The Safety Car Rules in Formula One by Matthew Roddan
A pace car or safety car is one that limits speed of competing vehicles (cars) on the racetrack when there’s an obstruction. Basically, the safety car enables clearance of any hindrance on the racetrack and is intended to clear the track and ensure the track is favorable for racing says Matthew Roddan.
There’s a window called caution period when the safety car (usually a high-end performance car) would enter and check the track ahead of the other cars. The participants are not allowed to move ahead of the safety car during this window, usually. The safety car would exit the field or track at a speed that is determined ahead, which again can vary for every race or track or competition. Once the safety car leaves the track, the competitors can begin their racing.
This was originally started in the year 1911. FIA has two ways of neutralizing a race: VSC (Virtual Safety Car) and Safety Car. A few regulations for the safety car include:
- The safety car is to be driven by experienced circuit driver with FIA observer who remains in constant contact with race control.
- There are times when the safety car is allowed to travel via the pit lane – like in the case where the incident that called for a safety car is blocking pit lane. During this time, competitors are allowed to stop at pit garage.
- Safety car would join circuit with orange lights turned on and drivers are expected to follow in a queue. They cannot overtake under any circumstance.
- When safety car is ready to exit the circuit, orange lights are turned off and competitors can begin their journey when green lights are turned on.
- The safety car is usually used when officials or competitors are in danger though the situation doesn’t call for a race halt.
When the weather isn’t favorable, safety car is used before the race. The lights are orange and the race begins only when the lights turn green and the safety car leads the way. During the first lap, safety car should not be overtaken and the only exception is if the car can’t get off the grid. In such scenarios, the delayed driver usually gains his original position after other cars repass. Safety car is drove around to the front and team members do any work on the car. However, refueling isn’t allowed during this time.
If there were any cars in pits when red flag was waved, work could continue and those cars can join back where they were last before stoppage. However, cars won’t be moved from pit lane until the team usually appointed by the FIA has given explicit content and approval.
Generally, a 10 minutes warning is give before race is resumed and after the warning. When there’s 3 minutes, wheels should be fitted for the cars and when there’s signal for two minutes, lapped cars get to do a lap prior to rejoining pit lane. Race would resume behind safety car, though any further incidents could increase the safety car period says Matthew Roddan