Enjoying his retirement from competitive driving in Formula One, seven times champion Michael Schumacher apparently viewed the Australian Grand Prix at his Swiss home. Like the rest of us Europeans, he was probably tucked up on the sofa but giddy with excitement as the 2008 season began. But this post isn’t about how Schumacher may or may not view the races, it is about his recent remarks concerning the safety car rules.
When drivers retire they tend to allow their opinion out with increased regularity. Perhaps this is due to not being tied down by a team anymore and not having sponsors to keep sweet. Of course, Michael Schumacher is still tied to a team, Ferrari, but given the fact he is considered an authority on the subject, one can forgive him, and arguably respect him for his views on the rules.
I say arguably because the former champion has flouted many of them in his time, but that is not the discussion point today. Instead, it is the following few lines Schumacher uttered that the FIA should take note of.
I saw Kovalainen drive a perfect race but lose a podium because the safety car went onto the track at an unfavourable moment for him. In my opinion this is not a good rule.
Michael Schumacher is talking about how, when the safety car is deployed to slow the pack and allow marshals to clear the track following an accident, the pitlane immediately closes. The pitlane does reopen after a while, but the only way to enter the pits following a safety car outing is if your car is damaged.
This rule was brought in to counter the en-masse pitting that occurred during safety car periods and prevent cars speeding around to get back to the pits as quickly as possible. Because the pack is bunched up the time lost regaining position after a pit stop is shorter, thus saving time. If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know why the FIA would want to prevent this. Who really cares if all the cars pit closely together? The only thing I can think of is that having so many cars in the pitlane will increase the risks to personnel walking around. But then they should be observant and careful. After all, they are at a racing circuit, are they not! Regarding the rush to get back to the pits being dangerous to the marshals on the track, the FIA are quite correct. But Schumacher can see another way of enforcing careful driving during this phase. It is a little complicated, so I’ll just let the man himself explain:
…you could determine with the sector times whether a driver was going too fast.
Schumacher was airing his opinions to German publication Auto Motor und Sport following the race last weekend, the interview obviously centred around the double retirement from Ferrari. However, Germany’s Formula One hero couldn’t let the safety car issue drop and according to many online sites, he called the rule “moronic”. A sentiment I would have to agree with.
Here’s the article in German at Auto Motor und Sport.