Concerns over safety car use denied by drivers after first F3 race

One of the main talking points after the Formula 3 Sprint Race in Bahrain was the use of the safety car. With chaotic restarts and a considerable part of today’s running spent under safety car conditions, concerns about its usage began to arise in the paddock. Here is what the podium finishers had to say about it.

By Daniele Spadi

With the first race of the season in the books, the opening Formula 3 weekend in Bahrain has well and truly gotten underway — with tomorrow’s Feature Race yet another opportunity for the stars of tomorrow to prove themselves on the track.

However, the main talking point of Saturday wasn’t the Sprint Race itself — which was won by Spain’s Pepe Martí in convincing fashion — but the two safety car periods that occurred during the race. After the Sprint Race, today’s podium finishers weighed in with their opinions on the matter.

A chaotic start

Race leader Franco Colapinto controlled both restarts during today’s race. Despite being investigated by the stewards on both occasions, he controlled the restarts perfectly and within the rules to retain the lead both times.

“I was just trying to make the restarts as easy as possible for myself, of course maybe behind it was a bit messy but I wasn’t worried about that,” Colapinto said. “I was hoping for a bit of mess behind to make a little bit of a gap. I think you just have to go before the start finish line and not change the speed or anything like that, and I did that, so all good.”

After two clean restarts, Pepe Martí overtook Colapinto for the lead to win the opening race of the season. “On restarts [Colapinto] decided to make them quite late,” Martí said.

VAR’s Caio Collet, who finished the race in third, was very understanding of Colapinto’s decision to wait until the very last second of both restarts to resume full-speed racing. “It was quite a chaotic race with the safety car restarts. It was quite a late call from Franco both times and it created a little bit of a mess behind — which is the goal for the guy in P1.”

Possible changes?

The three drivers were then asked about the rules concerning the safety car. With almost half of the race neutralized by the safety vehicle, many in the paddock were talking about revising the safety car’s usage during the races. However, all three podium finishers were against possible changes to the rules.

“I think the safety car rule is fine,” said Martí when asked about it after the race. “Obviously it makes it a bit dangerous, because if you don’t follow a really consistent speed like Franco did today, then there might be people at the back thinking ‘Oh, they’re going,’ or ‘Oh, they’re not going,’ and stuff like that. But I mean, the rule is you go before the start-finish line, he did that, it was safe and it was okay”.

Collet had the same opinions as the race winner. “What Franco did is whatever racing driver is aiming to do to try and be leading into Turn 1. There is a huge straight and the [start-finish line] is pretty close to the last corner. You cannot do much as a driver so you need to try and anticipate, see what we can do to keep the lead and it is what it is. It’s racing and it needs to be tough.”

Though the 2023 season has just begun, issues such as safety car usage and race length are already the talk of the paddock in Formula 3 — and tomorrow’s Feature Race could very well give everyone a clearer picture on these matters.

Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool


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