Drivers seeking new safety car rules
|By Jonathan Noble and Steve Cooper||Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 14:46 GMT|
Formula One drivers and teams are to hold talks with race director Charlie Whiting at the Spanish Grand Prix to consider an overhaul of the safety car rules, autosport.com can reveal.
In the wake of numerous safety car periods at the Australian Grand Prix, teams and drivers have expressed renewed concern at the way that the closure of the pits at certain times can penalise drivers unfairly. In Melbourne, Heikki Kovalainen lost a certain podium finish due to his final pitstop being delayed after a late-race safety car closed the pits for a while.
Some drivers have also said there are safety implications about the way drivers can make late calls to head for the pits once they are open during a safety car period, or have to abort an entry to the pits and suddenly jink back onto the track if they are closed.
Discussions have already taken place with the FIA about making a possible change to the rule, which was introduced to deter drivers from racing at full speed to the pits in the event of a safety car period, when there is a 'live' incident on-track.
But with the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix looming, where safety cars are likely and drivers could find themselves robbed of a good result, the momentum to try and make a change has increased.
Grand Prix Drivers' Association director Mark Webber has confirmed to autosport.com that talks will talk place at the Spanish Grand Prix to try and agree a way forward.
"It's something we're going to be talking about with Charlie at Barcelona," said Webber. "He's also come across it.
"What happened in Melbourne is still difficult to understand. It's also very hard for the FIA stewards not to make mistakes - with the lights in the pitlane and all that sort of stuff."
Although the concern remains that by not closing the pits during the early stages of a safety car period drivers will once again race back to get more fuel and new tyres, which was a contributing factor in Fernando Alonso's accident at the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, one possible solution is the imposition of a slow-speed zone around where the safety car-causing incident is.
Webber said he felt change was needed to help improve the spectacle, and also make it fairer for its participants.
"It potentially makes it look a bit amateurish - and you get drive-through penalties when you run out of fuel," he said. "Heikki drove a good race in Melbourne and got nailed for it.
"In terms of the drivers, all of us would like to find a system where we can revert a lot closer back to how it was (before the change in 2004), but Charlie is a bit nervous about the fact that when there's a safety car, 70 percent of the time we need to get back to the pits as quickly as possible.
"As long as the safety car's out, we just have to make sure our speed past the accident is adhered to. We can't drive any faster than we normally do around that shunt, so that's fine - there should be enough safety in place for that area.
"We just need to be careful about where the shunt and yellow flags are. After that, the track is safe enough for us to be flat out so it's fine."