Safety First - Mercedes GP on the safety car 05 Apr 2011
Since its formal and permanent reintroduction to the Formula One regulations in 1993, the safety car has played an increasingly prominent and important role in the sport. Last season set a record for the total number of safety car deployments in one season, with 40 percent more than the next highest season (2008). In total, eight percent of the season's laps were completed behind the safety car in 2010. Mercedes GP explain more
Q: What changes have been made for 2011?
A: The rules have undergone subtle revisions for the 2011 season to further improve both fairness and safety. The safety car speed limit, which represents a decrease in lap time of approximately 20 percent, will now be enforced over two laps instead of one, meaning all cars should be able to pit - if they wish to - prior to the safety car being deployed on track. The pit-lane exit light will remain green for the duration of the safety car period, while no car may enter the pits during a safety car deployment unless for the purpose of changing tyres. This rule does not apply should the safety car itself need to use the pit lane.
Q: Can the safety car still be used to strategic advantage?
A: The safety car can still be very much used to advantage by teams if correctly managed. It could allow you to gain track position relative to rivals with the advantage of fresher tyres, or remove a planned tyre stop from the race.
Q: How is the safety car integrated into strategy planning?
A: The safety car is factored into race strategy as a percentage probability. This probability varies according to factors such as: the ease of clearing an incident by marshals; circuit layout and overtaking opportunities; the likelihood of wet weather. The team also holds accurate statistics on accidents and safety car deployments during the last ten years, and these are categorised as random or circuit-specific to determine the likelihood of recurrence. They are then used to determine the probability of a safety car occurrence during the race.
Q: What is the probability of having a safety car in Malaysia?
A: The precise calculations used by the team remain confidential. However, there have historically been very few safety car deployments in Malaysia - just two in the past ten years. This can be expressed as a 'rule of thumb' probability of 20 percent (signifying two of ten races featuring the safety car), one of the lowest values of the entire season.
Q: How does the later race start time affect the safety car probability in Malaysia?
A: The race has been run in the late afternoon on just two occasions. The first, in 2009, saw the safety car deployed once on Lap 32, immediately before the race was red-flagged and ultimately abandoned on Lap 33. Last year's race featured no safety car periods at all. However, the probability of rainfall significantly increases with the later start time. Furthermore, rainfall in Sepang is unpredictable owing to its convective rather than frontal nature; this typically translates to very intense rain that begins very suddenly.
Q: Which circuits have the highest probability of safety car deployment?
A: The highest-probability circuits are Brazil, Melbourne, Monaco, Spa and Singapore. The race in Singapore has been a total of five safety car deployments in three races, and carries a 100 percent safety car probability based on historical data.
Q: Which circuits are the least likely to see the safety car deployed?
A: In addition to Malaysia based on historical data, the lowest probability circuit are Hungary and Bahrain. Both have significant run-off areas and a low probability of wet weather.
Q: How often was the safety car deployed during the 2010 season?
A: The 2010 season saw a total of 21 deployments. This more than doubled the total from 2009 (10 deployments) and was some 40 percent higher than the previous highest number recorded in 2008. The 21 deployments accounted for a total of 92 laps, or eight percent of the season's total race laps.
Q: What was the longest-ever safety car period?
A: The longest safety car deployment came in Japan in 2007, when the cars completed 26 laps behind it at the start of the race. This figure was neared in 2010 in Korea, when the first 24 laps of the race were completed behind the safety car. The most deployments in a single race came at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, with five deployments. Last year, two races featured four deployments: Monaco, which finished behind the safety car; and Korea, which started behind it.
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