Sebastian Vettel and Formula 1 Safety cars have had an up and down relationship in Grand Prix racing this season.
In the Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel’s precisely timed pitstop during the safety car deployment helped him win the race, but a similar deployment in the Chinese Grand Prix cost him a probable victory.
During the recently concluded Chinese grand prix, a collision between the Toro Rosso cars left debris on the track and the FIA race director Charlie Whiting ordered a safety car deployment to clear the debris.
But the deployment came just after Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel passed the safety car line, which did not give them a chance to pit for fresh tyres.
Typically, the lead cars can go for a lap and pit and join the safety car queue. But the timing of this particular deployment robbed them of such a chance.
Luckily, Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo got away in time to pit for fresh tyres and as a result, the Aussie won the race.
“Obviously, the timing of the safety car was bad for Valtteri and myself, because we had no chance to react,” Vettel said.
“The safety car was caught almost straight away, so basically we were taken out of the race there, and didn’t have the choice to jump on fresh tyres or stay out.”
The biggest frustration is that the safety car could have been launched after assessing the situation and giving the lead cars a chance for pit entry.
“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?”
The four-time world champion acknowledged safety car was needed: “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.”
Conspiracy theory: There is one theory that Red Bull asked Toro Rosso to cause the collision to bring out the safety car. But the timing of the car was never in Red Bull’s control so the theory is just works of an over active imagination.