Since its formal and permanent re-introduction to the F1 rules in 1993, the Safety Car (SC) has played an increasingly prominent and important role in the sport. Last season set a record for the total number of SC deployments in one season, with 40 per cent more than the next highest season (2008). In total, eight per cent of the season’s laps were completed behind the Safety Car in 2010.
What changes for 2011?
The rules have undergone subtle revisions for the 2011 season to further improve both fairness and safety. The SC speed limit, which represents a decrease in lap time of approximately 20%, 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 SC being deployed on track. The pit-lane exit light will remain green for the duration of the SC period, while no car may enter the pits during an SC deployment unless for the purpose of changing tyres. This rule does not apply should the SC itself need to use the pit lane.
Can the Safety Car still be used to strategic advantage?
The SC 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.
How is the SC integrated into strategy planning?
The SC 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 SC 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 an SC occurrence during the race.
What is the SC probability for Malaysia?
The precise calculations used by the team remain confidential. However, there have historically been very few SC deployments in Malaysia – just two in the past ten years. This can be expressed as a ‘rule of thumb’ probability of 20% (signifying two of ten races featuring the SC), one of the lowest values of the entire season.
How does the later race start time affect the SC probability in Malaysia?
The race has been run in the late afternoon on just two occasions. The first, in 2009, saw the SC deployed once on lap 32, immediately before the race was red-flagged and ultimately abandoned on lap 33. Last year’s race featured no SC 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.
Which circuits have the highest probability of SC deployment?
The highest-probability circuits are Brazil, Melbourne, Monaco, Spa and Singapore. The race in Singapore has been a total of five SC deployments in three races, and carries a 100% SC probability based on historical data.
Which circuits are the least likely to see the SC deployed?
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. How much was the SC deployed during the 2010 season? The 2010 season saw a total of 21 deployments. This more than doubled the total from 2009 (10 deployments) and was some 40 per cent higher than the previous highest number recorded in 2008. The 21 deployments accounted for a total of 92 laps, or eight per cent of the season’s total race laps.
What was the longest ever SC period?
The longest SC 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 SC. 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 SC; and Korea, which started behind it.
Source: Mercedes GP