Yesterday saw the Formula 1 governing body, FIA, announce that it was looking into making use of a “virtual safety car,” in the aftermath of the Jules Bianchi crash at the Tokyo Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago. This would provide drivers with a remotely activated, maximum speed limit in certain sections of the track that are considered hazardous, due to the presence of recovery vehicles or safety marshals that are attempting to move a damaged vehicle or save an injured driver. Now the technology has been given approval by many drivers, leading to its upcoming implementation in the next race of the season in Austin, Texas.
Set to take place in just three weeks time, this doesn’t give the FIA very long to implement the technology, or for race teams to adapt to it. However there are already several other remote control and automated features in F1 cars, so it may be possible to co-op some of those transmission technologies to make it happen. In the mean time though, the plan is to run some tests at the Austin event and see how they go, before considering a sport wide implementation of the remote control tech.
Whether the implementation is perfect right out of the gate or not though, drivers seem pleased that the FIA is taking action.
“What’s good is they’re reacting to it and trying to find the best solution,” said Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton went on to point out the problems with the current flag system, which just recommends that drivers slow down but gives them little incentive to do so, as slowing down too much could give their opponents a chance to catch up, even though overtaking is not allowed.
“The problem with flags is that you want to be safe but you want to lose as little time as possible. So you’re always on the knife-edge with it,” Hamilton said. “And with the limiter through that sector or whatever they’re going to do, that really does take the pressure off the chance you can make mistakes.”
Ferarri driver Fernando Alsono agrees too, saying “I support it,” and added that he’d seen a similar technology used on Go-Kart tracks and saw no reason that it couldn’t be implemented for Formula 1 racing too.
Slowing everyone down to the same speed, means that they can continue to race against one another, albeit without the same intensity, even when a crash occurs, rather than the current flag or safety car systems which either do too little, or too much to control the racers.
All of this talks stems from the incident two weeks ago that saw driver Jules Bianchi collide with a recovery tractor after losing control on a wet piece of track. The tractor was recovering another vehicle at the time, so the flag system was in use but clearly it wasn’t enough to prevent the accident which ultimately led to Binachi suffering from a nasty head trauma. At the time of writing he remains in a serious, but stable condition.
Image sources: Jose Marla & Jake Archibald