A recent meeting of the F1 Committee threw up some good rule changes for 2015: pre-season testing limited to Europe, two in-season tests instead of the four scheduled for this year, both to save money, and the proposed ban on tyre warmers has been temporarily thrown out. However, in keeping with Formula One tradition (see the double points rule for more), a completely silly idea was floated and then ratified.
Someone in the F1 Committee came up with the not-so-clever idea of changing the Safety Car restart from a rolling one into a grid start. So, instead of bunching up and shooting away when the Safety Car comes in after an incident, the grid will roll onto the start/finish straight and stop, wait for the five red lights to come on and go out, and then race away as if at the beginning of a race.
It’s a stupid rule.
First of all, it completely defeats the purpose of having a Safety Car. The idea of the Safety Car is to neutralise the race: to slow the drivers down and keep them bunched up so that the marshals can come on track and clear away cars, pick up debris, put down cement dust or whatever work needs to be done, without having to interrupt the race. That sounds like a good idea. It’s both safe and practical.
Now, however, the plan is to have the drivers weave around for several laps while the marshals work only to then stop the race and restart it again. It seems like only in F1 can such idiotic ideas become a reality. Essentially, we’re going to waste time behind a Safety Car before adopting a restart you’d see after a red flag. Common sense? No, not here.
I can see why it would seem like a good idea: the race start can be the most exciting part of a Grand Prix (especially at Grands Prix like Korea and India, both of which were particularly stale, but have since been abandoned by F1). A bit like Christmas, standing starts are better when spread out – one per race will do just nicely.
Of course, Safety must also be considered. Admittedly, there have been some close calls behind the Safety Car (see Sebastian Vettel’s fake re-start behind the Safety Car in Singapore, 2012). On the other hand, the chance of a crash behind the Safety Car is infinitely less than the probability of a shunt on the first corner after a standing start. Think of Monaco, Monza or Spa – all tracks where it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be a first corner crash. A Safety Car would only go to increase the chances of crashes, where Formula One has spent the last twenty years working incredibly hard to reduce that number.
Reportedly, though, in the interest of safety, the race director can pick and choose when he wishes to do a rolling restart or a standing restart. It’s getting sillier by the sentence, isn’t it?
If Formula One really needed this rule, it would be in place constantly. The fact of the matter is that Formula One does not need the rule. It seems to me that the F1 Committee are simply trying to flex their muscles: prove that they’re not a useless organisation, and be able to brag that they brought around this rule and that rule etc. It’s a power trip rather than a genuine effort to make F1 better.
So, for me, this is a rule which should not have been even considered, never mind ratified by the World Motorsport Council. Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo – race winners this season – have come out in criticism of the rule-to-be. The proposal adds nothing to the sport but only serves to agitate the fans and break up the racing. Scrap it, please.
Image courtesy of Pirelli/Andrew Hone.