F1 ditches 'bad' safety car rule
Formula One's governing body has ditched a controversial rule that led to drivers being penalised for pitting during the early stages of the safety car being deployed in a race.
The revised rule will now allow the pits to stay open, with new software regulating the speed of drivers returning to refuel.
"The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we've gone back to the 2006 regulations," Formula One race director Charlie Whiting told the FIA website (www.fia.com) this week.
"The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits," he added.
"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 (electronic control units).
"As soon as that message gets to the car, it'll know where it is on the circuit, and it will 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."
The rule closing the pits was introduced for safety reasons to prevent drivers speeding through an accident zone in their haste to gain an advantage by getting back to the pits and refuelling while the safety car was on the track.
Renault's Fernando Alonso ended up in hospital after the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix when he ploughed into the wreckage of Australian Mark Webber's Jaguar while the safety car was deployed.
The race was then stopped, with Alonso taking third place despite receiving medical attention.
Whiting said new software developed over the course of last year would now make it impossible for drivers to return to the pits faster than the on-board display permitted.
Pressure on FIA
The FIA faced pressure from teams to change the regulations after several drivers were penalised last season when they had to pit under safety car conditions because their cars were running out of fuel.
Spaniard Alonso won last year's Singapore Grand Prix for Renault after a lucky break with the safety car, brought out after his Brazilian team-mate Nelson Piquet had crashed.
Alonso had already pitted and was able to move up the field and into the lead when rivals including Williams' Nico Rosberg, who finished second, were punished for stopping when the pitlane was closed.