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FIA confirms new safety car rules

The safety car at the Canadian Grand PrixThe FIA has confirmed that Formula One's safety car regulations are to be changed for the 2009 season following successful tests of new software throughout last year.

F1 teams and drivers worked hard in 2008 to try and come up with a solution that would eradicate the need for the pit lane to be closed during the early stages of a safety car period.

It was agreed that such a rule change could only be implemented if there was an effective way of preventing drivers rushing back to the pits - which could potentially result in them driving at high speed through an accident zone.

Tests took place at several races last year of standard ECU software revisions, which informed drivers during a safety car period of a maximum speed at which they could return to the pits.

Satisfaction with the outcome of those tests has resulted in the FIA approving the system for use during races this year.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed that from now on the pits would remain open during a safety car period.

"The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we've gone back to the 2006 regulations," said Whiting on Tuesday. "The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits.

"When we deploy the safety car, the message will go to all the cars, which will then have a "safety car" mode on their ECUs. As soon as that message gets to the car, it'll know where it is on the circuit, and it'll calculate a minimum time for the driver to get back to the pits. The driver will have to respect this and the information will be displayed on his dashboard.

"If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That's gone now, as you won't be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to. "

The momentum for getting the safety car rules changed increased last year following a number of penalties handed to drivers who needed to stop during safety car periods, because they had no fuel left in their car.

Speaking in Singapore, McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said he was optimistic that the rules would be changed for 2009.

"It will happen I am sure by the start of next year," he said. "For people to change now they have to accept they got it hopelessly wrong, and it has to change during the winter. Everyone knows it has to change and I am very confident that it will

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