French GP test for new safety car system
|By Steven English and Adam Cooper||Thursday, June 5th 2008, 12:31 GMT|
Proposed changes to Formula One's safety car regulations are to be tested in a simulation of race conditions during the French Grand Prix weekend.
The teams will try the new system, which could resolve controversy over the pitlane being closed during SC periods, during Friday practice at Magny-Cours on June 21.
It was hoped that it would be tested on the Thursday at Monaco, but the date was put back to allow the teams to sample the software during the test at Barcelona between the races in Canada and France. There will then be a test of the system in simulated race conditions at Magny-Cours.
The delay means the new system won't be in place in time for this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix, which traditionally features multiple safety car interruptions.
Last year's race at Montreal was the first to highlight the problems of closing the pitlane to prevent drivers passing the scene of the accident and then returning to the pits at full racing speed to make a stop. It was the first time drivers were forced to take 10-second stop-go penalties for pitting under the safety car to avoid running out of fuel.
Formula One's Sporting Working Group and the FIA's Charlie Whiting initially favoured a system of setting minimum sector times when the safety car is deployed. The idea has been developed to use the standard ECU to monitor the cars under safety car conditions, preventing drivers from going too fast, and allowing the pit ane to stay open throughout caution periods.
The system is likely to work by sending a message to each driver to inform them that the safety car is out. Each will then respond by pressing a button to acknowledge the message and switch the ECU into safety car mode.
Unanimity between the teams is required for the system to be implemented, but a senior FIA source believes it could be introduced in the near future.
"It's not a done deal, and we've got to see if it works first," the source told this week's Autosport. "We've agreed to try it, that's all. But if it all works well at Magny-Cours we could do something quite soon after that."