F1 Safety Car Rules Changed

The safety car rules in Formula One have finally been changed, as a result of Ferrari's outburst at the fiasco in Valencia. All the 12 F1 teams met with FIA's race director Charlie Whiting on Thursday to discuss a tweak in regulations regarding drivers' behavior under safety car and a quicker response from the FIA officials when penalties are applied.

Ferrari's and Fernando Alonso's complaints after the European Grand Prix were that the latter respected the safety car rules and did not overtake the Bernd Maylander-driven Mercedes gullwing, while Lewis Hamilton did the opposite and went on to finish 2nd. That was a consequence of the FIA stewards' slow thinking after Mark Webber's crash, as they handed Hamilton the penalty 20 minutes later. It eventually had no effect whatsoever on his overall position at the finish line.

From now on however, while the safety car rules remain effectively the same, it has been agreed that drivers who are not being slowed by the safety car will have to drive on track at the same speed as the Mercedes gullwing. What that means is that all the drivers on the track will be forced to drive with the same speed, no matter if behind or ahead of the SC.

Until now, the drivers were allowed to drive with a speed within 120% of the flying lap time if in front of the safety car. If the changed rule had applied in Valencia, Hamilton would have had no advantage by passing the safety car, as his speed would have remained virtually the same as all the other drivers running behind it.

An additional change is that Whiting promised the teams he would make sure penalties such as the ones handed in Valencia will be announced faster. He argued that he initially dealt with Mark Webber's situation and only after investigated the Lewis Hamilton infringement, which caused the penalty to be announced so late.

In the future, however, he will remain focus solely on the race incidents that cause the SC to be deployed, while the FIA stewards will begin their own investigation on potential rule-breaking actions in parallel. Additional cameras will be constantly monitoring the safety car lines 1 and 2, in order to provide quicker and more information to the stewards for their investigation.

Also, the markings of the safety car lines will be more specific and clear, so a driver will not argue he didn't notice the lines.
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