Formula 1: Vettel says safety car timing was 'not right' in China

Adam Cooper
Autosport
Vettel: safety car timing was 'not right'
Vettel: safety car timing was 'not right'

Sebastian Vettel has questioned the timing of the Formula 1 safety car period that compromised his race in China.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting called for the safety car after a collision between Toro Rosso drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly left debris on the track, opting not to go for a virtual safety car because it was necessary to create a gap in traffic to allow marshals onto the track.

The yellow flag period was confirmed just after leader Valtteri Bottas and Vettel had passed the safety car line, which meant that they could not duck into the pits.

When they reached the end of the pit straight the safety car was already waiting for them, so they could not complete another lap and pit before joining the safety car queue.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were able to pit for fresh tyres - a decision that ultimately put Ricciardo in a position to win the race.

"I need to understand why we had the safety car changing the race," said Vettel, who also suggested Ferrari needed to analyse why it earlier lost track position to Mercedes in the pits.

"In 2014 in Hungary we were in a similar situation, where the leaders were disadvantaged because the safety car came once they passed the pit entry, or it was called out after they passed the pit entry.

"I understand if something happens and you have to react straight away then you can't always respect where cars are relative to each other.

"But we had two laps of the debris on the track, so why not call the safety car half a minute sooner and then everybody has the chance to decide whether they pit or not?

"I don't know the gaps but you have to give the marshals a one and a half or two-minute window to clean the track. In my point of view it's not right to send it when you actively change the race."

Vettel: safety car timing was 'not right'
Vettel: safety car timing was 'not right'

Whiting insisted that safety was the priority, and that it wasn't race control's job to ensure nobody lost out in such situations.

"I don't look to see who is going to be advantaged or disadvantaged," he said.

"You remember a few years ago in Hungary, Nico [Rosberg] was leading, the first four cars were just past the pit entry, and they got disadvantaged. So that's fairly straightforward.

"It's a little bit of a mystery to me why this has all come into sharp focus, because we've had the VSC since 2015, we've had the safety car for 20 years, and we know that in every intervention there will be winners and losers.

"If we have to sit there and work out who is going to be advantaged and work it so everyone has exactly the same chance, we don't have time for that. It's not our job to do that."

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