Safety car tests to continue at each race
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, July 6th 2008, 10:47 GMT|
Evaluation of the new safety car system will continue at each race from now on, autosport.com has learned, in a bid to get drivers totally comfortable with its workings before a rule change is introduced.
The FIA and teams want to revise the safety car procedure to end the way that the pits are closed immediately after a caution period begins.
This follows a number of incidents when drivers have been forced to take a drive-through penalty because they had the misfortune of needing to pit exactly when the safety car came out.
The solution that is being looked at is for a temporary speed restriction to be put in place near the scene of an incident to prevent drivers racing back to the pits when the safety car comes out.
This will be achieved by telling drivers to keep to a minimum sector or lap time. They are told of this target time through a readout on their dashboard, with the system informing them if their current speed is too quick or too slow.
Experiments of this new software took place for the first time at the French Grand Prix and, following a further evaluation in practice at Silverstone this weekend, it is understood the tests will continue at every race now to get drivers comfortable with its workings.
The chief concern from drivers is that it can be distracting to have to read out timing information on the cockpit display rather than focus on the track - especially when the system will only be activated when there is likely to be a car or debris on the circuit.
Former world champion Fernando Alonso said: "The only problem with the system is that you need to concentrate on the steering wheel too much to keep the reference time they give you. So you are constantly looking at the steering wheel and this is not the safest thing when you are under a yellow flag.
"It is something we are still trying, but for sure we need to find a better solution. I don't know what it will be, but we raised this point in the drivers' briefing on Friday that everything is working on the steering wheel but we don't know if it will be the final solution for the problem of the safety car."
Sebastian Vettel told autosport.com that he felt more work was needed to get drivers comfortable with looking at the readout at the same time as driving.
"I think it needs some development and more experience for us," he explained. "It is way too early to change the rules. Everyone knows what to do, but for sure it will take some time to get it right in the races with no mistakes from the drivers or teams."
BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica added: "I think we have to do some fine-tuning if we want to run it. For sure it is not running perfectly but if the FIA decide to run it with fine-tuning it can be okay. But this isn't my decision."