During practice races before the 2014 F 1™ Austin race Halloween weekend, Formula1™ teams and the FIA implemented a new slow zone system to see how riders would respond to the new proposed safety addition.
The ideas of slow zones were brought to the forefront of discussions in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s nearly fatal crash in Suzuka.
The French F 1™driver, who suffered brain injuries, illuminated possible safety issues that drivers are vulnerable to while driving on the tracks. FIA and F1™ teams decided to come up with a new way to try and control the speed of cars in a way that would benefit the drivers without taking away from the race itself.
The purpose of employing slow zones is so in the case of an accident, drivers are required to slow down to a certain, pre-determined speed. This pre-determined speed is supposed to be approximately 35 percent slower than the speed they would normally go on a dry lap.
If drivers do surpass this speed while a slow zone is being applied, they face punishment in the form of penalties.
This summer, the FIA introduced slow zones at the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France and found the experiment successful.
Formula One drivers are currently required to slow through yellow flag zones, and they do not have a maximum speed that drivers must meet.
The new slow zones will allow marshals to recover cars without the need of a Safety Car. This, ideally, will provide greater safety than the yellow flag zones that are being used now.
The goal of the FIA is to hopefully limit the s peed in yellow flag zones and hopefully prevent the need for the control of the Safety Car.
F1™ fans and drivers are now speculating that this could eventually be an permanent change the FIA is going to make. But at what cost? And what are the real benefits of the implementation of a slow zone?
The Slow Zone Trial
The experimental Virtual Safety Car slow zone used at 2014 F1™ Austin was not as successful as the organizers had hoped.
There were complaints made about the Austin trial run of the system, and the FIA will attempt to adjust their system accordingly for a future test.
The newer system, using the VSC, the FIA will eventually test on more F1™ races will give all drivers a time of target on their dashboards that will force them to slow down their pace in lieu of a penalty.
This change is due to the fact that many of the F1™ drivers in Austin struggled to achieve the target time.
Drivers now will also be given 10 second warnings to notify them that the virtual safety car period will be coming to an end.
1. Experiment considered a success.
2. Limit the risk involved with race track driving.
3. Reduce risk of future crashes like Bianchi’s.
1. Issue with the implementation of slow zones is that some drivers may break hard, in fear of a penalty, while others cruise to a slower pace.
2. Not enough warning time before the system was implemented.
Changes Made to Help:
1. Measured will be extended from 50 metres long to 200 metres.
2. Drivers will have 10 seconds longer to bring down their speed.
The slow zone rules may have to be made harder and faster so that there are no gray areas for the drivers to get confused in.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If the changes prove more successful, it could be a permanent part of the Formula 1™ racing rules from here on out.
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