As the Formula One fraternity reconvenes around the Red Bull Ring for the return of the Austrian Grand Prix, the major topic within the paddock is of a potential rethink of the way races are restarted after a safety period. For 2015, the new proposal is to adopt a standing restart much like IndyCar’s unpopular double-file restarts previously used on ovals after a caution.
During the sport’s brief intermission between the Canadian and Austrian Grands Prix, a Formula One Commission meeting was held at Biggin Hill which yielded the slightly questionable proposal of altering the way a race is restarted after the safety car is deployed. The proposed changes would see the remaining cars return to their grid slots in the order they are running in, before then performing a standing start identical to the one at the start of the race.
Naturally such an idea is centralised around introducing much more excitement into Formula One, with the current regulations benefiting the leader of the race who determines the speed of the restart once the safety car returns to the pit-lane. This therefore allows the leader to choose his moment to return to racing speeds, sometimes leaving the rest of the field behind and therefore creating what some may view as a processional restart to the race. However, the new system which has been proposed could certainly lead to more incidents and cautions, with the field approaching turn one in exactly the same formation as they do at the start.
So although the excitement levels may well rise slightly should this new proposal be officially mandated by the FIA’s World Motorsport Council, there is no denying it could lead to further unrest during a race. Take America’s IndyCar Series as a classic example, where the idea of double-file restarts was introduced back in 2011 to also spice up the action and provide more entertainment. When the race was resumed on an oval, the field were forced to line-up side-by-side in a bid to replicate the start of the race once the safety car returned to the pits.
This ultimately led to an increase in cautions, and quickly became extremely unpopular with the drivers and fans alike. Instead of allowing a race to resume, a case of “cautions breeding cautions” arose whereby one minor incident instead became the catalyst for further altercations. Although the idea was still part of IndyCar’s rules and regulations for the start of the 2014 season on every oval race except the Indianapolis 500, the idea was quickly scrapped on the eve of the race around the Texas Motor Speedway, with the governing body happy with the single-file restarts witnessed during the early stages of the season.
Should the FIA give the green light for the introduction of standing restarts in Formula One next season, only the same fate witnessed in IndyCar can befall the sport with races at venues such as Monte Carlo, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza providing a high percentage of first-corner incidents in the first place. With the cost of competing in Formula One also a popular topic, the thought of more incidents could well prove to be a large negative against the introduction of such a procedure.
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