Come già suggerisce il nome, la funzione principale della safety car è quella di aiutare a mantenere in pista le condizioni di sicurezza durante il Gran Premio. E’ guidata da un pilota esperto e svolge anche un compito d’osservazione per la FIA, che è in contatto radio permanente con la vettura.
In caso di incidente o, in generale, in una situazione di pericolo non abbastanza grave da giustificare l’interruzione della corsa, ma che non può essere trattata con una semplice bandiera gialla, ecco che viene fatta entrare la Safety Car per rallentare le monoposto.
Sulla SC lampeggeranno le luci arancioni e tutti i piloti devono formare una coda dietro alla vettura di sicurezza, con divieto assoluto di sorpasso. La safety car segnalerà ai piloti doppiati il momento in cui potranno sdoppiarsi e accordarsi nuovamente al gruppo, non intralciando così il ritorno alla competizione.
Nel caso si verifichi un incidente sul rettilineo principale, il direttore di gara può indirizzare la safety car a guidare attraverso la corsia box.
Una volta ristabilite le condizioni di sicurezza e la Safety Car è pronta a lasciare il circuito, spegne le luci lampeggianti, indicando così ai piloti che rientrerà ai box al termine del giro. I piloti, proseguiranno in fila fino a che attraverseranno la prima linea di safety car, dove le luci verdi indicano che si è liberi di correre di nuovo.
In circostanze eccezionali, come nel caso del meteo avverso, una corsa può iniziare già in regime di safety car. Ad indicarlo è la stessa vettura di sicurezza che, dieci minuti prima del via, accende le luci arancioni e si posiziona davanti al gruppo, prima della partenza.
Tutti i giri completati dietro la safety car contano come giri di gara.
Estratto dal regolamento FIA sulle norme relative alla Safety Car.
40) SAFETY CAR
40.1 The FIA safety car will be driven by an FIA appointed driver and will carry an FIA observer capable of recognising all the competing cars who is in permanent radio contact with race control.
40.2 Thirty minutes before the start of the formation lap the safety car will take up position at the
front of the grid and remain there until the five minute signal is given. At this point (except under Article 40.16 below) it will cover a whole lap of the circuit and take up position.
40.3 The safety car may be brought into operation to neutralise a race upon the order of the clerk of the course.
It will be used only if competitors or officials are in immediate physical danger but the circumstances are not such as to necessitate suspending the race.
40.4 When the order is given to deploy the safety car the message “SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED” will be displayed on the timing monitors and all marshal’s posts will display waved yellow flags and “SC” boards for the duration of the intervention.
40.5 No car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person at any time whilst the safety car is deployed. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.
40.6 The safety car will join the track with its orange lights illuminated and will do so regardless of
where the race leader is.
40.7All competing cars must reduce speed and form up in line behind the safety car no more than ten car lengths apart. In order to ensure that drivers reduce speed sufficiently, from the time at which the ”SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED” message is shown on the timing monitors until the time that each car crosses the first safety car line for the second time, drivers must stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU.
40.8 With the exceptions of the cases listed under a) to h) below, no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until he passes the first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last lap, Article 40.15 will apply.
The exceptions are :
a) If a driver is signalled to do so from the safety car.
b) Under 40.13 or 40.16 below.
c) When entering the pits a driver may pass another car remaining on the track, including the safety car, after he has reached the first safety car line.
d) When leaving the pits a driver may overtake, or be overtaken by, another car on the track before he reaches the second safety car line.
e) When the safety car is returning to the pits it may be overtaken by cars on the track once it has reached the first safety car line.
f) Whilst in the pit entry, pit lane or pit exit a driver may overtake another car which is also in one of these three areas.
g) Any car stopping in its designated garage area whilst the safety car is using the pit lane (see 40.11 below) may be overtaken.
h) If any car slows with an obvious problem.
40.9 When ordered to do so by the clerk of the course the observer in the car will use a green light
to signal to any cars between it and the race leader that they should pass. These cars will continue at reduced speed and without overtaking until they reach the line of cars behind the safety car.
40.10 The safety car shall be used at least until the leader is behind it and all remaining cars are lined
up behind him.
Once behind the safety car, the race leader must keep within ten car lengths of it (except under Article 40.13 below).
40.11 Under certain circumstances the clerk of the course may ask the safety car to use the pit lane. In these cases, and provided its orange lights remain illuminated, all cars must follow it into the pit lane without overtaking. Any car entering the pit lane under these circumstances may stop at its designated garage area.
Other than when the safety car has been asked to use the pit lane, no car may enter the pits whilst the safety car is deployed unless it is for the purpose of changing tyres.
40.12 If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message “LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE” is shown on the timing monitors, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car. This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed.
Having overtaken the cars on the lead lap and the safety car these cars should then proceed around the track at an appropriate speed, without overtaking, and take up position at the back of the line of cars behind the safety car. Whilst they are overtaking, and in order to ensure this may be carried out safely, the cars on the lead lap must always stay on the racing line unless deviating from it is unavoidable.
If the clerk of the course considers track conditions are unsuitable for overtaking the message “OVERTAKING WILL NOT BE PERMITTED” will be shown on the timing monitors.
40.13 When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car the message “SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP” will be displayed on the timing monitors and the car’s orange lights will be extinguished This will be the signal to the teams and drivers that it will be entering the pit lane at the end of that lap.
At this point the first car in line behind the safety car may dictate the pace and, if necessary, fall more than ten car lengths behind it.
In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the point at which the lights on the car are turned out drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking nor any other manoeuvre which is likely to endanger
other drivers or impede the restart.
As the safety car is approaching the pit entry the yellow flags and SC boards will be withdrawn and, other than on the last lap of the race, replaced by waved green flags with green lights at the Line. These will be displayed until the last car crosses the Line.
40.14 Each lap completed while the safety car is deployed will be counted as a race lap.
40.15 If the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last
lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.
40.16 Under certain circumstances the race may be started behind the safety car or resumed in accordance with Article 42.5(a). In either case, at the ten minute signal its orange lights will be illuminated, this being the signal to the drivers that the race will be started (or resumed) behind the safety car. At the same time a message confirming this will be displayed on the
When the green lights are illuminated the safety car will leave the grid and all drivers must follow in grid order, no more than ten car lengths apart, and must respect the pit lane speed limit until they pass pole position. During a race start there will be no formation lap and race
will start when the green lights are illuminated. Overtaking is only permitted if :
a) A car is delayed when leaving the grid and cars behind cannot avoid passing it without unduly delaying the remainder of the field, or
b) There is more than one car starting from the pit lane and one of them is unduly delayed. In either case drivers may only overtake to re]establish the original starting order or the order the cars at the pit exit were in when the race was started. Any driver delayed in either way, and who is unable to re]establish the original starting order before he reaches the first safety car line, must enter the pit lane and may only join the race once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane.