The virtual safety car is a pretty recent invention in Formula 1 and as such, it’s a new technology that needs work. That’s the message being put out by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, in the wake of the recent Brazilian Grand Prix. There’s been positive feedback from drivers and fans haven’t been too critical, which is quite impressive considering their penchant for complaint about new safety measures, but the FIA still isn’t sure if it’s going to be ready for full implementation by the start of next season.
“The tests were very positive, but more development is needed,” said an FIA spokesperson when questioned about the technology. “We’re not sure yet,” they said.
As Eurosport points out, the big problem with the technology at the moment is that it’s making driver’s concentrate more on looking at their dashboard display, rather than the roadway which could potentially cause more accidents, even if they do end up driving slower as a result. As it stands, drivers are given 200 metres to get their “delta time,” down by 35 per cent. This means cutting their average speed by that amount across the section of track, but if they come in faster than that, they then need to make calculations and slow down accordingly.
While the team in the pits can obviously assist with this, it’s difficult for drivers to do and there is concern it could be quite dangerous with drivers attempting to toe close to the line.
One suggested alternative has been to use an entirely automated system that prevents the cars from going higher than a certain speed, but that would require modifications to the cars which no one is particularly keen to do.
However despite these set backs, there has been a lot of talk about how strong the VSC system has performed, with some even suggesting that it could one day take the place of a real safety car. However the FIA has denied this, stating that it will be very unlikely for anything to replace the real safety car that works to slow down the drivers when a serious accident occurs, without needing to bring them to a stop.
The VSC system was implemented after much discussion following the Jules Bianchi crash in Japan earlier this year, that saw him plough into the back of a support tractor that was helping to recover the vehicle of another driver. It was a yellow flag lap, which should have meant he was driving slower than usual, but since there is no real indication of by how much the drivers should slow down, often they ignore it altogether in order to not give their opponents some form of advantage.
As it stands, he remains in critical but stable condition, though has recently been brought out of his medically induced coma which was initially started to reduce brain swelling.