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Renault cautious on planned safety car changes 13 Jun 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 leads the field behind the safety car.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Steve Nielsen (GBR) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007

Regulations concerning the safety car have come under intense scrutiny recently and now there are plans to carry out a simulation of a potential new system at Magny-Cours over the French Grand Prix weekend.

The current procedure, introduced for the 2007 season, sees the pit lane closed for refuelling for a period of time after the safety car’s deployment. However, several drivers have been penalised recently after being forced to pit simply to avoid running out of fuel. The new system, however, could help solve this issue.

“Currently the pit-lane entry is closed to all cars that want to refuel but if you have a speed limit, that goes away,” explained Renault’s sporting manager Steve Nielsen during the French team’s official podcast. “The idea is that we could control the speed of the car by giving the drivers a target lap time when the safety car is deployed.”

“He will get a time displayed on his dash, which he is not to go faster than. They then have five seconds to press a confirm button to show that they’ve seen the signal and from that stage onwards they’re governed by the target lap time. That will ensure that all the cars go at a relatively slow speed."

Despite acknowledging the potential benefits of revising the present regulations, Nielsen was quick to stress the need to be cautious about putting the changes into effect too soon.

“I don’t think we should rush into anything because what we have now was agreed on the basis that safety should come first,” he added. “When the safety car comes out it means there must be some sort of incident on the circuit so there’s every reason to slow the cars down.

“(The simulation) is purely an experiment to demonstrate to the drivers how the system will work. And if that’s successful we will then go on and incorporate it into the rules as a proper regulation. Honestly, I think it’s something that should perhaps be done for 2009.”

The teams are expected to sample the proposed new system towards the end of the second and third practice sessions in France, with the target lap time likely to be 20 percent longer than the average lap time set in first practice.