Calls for changes to Safety Car pit lane rules
By Mat Coch
Friday 30th September, 2022 - 4:07am
Carlos Sainz has led calls for changes to pit lanes and rules surrounding the Safety Car in Formula 1.
The Ferrari driver was penalised for an unsafe release in the Dutch Grand Prix.
Zandvoort features the tightest pit lane in the season with Sainz taking care to avoid the McLaren crew which was servicing Lando Norris as he accelerated away from his own stop.
In an effort to avoid hitting a McLaren mechanic, Sainz was slow to join the fast lap, feeding him into the path of Fernando Alonso which resulted in contact.
At the time, Sainz criticised the penalty by suggesting he’d “saved someone’s life and not generated a dangerous situation,” with his tentative exit.
Reflecting on the issue ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix winner led calls for changes.
“For me, it’s not the pit crews o the F1 teams really that need to make changes, it’s the FIA and Formula 1 organisation,” he began.
“They need to find a solution to these tight pitlanes because I said it once and I say it again, one day there’s going to be an accident.
“One day there’s going to be a human involved where it’s hurt because of how tight everything is when there’s a Safety Car and we are all pitting at the same time.
“Like in Budapest a year ago, when we pitted in the formation lap, in Zandvoort when the Safety Car came out, it was chaos.
“And we need to find a solution because I feel like we are putting someone’s own health at risk.
“If in order to get homologated we need a wider pit lane and a longer pit lane to have space in between cars, we need to make sure that happens,” he added.
“I know logistically and technically it’s not easy for circuits, but I was in a pretty scary situation in Zandvoort and it could happen anytime.
“It’s something that is a matter that we need to raise between FIA, Formula 1, hopefully, F1 teams can help come up with solutions.”
Under Safety Car conditions it is commonplace for teams to haul both their cars in for what works out to be a cheap pit stop.
That’s a result of the reduced pace on track negating the time lost traversing the lane at the nominated speed limit – usually 80 km/h though in some instances only 60 km/h.
Teams are obliged to use two different compounds of tyres, a rule designed to necessitate a pit stop and introduce a degree of excitement during the race – and the potential for mixed strategies.
Typically there are two preferred options that teams converge on which in turn increases the probability of a rush on the lane depending on when the Safety Car is deployed.
Similarly, at the end of the race, a pit stop is often seen as a defensive ploy to stave off an attack from those behind who gamble on fresh tyres, a scenario that can also generate pit lane congestion.
Sainz is not alone in his opinion that changes are needed, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez sharing his concern.
“We are put in this situation by the circuits, basically,” he observed.
“It’s something that has to be reviewed and hopefully we can make it better, because simply there is so much space we can have, and that is not enough.
“If something goes wrong at the pit stop for another team, then there is just no room for it to be avoidable.”
Formula 1 introduced pit lane speed limits in the early 1990s with most venues now operating an 80 km/h limit.
As the tightest pit lane of the season, Zandvoort maintains a 60 km/h limit, as does Monaco.