The sport of F1 is constantly evolving, and one of the unique elements in this sport is the two types of Safety Cars : Real and Virtual. Let's see what differentiates the two.
Safety Car in F1
Ever since making its first appearance at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, the F1 safety car has played an integral role in keeping the race safe, and giving the marshalls time to clear any debris or stranded cars from the track.
In several cases, the safety car plays into the multitude of strategic decisions that a team makes during a race.
During a safety car period, cars slow down and no overtaking is allowed. Teams could take a chance and make "cheap" pit stops, that is, pit stops with less time lost, as all the cars are going slowly. On the other hand, teams could skip pit stops and gain positions over a pitting car.
Virtual Safety Car in F1
Jules Bianchi's fatal crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix at the iconic Suzuka circuit necessitated a way to slow down drivers without bringing out a physical car on to the track.
This resulted in the FIA coming up with the Virtual Safety Car or the VSC.
The VSC lap time is roughly 30 percent slower than what the FIA considers a standard racing lap, which means positions on the track remain the same, but all cars will be slower.
If a driver fails to be slower than the VSC in any of the sectors, or before the race resumes, they get penalized. This also means that the resumption and ending of the VSC is more immediate.
The 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix saw both types of Safety Car periods during the span of the race, proving to be a great example of the workings of this system that keeps F1 safe and running smoothly.