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F1’s governing body dismisses criticism of safety car speed

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car into turn two at the start of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, April 10, 2022. AP

PARIS—Formula One’s governing body has dismissed criticisms of its safety car being too slow after drivers complained following the Australian Grand Prix last weekend.

The FIA said in a statement on Thursday that the priority was not pleasing the drivers but ensuring safety on the track.

“The FIA would like to reiterate that the primary function of the safety car is, of course, not outright speed, but the safety of the drivers, marshals and officials,” the statement said.

“The impact of the speed of the safety car on the performance of the cars following is a secondary consideration, as the impact is equal amongst all competitors.”

F1 safety car duties are shared by Mercedes and Aston Martin cars this season, and the Mercedes safety car is around five seconds per lap quicker.

The Aston Martin car was twice deployed during the Australian GP, and world champion Max Verstappen of the Red Bull team compared it to “a turtle” because he thought it was too slow.

Drivers could not get enough heat into their tires as they drove behind it at lower speeds than they would have liked.

“I was struggling massively to put some temperature in them, so I also struggled,” said Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who won the race. “To be honest, I wanted to complain, but then I checked how much the safety car was sliding in the corner and I don’t think there was anything more that he could give.”

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