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Sebastian Vettel questions timing of Safety Car in China

  • April 16, 2018
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Sebastian Vettel was confused by the timing of the race-altering Safety Car in China, saying it was “not right” that it was deployed when the leaders were unable to react.

  • Valtteri Bottas said he felt in complete control of the Chinese Grand Prix before the Safety Car period which swung the race towards its eventual winner, Daniel Ricciardo.

A collision between Toro Rosso’s drivers on lap 30 left a scattering of debris on the penultimate corner, prompting F1 race control to act shortly afterwards. That decision was made seconds after Vettel, who was chasing race leader Valtteri Bottas, had passed the entry to the pit lane.

By contrast, Red Bull was able to call both its drivers into the pits at the last moment for fresh tyres. That ultimately helped Daniel Ricciardo complete a thrilling charge through the field for victory.

Vettel said the lead drivers had no choice in how the end of their races unfolded from that point.

“The timing of the Safety Car was bad for Valtteri and myself because we had no chance to react,” Vettel explained. “Then the race wasn’t frozen, either. Normally it’s frozen for one or two crossings of the safety car line, but it wasn’t — the safety car was there straight away, so basically we were taken out of the race and we didn’t have a chance to jump on fresh tyres or stay out.”

Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel were set for a battle to win the Chinese Grand Prix until the depoyment of the Safety Car. Sutton Images

Vettel does not expect the Safety Car to be deployed at a fair point of every grand prix but he thinks the nature of the China example, where race control waited some time before making the call, was different.

“I need to understand why we had the Safety Car changing the race. In 2014 in Hungary we were in a similar situation, where the leaders were disadvantaged because the Safety Car came once they passed the pit entry, or it was called out after they passed the pit entry.

“I understand if something happens and you have to react straight away, then you can’t always respect where cars are relative to each other. But we had two laps of the debris on the track, so why not call the safety car half a minute sooner and then everybody has the chance to decide whether they pit or not

“I don’t know the gaps but you have to give the marshals a one and a half or two-minute window to clean the track. But in my point of view it’s not right to send it when you actively change the race.”

Speaking after the race, FIA race director Charlie Whiting referenced the same Hungary contest in defence of his decision, saying the priority of his job is safety, not managing the outcome of the grand prix.

“I don’t look to see who is going to be advantaged or disadvantaged,” Whiting said. “You remember a few years ago in Hungary, Nico [Rosberg] was leading, the first four cars were just past the pit entry, and they got disadvantaged. So that’s fairly straightforward.

“It’s a little bit of a mystery to me why this has all come into sharp focus, because we’ve had the VSC since 2015, we’ve had the safety car for 20 years, and we know that in every intervention there will be winners and losers.

“If we have to sit there and work out who is going to be advantaged and work it so everyone has exactly the same chance… We don’t have time for that. It’s not our job to do that.”

 

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