F1 safety car controversies (Abu Dhabi, Italian Grand Prix)

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What’s the deal?

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There is no controversy over the recent Italian GP. There may be dissatisfaction but the rules were followed and unfortunately this meant the race ended under a safety car. That is just because the incident happened late in the race – sucks but it happens.

Abu Dhabi was a different situation. There was a late race incident and the safety car rules were NOT followed. It is generally believed that this resulted in a flawed result which unfortunately became a HUGE mess because the outcome of the race determined the overall World Driver Championship. The FIA (who is responsible for running the race) made some lame excuse, fired the race director and tried to save face.

Since Abu Dhabi, many safety car procedures are being called out whether they are done correctly or not. Fans are (still) very sensitive about this matter.

Both races involved an incident close to the end of the race which required a safety car. This allowed the track personnel to enter the track with heavy equipment to recover a stranded car which would otherwise pose a safety hazard. After the track is clear they will line up the cars in the order they were in when the yellow flags were called and then restart the race. As you might imagine this might take some time, cars might need to be let through to make sure everyone have driven the same distance to make it fair on the fuel and tyre consumption. If this takes too long and they drive the full race distance before the restart the race is finished under the safety car which is not as exciting.

In Abu Dhabi last year this was about to happen. Even worse the drivers championship would be determined by this race. Even though the track personnel worked very fast it was not fast enough and when the track was clear there was only two laps remaining of the race and several lapped cars between the first and second place. Instead of doing the restart by the book the race director ignored the rules and set it up so that the two driver championship contenders could get one last lap of racing before the finish. The restart was hectic with nobody knowing what was going on and race cars out of order and spread all over the track. But we got the duel between the two racers which ended up determining the championship robbing Hamilton of another championship win. The race director was fired for this stunt.

In today’s race there was also a safety car towards the end of the race. There would have been enough time for a restart, however the safety car managed to pick up third place instead of the first place. So according to the rules they would have to let the entire field drive another lap around the circuit to line up behind the second place and then do a restart behind the safety car. However this would take a couple of laps to do properly. So instead they did it by the book end ended the race under the safety car.