FIA Changes Safety Car Rules

Following several requests from both drivers and team principals for changing the safety car rules for the new season, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced that the pit lane will not be closed in the early stages of the safety car period in 2009. The change comes as a result of a successful software that was tested by the FIA last year and that will tell each driver when exactly he will be allowed to enter the pits.

According to the new rules, the drivers will receive a message on their car's dashboard telling them that the safety car is on the track and the speed they should run with in order to enter the pits. This will allegedly prevent all drivers to rush into the pit lane and therefore minimize the risk of an accident.

“The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we've gone back to the 2006 regulations. The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits. When we deploy the safety car, the message will go to all the cars, which will then have a "safety car" mode on their ECUs. As soon as that message gets to the car, it'll know where it is on the circuit, and it'll calculate a minimum time for the driver to get back to the pits. The driver will have to respect this and the information will be displayed on his dashboard,” announced FIA's race director Charlie Whiting.

“If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That's gone now, as you won't be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to,” added Whiting.

This way, when a driver needs to make his pit stop because he is running out of fuel and has the misfortune of the safety car being deployed, he will be allowed to enter the pits without being later handed a 10-second or drive-through penalty. These situations were quite frequent in 2007 and 2008 and were the reason why drivers asked for the change in the first place.

Also, the new rules will prevent situations like the one in Canada 2008 from happening again. The drivers were then allowed to enter the pits but had to line up at the pit lane exit as the traffic light was showing “closed pit lane”. That caused one of the stupidest accidents of the year, as Lewis Hamilton's McLaren bumped into Kimi Raikkonen's car and the two had to retire.
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