Alex Albon has questioned whether Formula 1’s Safety Car rule for lapped cars to unlap themselves in safe given they have just “one lap” to catch up.
Following last year’s Abu Dhabi season finale and Michael Masi’s controversial call to only allow the five lapped cars between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, and not all eight lapped cars, Formula 1 tweaked the rule ahead of the new season.
The regulation regarding the Safety Car and cars unlapping themselves now stipulates that “all” lapped cars must be allowed through.
But while that’s all good and well, Albon reckons giving them just one lap to do so, is not safe.
“They have made a rule which I guess is part of the Abu Dhabi thing, there will only be one lap pretty much to catch up which isn’t enough,” he told Motorsport.com.
“Firstly, in terms of a safety point I guess it was fine, but we were driving flat out and with the Safety Car on track.
“I’m not sure that is how we want it to be but of course we are going to drive as hard as we can to catch up the leading lap.
“I don’t know if it makes it better or not.
“For me it made it worse as it spread out the field, we were kind of in our race at the back there away from everyone else, so maybe it is something to review.”
The new Safety Car regulation was in play at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri caught fire late in the grand prix.
The Safety Car was deployed as the marshals dealt with the stricken AT03 after which the “all” unlapped cars message was displayed.
One lap later, as the last of the six lapped cars made their way through the final sector, the drivers were notified that the Safety Car would be in at the end of the lap.
That meant, according to Motorsport.com, that Lance Stroll – the first of the six lapped cars – was just 20 seconds ahead of race leader Charles Leclerc.
The rule that governs when the Safety Car pits after lapped cars have unlapped themselves is Article 55.13 of F1’s sporting regulations.
It reads: “Unless the clerk of the course considers the presence of the Safety Car is still necessary, once the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” has been sent to all Competitors using the official messaging system, the Safety Car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap.”