New safety car rules will be introduced for the 2009 Formula 1 season, replacing the unpopular system that has been in effect for the last two years.
Changes were instigated in 2007 following concerns that drivers were rushing to the pit lane when the safety car was deployed, therefore raising the possibility that they would speed through a yellow flag zone and also create a busy pit lane.
It meant rules were put in place to close the pit lane during this time, although it is a rule that has played havoc with several races, particularly if the safety car is deployed when some have pitted and others haven't, while many have been forced to take a penalty for pitting due to low fuel levels.
As such, teams have worked hard to establish a new system using the ECU software, one that gives the drivers a minimum time with which to get back to the pit lane. Should they reach the pit lane quicker than stated, they will be penalised.
Already trialled during the 2008 French Grand Prix, it is a move that FIA race director Charlie Whiting has welcomed.
“The rule introduced in 2007 was a bad one, and we've gone back to the 2006 regulations,” he told the official Formula 1 website. “The only difference is we intend to implement a minimum time back to the pits. 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.
“As soon as that message gets to the car, it'll know where it is on the circuit, and it'll 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.
“If you remember, the reason we closed the pit entry was to remove the incentive for the driver to come back to his pit quickly. That's gone now, as you won't be able to reach the pits any quicker than your dashboard display allows you to.”