It is a common sight to see F1 cars pulling behind the safety car during the safety car period. You’ll often see cars zigzagging behind a safety car, and to a new fan that doesn’t make any sense at all.
However, there is a science behind it. Drivers behind the safety car zigzag to keep their car in perfect condition before the safety car restarts. Here are some of the benefits of F1 cars running behind a safety car and why F1 drivers do.
Why F1 drivers weave after a safety car
Here are some reasons:
#1 To keep the tires in the optimal temperature window
One of the most important components for the car’s performance are the tires that make contact with the road surface. They must be kept within the optimal temperature window to achieve the best performance. When the tires drop below the working temperature window, grip is lost and the driver doesn’t have the confidence in the car to push it to the maximum.
If the tires are too hot and exceed the working range, there will be excessive thermal wear, reduced tire life and a shortened racing stint. To make matters worse, the performance gained from the tire would also not be optimal.
This is precisely why the tire temperatures are closely monitored and the drivers informed at every stage of the race, not just during the safety car period. This becomes even more important during a safety car period when the field is tight. When the tires are in the working range, you can attack the cars in front or defend yourself against those who are challenging the leader.
The zig-zag movement also tends to help keep brake temperature optimal, as most of the time the first corner of a circuit is a heavy braking zone. If the brakes are not up to temperature, it can lead to blockages or even accidents.
#2 Remove any dirt that may be on the tires
One of the biggest concerns during a race is forming an ideal line on the track. An ideal line is the optimal path for an F1 car around the track. As the F1 As the race weekend progresses, the ideal line becomes clearer as more and more tire rubber is applied to this part of the track compared to other parts.
As a result, during a race, this part tends to be the cleaner part of the track and has more grip. The other part tends to be a bit dirty as all the tire rubber falls off the cars as the race progresses. Due to accumulated dirt on the sides of the track whenever a F1 If the driver goes off track (either to overtake another car or makes a mistake), his tires pick up all the dirt.
Any debris or dirt on the tires means a reduced contact area between the track surface and the tire. A reduced contact area means less grip when running. So whenever there is a safety car, a driver snakes into his car to clean any dirt off the tires so the car has optimal grip during the safety car restart.
#3 Burn excess fuel
F1 Cars have a cap on the amount of fuel that must be used in a race. In addition, there is an upper and lower limit to the fuel flow rate that could be supplied to the power unit. Another additional variable in an F1 car’s performance is fuel weight.
Excess fuel in the car tends to increase the weight of the car, resulting in longer lap times. Therefore, there is always a fine balance between the volume of fuel in a car, the fuel flow rate, and the power loss due to fuel weight.
These variables are taken into account when F1 Cars are refueled before the race. Now, if too many laps are spent behind the safety car during the race, the car ends up with a little too much fuel in the tank.
This excess fuel could affect lap time, so burn it, F1 Drivers tend to meander in a zig-zag motion, bringing the car back to optimal condition.