Tuesday, September 27, 2022

FIA hits back at criticisms of ‘turtle’ Aston F1 safety car

After the Australian Grand Prix, a number of drivers expressed their frustration at the speed of the Aston Martin safety car, which is not as fast as the Mercedes one used at some races.

World champion Max Verstappen even described it as a ‘turtle’, as he said its lack of pace when running at the front of the pack resulted in the F1 tire temperatures dropping too much.

“There’s so little grip and also the safety car was driving so slow, it was like a turtle. Unbelievable,” said the Red Bull driver. “To drive 140 [km/h] on the back straight, there was not a damaged car, so I don’t understand why we have to drive so slowly. We have to investigate.

“For sure the Mercedes safety car is faster because of the extra aero, because this Aston Martin is really slow. It definitely needs more grip, because our tires were stone cold.

“It’s pretty terrible the way we are driving behind the safety car at the moment.”

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But the FIA ​​does not accept that the difference in speed between the Mercedes and Aston Martin safety vehicles is an issue.

In a statement posted on Twitter, motor racing’s governing body said that the priority of the safety car was not how fast it goes but in helping officials keep the race running in a safe manner.

“In light of recent comments regarding the pace of the FIA ​​Formula 1 Safety Car, the FIA ​​would like to reiterate that the primary function of the FIA ​​Formula 1 Safety Car is, of course, not outright speed, but the safety of the drivers, marshals and officials,” he wrote.

“The safety car procedures take into account multiple objectives, depending upon the incident in question, including the requirement to ‘bunch up’ the field, negotiate an incident recovery or debris on track in a safe manner and adjust the pace depending on recovery activities that may be ongoing in a different part of the track.”

The FIA ​​added that the ultimate speed of the safety car was not defined by its technical aspects, but instead by what race control needs.

“The speed of the safety car is therefore generally dictated by race control, and not limited by the capabilities of the safety cars, which are bespoke high-performance vehicles prepared by two of the world’s top manufacturers, equipped to deal with changeable track conditions at all times and driven by a hugely experienced and capable driver and co-driver.

“The impact of the speed of the safety car on the performance of the cars following is a secondary consideration, as the impact is equal amongst all competitors who, as is always the case, are responsible for driving in a safe manner at all times according to the conditions of their car and the circuit.”

Following a near-miss between Haas driver Mick Schumacher and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda behind the safety car in Australia, the FIA ​​has opened the door for revisions on the rules about how close drivers need to follow each other.

In the wake of an investigation into the incident, the stewards said the rule that demands drivers stay within ten car lengths of each other would be discussed soon.

A statement from the stewards in Melbourne said: “It is clear that the speed and braking capabilities of F1 cars, especially while trying to maintain temperatures required in tires and brakes, are in tension with the ten car length separation behind the safety car traditionally specified in the regulations.

“This needs to be a point of emphasis in future driver briefings, to ensure the drivers collectively agree on how best to address this challenge before an unfortunate incident occurs.”

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