerc made pit stops for soft tires in the hope of a thrilling restart.
It took longer than expected for the car to emerge, and when it did, it was in front of George Russell’s vehicle and not Verstappen’s. Russell was told by Mercedes to pass the safety car but chose not to. More delays were caused by the difficulty in removing Ricciardo’s car. Verstappen and Leclerc were separated by two lapped cars when they finally joined Verstappen at the head of the safety car line on lap 51 but the Dutch eventually led his team to victory.
END OF RACE (LAP 53/53)
Verstappen crosses the line moments after the Safety Car pulls into the pit lane
Zhou #ItalianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/uWHmiQlaej
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 11, 2022
Fans questioned Verstappen’s win and during an interview with Sky Sports F1, the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said “We don’t want to win a race under a Safety Car.”
Even though safety cars have been the root of many controversies. It is important to note that safety cars are a way to regulate the races, even working into the safety factor of the drivers. Safety cars, along with the flag system, allow f1 racing to be more streamlined, efficient, and safe.