2010 British Grand Prix: Sunday News Round-Up #1

FIA announce Safety Car changes; Whitmarsh does not regret McLaren decision; Anthony Hamilton predicts British duo to remain on good terms; Bernie aims to take F1 to Russia and South Africa

The FIA has approved changes to the current safety car regulations in a move to prevent a repeat of the controversy which marred the European Grand Prix.

Throughout this weekend race officials evaluated a number of proposals to ensure that drivers do not gain an unfair advantage – as had been the case last time out in Valencia.

Then, nine drivers had five seconds added to their overall race times for failing to meet the ‘delta’ lap time on their return to the pits, following the horrific crash which involved Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen.

Futhermore, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were also handicapped by the caution period, as both were forced to crawl behind the safety car whilst leaders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton drove on undeterred.

Intitially the sport’s governing body had elected to employ a system whereby drivers would have to tour around at the same speed as the safety car, to prevent them overtaking it.

However, subsequent tests during Friday’s practice sessions were met with opposition from the drivers, who claimed that certain parts of the track were far too slow – heightening safety concerns.

In a reply to these concerns, Autosport has revealed that the FIA has now increased the speed limit for the Silverstone race to approximately 80 per cent of a flat out lap time – with no limit in the final 200 metres of the circuit to ensure that drivers are not caught out by a late safety car call.

Additionally, in a statement issued on Sunday morning, F1 race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed that the safety car will now  be deployed with the aim to pick up the leaders, in a move that is hoped to prevent the field from splitting.

“Having given the matters discussed on Friday further thought, we will now operate the Safety Car in the following way,” the document read.

“When we decide the Safety Car is needed the message will be sent immediately, all flags, boards and lights on the track will be shown but the Safety Car itself will not necessarily join the track straight away.”

“An assessment will then be made to determine when the Safety Car should join the track in order to try and ensure that no drivers will be unnecessarily disadvantaged. In all cases we will attempt to pick up the leader, however, if this proves infeasible for any reason, cars between the Safety Car and the leader will be waved through immediately.”

According to ManipeF1, the FIA has also confirmed changes to the pit lane lights procedure during each caution period. Under the alterations the lights will only be red if cars are passing the pit lane exit or when the safety car is approaching the finish line. However, if there is a significant gap in traffic then drivers, in the pit lane, will be permitted to return to the track.

It is hoped that these changes will prevent a similar situation to the one which ruined Michael Schumacher’s race in Valencia.

Meanwhile Martin Whitmarsh has stated that McLaren did not regret the decision to bring forward its exhaust-blown diffuser, despite being forced to remove the system after it developed problems during Friday practice.

The device had been initially scheduled for Germany, but was brought forward by the Woking-based team in an attempt to keep up with title rivals Red Bull.

However, the device proved to be a hindrance and had to be removed; with hot exhaust gasses burning the floors on both MP4-25.

Despite this, Whitmarsh does not regret McLaren’s decision to accelerate its development programme – declaring that it gave the team a large valuable information.

“I think we have got some ideas, but in truth we need to go away and do our homework,” he is quoted as saying by Autosport. “I think we were trying to bring that forward, it was planned for Germany, we are an ambitious team.

“We want to race, we want to have the most competitive package. We brought it here, probably a little bit earlier than we should have done.

“I think we learned some interesting things, we learned things about the durability and if you put the rear parts of bodywork in 600 degrees exhaust gas, then you can expect some problems – and we experienced some problems [on Friday].

“We had to make running repairs on the floor during the course of the day, whether that hindered the performance? It certainly didn’t help it. And if you looked at the back of the car you could see that it was relatively armour plated at the end of the day, and I suspect that that, in a very critical flow area, doesn’t help.

“But also, the influence of the exhaust we learned a few things about the shape of the exhaust plume and I think we can optimise the floor around that as well.”

Staying with McLaren and Lewis Hamilton’s father insists that the relationship between his son and Jenson Button will not suffer the same fate as the Red Bull pairing.

Earlier in the week Red Bull tried to turn up the heat on the McLaren duo, with Mark Webber describing their relationship as nothing more than “smoke and mirrors”.

However, Anthony Hamilton does not expect things to turn sour, as the title battle reaches its climax.

“The interesting thing between Lewis and Jenson is that they are actually really good friends and that’s unique in an all-British team and also a team where both drivers are World Champions and both are extremely competitive,” He told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.

“Typically in the past, competitive drivers have always normally fallen out, but I think when you’ve got two fair, decent guys like Lewis and Jenson, you’ve just go to work at being competitive on the circuit and being good friends off the circuit and that’s what those guys seem to do.

“It comes down to respect. Lewis and Jenson have known each other since potentially they were around seven, eight years of age and they respected each other through the karting ranks which is where they started and up until the present day.

“And that’s a testament to the strength and honour between the two guys.”

Finally, Bernie Ecclestone has stated that South Africa could soon join the Formula One calendar – after revealing that he is hopeful of a circuit being built near Cape Town in around three years time.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live the 79-year-old also reaffirmed his desire to take the sport to Russia.

Asked if Africa was seen as an untapped market for F1, Ecclestone said: “You’re absolutely right, it is another continent where we should be.”

“It would be nice to have covered the world, but Russia is more important right now. Africa is limited for all the people who are involved in F1 for business, whereas Russia is wide open.

“But we will see. We have been talking to the people in South Africa for quite a long time off and on. The chances are OK. It’s a case of getting the right venue always.

“We’ve been talking to the people in Cape Town. There are one or two places that could happen and are coming on quite strong.

“We’re talking about building a circuit. It’s probably about three years away. That’s what I would like to see. I would hope so. I’ve been hoping that for five years.

“Hopefully what the World Cup has done for Africa, people will think it will be good for F1 to be there.”