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SECU very much // Testing the standard electronic control units

Published by Mr. C

Just over a week ago Christine pointed out on F1 Minute that revised safety car procedures would be tested out during the French Grand Prix weekend. Details were sketchy at the time, although she did say that it would likely involve the use of the standard ECU.

A regulations revision is needed in order to work around a side effect of rules introduced at the beginning of 2007, which, in an effort to remove the incentive for speeding back to the pits, sees the pitlane closed to anyone wishing to take on fuel. The problem of course is cars already running on fumes have no choice but to stop, and this has already ruined races for Kovalainen and Heidfeld this year.

Practice makes perfect

During this week's Renault podcast, the team's sporting manager Steve Nielsen divulged a few more details about what might happen next weekend in Magny Cours.

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Supposedly the original timetable for the trial saw a test-run planned at Monaco, but that was shelved in order to give teams more time to look at the ECU changes during this week's test in Barcelona. If all goes well, the suggestion is that in the event of an accident, a warning light will appear on driver's steering wheels immediately after the safety car is deployed. They then have a maximum of five seconds to acknowledge the warning and after that they must reduce their laptimes in accordance with a readout that's also displayed on their wheel.

Steve mentioned that two trials will take place in France. The first during the in-lap at the end of Friday Practice 2 and the second time during the in-lap of Saturday Practice 3. The target time drivers must remain within will be calculated during the first practice on Friday.

Nielsen ratings

No penalties will be issued to drivers failing to keep to the specified time, but what isn't yet clear is what happens if no cars happen to be out on the track, if for example it's raining. Presumably the decision to split the trial over two days goes some way to mitigate the chances of that happening.

It's also worth adding that this information hasn't been confirmed as yet and Nielsen was quick to point out that plans may have changed, but that was as much as he knew at the time the podcast was recorded.

What's clear though is that nobody's going to rush headlong into this. Steve said he felt that if the trial was successful, the appropriate time to introduce the rules would be the beginning of next season, and as unanimity between the teams is required for the system to be implemented, we should expect the current regulations to remain as-is in the short term.

Confusions

If you ask me, the proposals sound more than a little convoluted. Not only for the drivers and the teams, but also for anyone trying to follow the action at the track or at home. How in the world we're supposed to figure out who has acknowledged the warning or who's not managed to keep within the limits is anyone's guess.

One also wonders, if everyone is spending so much time looking down at their steering wheel rather than looking where they're going, isn't that more dangerous than speeding through the scene of an accident in any case?