Sebastian Vettel believes it is possible for Formula 1 drivers to abuse the Virtual Safety Car system, suggesting some have been manipulating it during races.

The Ferrari driver fell 17 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton after finishing fourth in the Spanish Grand Prix, having lost two positions when switching onto a two-stop strategy under the VSC. 

Following the race, Vettel criticised the VSC system because he is convinced that drivers are able to take advantage of “poor” software to go faster than they should be able to. 

“The FIA is supplying us with a system that makes us follow a delta time. So everyone has to slow down by 40%. But I think everyone is aware you can have a faster way to go under virtual safety car other than just follow the delta, by saving distance,” he said. 

“We should have a system that doesn’t have a hole in because it forces us to drive ridiculous lines around the track. Everyone is doing it so I don’t think it’s a secret. I think our sport should be in a better shape than supplying a software that is just poor, and allows us to find some extra performance that way.”

FIA race director Charlie Whiting denied it is possible to manipulate the VSC system by taking different lines through corners.

“I’m not aware of any problem. I don't know what he's talking about, honestly," Whiting said. “The VSC has a map in the ECU which is 30% slower than a quick lap. Drivers have to follow that lap.

"It's measured every 50m of travel along the track. It measures where it is relative to the reference lap and gives you a plus or minus. Every 50m the drivers are reminded if they are above or below.

"They are allowed to go negative [quicker than the reference time] but as long as they are positive once in each marshalling sector and at the safety car 1 line [it's OK]. Even if someone does go slow, as long as they get to zero by that point it doesn't matter.”

But Whiting said the FIA would investigate the situation if some form of evidence came to light. 

"If it's measured every 50m then any advantage you can get for taking a different line on the track is going to be absolutely minimal. I can sort of see what he's saying, but given that the racing line is the optimal one, one would think it’s a little difficult.

"If they have some evidence of this we'll obviously have to have a look and see if it can be manipulated. From what we can see over a lap and a half, as long as they are at zero at the VSC ending point I don't think any advantage can be gained.

"Where the advantage can be gained is coming into the pits and going out of it. But everybody knows that, it's not new."

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