Monday, 15 July 2013

The Formula One Safety Car: Adding a touch of spice.

A yellow flag indicating the deployment of a safety car due to an incident on track will always induce different reactions in a watching audience.  Reactions largely dependent on allegiances to particular drivers and teams.  A moan if a preferred driver is storming out in the lead and the other runners are given a chance to catch up, juxtaposed by a cheer if the favourite is running further back and can capitalise on the pack being squeezed together.  Whatever reaction incited, a safety car equals drama and we have been treated to two successive races that have been brought alive with the emergence of the silver Mercedes SLS.  


The Marussia of Jules Bianchi navigating its way back onto the track after he had vacated it, triggered the safety car on lap twenty five of the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.  This employment will have met with cheers from Lotus fans as it allowed Romain Grosjean to cover leading driver Sebastian Vettel's pit stop, closing the gap between them. When it was time for the third tyre change, Lotus tried the undercut, however this was successfully shadowed by Red Bull meaning Vettel retained a closely fought lead.

Vettel fought hard to keep the Lotus' behind.  Photo:

Kimi Raikkonen also benefited from the appearance of the silver arrow on track as it allowed him to reduce the ten second gap between himself and Lewis Hamilton, then hunt down his team mate who cordially let him past on lap 55 for second place.  The battle for the lead  between Kimi and Vettel got spicy and following the race the German admitted the intense fight towards the end proved difficult,

“It was a tough race; it was one of the toughest for a long time.  I'm happy the race wasn't two or three laps longer as Kimi was a bit quicker towards the end.”

Whether met with joy by Lotus fans or with tension by Vettel and Red Bull fans, the safety car created an interesting end to the race.  In the contest between hard fought battles that last to the bitter end versus a sole car streaking away to victory, the former will always triumph.

Lap 43 at Silverstone the previous week saw Bernd Maylander take his silver charge out on track, after the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel was left stranded due to a gearbox failure.  Having bunched up the pack, the safety car returned to the pits, leaving things on track to become electrifying. Ricciardo's position is purse snatched by Hamilton and Alonso in tandem. Mark Webber storms up behind Kimi Raikkonen snatching his second place.  Next in his sights; leader Nico Rosberg.  A fierce battle between the two ensues.  Nico just holds off the dauntless challenge from the Australian to take the win. Meanwhile, Alonso whips past Raikkonen for the final podium place and Hamilton makes his way up to fourth as consolation for the tyre failure he suffered earlier in the race.  The action seen in the final laps following the safety car was sensational.

Mark Webber hunts down Nico Rosberg in the final stages of the British Grand Prix.  Photo:

Looking ahead to Hungary, the race there in 2010 springs to mind as one spiced up as a result of the safety car.  Losing his front wing due to contact with another driver, Vitantonio Liuzzi caused its deployment on lap fifteen.  The yellow flag acted as a green light for a flurry of pit stops for most of the front runners, with the exception of Mark Webber, who found himself leading the race as a result.  Consequently, Red Bull's strategy for the Australian was to put in as many stonking laps as possible on current tyres, in order to stretch out a lead on Fernando Alonso sizeable enough to gift himself a stop.  Initially devised to help him claim second position, the strategy turned into a race winner after his team mate, who had been leading, received a penalty for breaching rules about distance kept from the safety car.

Tweaking aspects of Formula One to make racing more exciting and appeal to growing audiences is a continual process.  The introduction of DRS and Pirelli tyres in 2011 increased the amount of overtaking opportunities by ultimately allowing drivers to get closer to each other.   While the idea of having a mandatory safety car appearance goes against its purpose and principle, it would have the same effect.  However, despite its nature in closing the pack and consequent ability to add sparkle to a race, it is the unpredictability of its appearances that also create drama.  Teams have to react quickly, ensuring the right call is made regarding when to make a pit stop; something Lotus didn't quite achieve with Kimi Raikkonen at Silverstone, but Red Bull did in Germany. 

While a guaranteed safety car trip at every race for its pilot Bernd Maylander is not appropriate, there is no question that when it is required, the racing becomes spine tingling, especially when the necessity arises in the closing stages of the race.  Something every race fan should cheer about.


No comments:

Post a Comment