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FIA Agree to Change Safety Car Rules

by F1Fan on May 21, 2010

The FIA have come out in favor of revising the safety car rules, acknowleging a lack of clarity in the current rules that cost Michael Schumacher a twenty second penalty at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix, effectively ruining what otherwise would have been his best finish of the season.

The FIA’s official press release reads:

The problems identified during the final lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, counting for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the safety car.

Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made more clear.

These adjustments will help to avoid the problem which occurred during the Monaco Grand Prix from happening in the future.

The Formula One Commission, upon a proposal of the F1 Sporting Working Group will submit an amendment to the Sporting Regulations to address this issue. These amendments will be considered by the World Motor Sport Council at its next meeting in Geneva on June 23.

After reading the relevant parts of the Sporting Regulations , I can see how Mercedes GP misinterpreted the situation after the safety car came in, instructing Schumacher and Rosberg to race to the Chequered flag. It seems to me that the area that is unclear with the way the current Safety car regulations are written is between Regulation 40.11 and 40.13.

Regulation 40.13 begins:

“When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car the message “SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP” will be displayed on the timing monitors and the car’s orange lights will be extinguished This will be the signal to the teams and drivers that it will be entering the pit lane at the end of that lap.”

and finishes with:

“As the safety car is approaching the pit entry the yellow flags and SC boards will be withdrawn and replaced by waved green flags with green lights at the Line. These will be displayed until the last car crosses the Line.”

While Regulation 40.13 simply states:

“If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”

I watched the overtaking incident at Monaco on my DVR using the slow motion feature and the Green Light and green flags signifying that the safety car is in and the track is clear were definitely visible to the Drivers. Normally when this happens the race is on.

The issue is has the race ended under the safety car if it is already retired from the track and the circuit is green.

My guess is the intent of the regulations and the Stewards interpretation at Monaco was that as the race finished under the safety car. But it is definitely a grey area.

It will be interesting to see how the FIA clarifies the rules perhaps in the event a race is to finish under the safety car, either the safety car stays out, or the safety car comes in but the track stays in a “yellow” no overtaking condition until all cars have taken the checkered flag.

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