FIA debuted stricter yellow flag rules in Monaco

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At last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, Formula One’s governing body, the FIA introduced stricter speed restrictions in sections where doubled waved yellow flag were shown.

Following a thorough research and review of previous incidents, FIA has made another important step to enhance safety in Formula One on last Sunday by introducing stricter speed restrictions.

According to the FIA International Sporting Code, double waved yellow flags are shown when there “is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the track and/or marshals working on or beside the track.” Under such conditions, cars are forced to reduce their speed significantly and overtaking is forbidden.

In case of a safety car or virtual safety car period, drivers also need to adhere to a delta time that is shown on the display. This means that they have to stay above the delta time with the dashboard indicating a negative or positive value. The latter means that they are slower than the maximum average speed.

However, at critical places where marshal work on the track or rescue stricken cars, drivers are allowed to drive at the same speed as at places without any hazard. Moreover, if a driver is over the delta time, he can regain time by increasing his speed even in critical places.
The governing body has conducted a thorough review of previous incidents and came to the conclusion that immediate change was needed.

From last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix drivers are required to meet a set maximum speed limit in areas where double yellow flags are being displayed. While the Monaco Grand Prix is a venue where incidents often happen, there was no safety car or virtual safety car this time around, meaning that the FIA could not assess the new restriction.

FIA Technical Director Tim Goss commented: “What we want to do is to provide drivers with a tool to help them during incidents and to make races even safer.

“For some years with the Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car we have used delta times, a reference to a speed limit that we have around the track. So, when there is a physical or virtual safety car, the drivers are informed of that delta time on their dashboard display and by radio tones and they have to maintain a positive value, meaning they are slower than the reference time for the lap. However, there are occasions where cars can legitimately temporarily increase their speed to recover any time they have lost relative to this reference time.

“What we want to do now is to extend the use of the delta time concept to ensure that cars are strictly slowed to the required delta time when double waved yellow flags are shown under a Virtual Safety Car or Safety Car, so we are introducing a dedicated reference speed limit in the area where those flags are displayed,” concluded Goss, who took over his new role within the FIA at the start of this year after FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem had made significant changes to the governing body’s F1 structure.

FIA Head of F1 Electronics Olivier Hulot explains how the drivers will see that the restriction is active: “Under a Virtual Safety Car, when a driver enters the double yellow, what he sees on the dashboard is zero, so the delta time resets, and he then has to drive below the new speed limit. And he again gets a positive or negative delta relative to that speed limit. So it’s the same principle as before, except that it's specific to a double yellow zone.”

“We have already brought in a system of warnings for yellow and double yellow. The driver gets a warning in the marshalling sector ahead of the yellow or the double yellow. That has been successful already and will help with the new system.”

The new restriction could lead to a time loss for cars if there is only a brief period of double yellows and some of their rivals avoid this section. However, Hulot thinks that safety should enjoy priority.

“Loss of performance relative to others – if a car goes through a double yellow, but not another one and that car has to slow down, it is losing time relative to rivals. However, for the FIA safety is paramount and when there is a hazard on the track or marshals on track then we have to minimise the risks no matter what.”