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September 21, 2019

Silverstone Safety Car shambles: the driver’s eye view

Silverstone Safety Car shambles: the driver’s eye view
Photo Credit To Pedro Dermaux/ Xynamic

Confusion reigned in the final hour of the Blancpain Endurance Cup round at Silverstone, which required three attempts at a restart following a Safety Car period to recover an Am Cup Ferrari which had stopped on the International Pit Straight.

Having just missed race-leader Maxi Buhk, the Safety Car waved the pack through until the Mercedes was the first car in the queue, but there was a lengthy delay in forming a line behind him with the slow-moving Kaspersky Ferrari apparently convinced that the race was under a Full Course Yellow and hanging well back from Christopher Zoechling’s Konrad Lamborghini.

This caused multiple delayed starts, although there appeared to be a certain disconnect between the instructions that were appearing on the timing screens and what was happening on track, with the Safety Car remaining on track when the teams had been told it was coming in.

We asked the drivers what they saw, whether they thought a Full Course Yellow would have sufficed and whether any changes could be made in future to clarify the procedure.

Forming behind the Safety Car

Andrew Watson (AW), finished 22nd: I was maybe third in the queue when the Safety Car came out and he waved us past, so we cruised round and caught the Safety Car again. We ended up still being around sixth in the train, so I’m not sure how that worked.

Nico Muller (NM), finished 9th: I couldn’t see anything, I was in the back part of the train. I passed the Safety Car with my group at one point, and the only thing I saw was there was an Am Ferrari going really slow and leaving a gap, so I guess that was the reason for the delay. He pulled into the pits on the restart, so I don’t know why he didn’t do that before.

Christopher Zoechling (CZ), finished 24th: I didn’t know what was going on, I was looking in the mirror the whole time I was thinking ‘why are we the last car in the queue?’ The guy behind me was leaving way too big a gap and the regulations say you cannot leave more than five car lengths behind the Safety Car or the guy in front of you.

Adam Christodoulou (AC), finished 11th: It was a bit of a mess to be honest, I don’t think it got the leader of the race and it took them forever to sort it out. Normally when you go past the Safety Car and get told to do one more lap, you’ll drive at 90% to catch back up. But one minute we’d be going fairly quickly, the next minute we’d be crawling round, it was very inconsistent. I think one or two people need to sharpen up on the regs!

The Restart

AW: The lights on the Safety Car went out, the Mercedes in front backed up, then it went and we came round hard though that blind last corner onto the straight. But the Safety Car was sat at Turn One, lights off.

AC: It must have happened three times where they said ‘we’re going green this lap’ and then just as I got to the last corner they’d say ‘hold on, Safety Car for one more lap’. It was a bit frustrating that it went on so long, when everything was clear on the track.

CZ: I had my engineer on the radio telling me ‘Safety Car is in this lap’, so I was preparing myself in the car for a restart and then as we came around the last corner, I’m anticipating a move from all the guys in front of me but there’s still the Safety Car, lights, flags and everything. I was trying to get some more information out of my engineer and looking for clues like whether there were any marshals on the track or any debris. It was very strange.

Sean Walkinshaw (SW), finished 28th: I was fine because I was out the back, so I had plenty of time to react, but I think the cars at the front might have been a bit confused by the whole situation.

Jazeman Jaafar (JJ), finished 1st: To be honest I think it could have been done better. Maxi is always in control in all scenarios I would say, but this one was a bit of a surprise for us. We were prepped to go, the lights went off and the Safety Car was still on track. I was a bit anxious I must say!

AW: I’m just glad no-one crashed into me, it was like on the M25 when everyone brakes in front of you and you have to stand on it! It would be nice to have a direct link into what the race director is saying, because obviously the team relays to us what they think is necessary but we can’t hear what the race director is saying.

CZ: It reminded me a little bit of Paul Ricard a few years ago where the Safety Car was supposed to come into the pits, it didn’t and it caused a big pileup with the second group at the back. I think it could be communicated better, but I guess it was nice for the fans to get some good still shots!

Should it have been a Full Course Yellow?

SW: I’m surprised they didn’t do FCY, I think that should be the normal procedure now. It’s simple, it stops all that confusion and you just go when it’s safe but I guess they didn’t want to do it. At least it closed everybody together and made the end of the race a bit more entertaining for everyone as well.

AC: In one way, it gave us an advantage because it bunched everyone up, but if it had been two laps shorter then I believe we could have had another five racing laps. I ended up on the tail of the tenth place and I think those two laps might have made the difference.

Maro Engel (ME), finished 17th, first in Pro-Am: FCY is a good tool and should be used as much as possible, but I think in certain situations the Safety Car is needed. Even though it hurt us and it split us off the lead I think it was the right decision to make because it’s a safer option when there’s a car stranded on a long straight. The main thing is for everyone to be able to go home safely at the end of the day and I honestly I don’t think it would have made a difference to the overall result.

NM: Although we lost many laps, which obviously you don’t want when you’re trying to make your way back up, I don’t think it would have affected our result much. I gained maybe a few positions before the Safety Car and another one after the restart, but I don’t think much more was in there today. The most important thing is that nobody got hurt, so it’s fine.

About The Author

James Newbold

James Newbold is Racing.GT's Editor. He graduated from a politics degree at the University of East Anglia in 2015, which should help him navigate through the political minefield that is GT racing. He likes Marmite on toast and Oreo cookies. Speaks Spanish, but only when no one is looking.