Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Paul Ricard, 2022

How Russell took advantage of a virtual safety car problem to pass Perez RaceFans

Sergio Perez remained furious after what he believed to be a mistake with the FIA’s Virtual Safety Car system caused him to lose the final podium spot at the French Grand Prix.

George Russell pounced on Perez as the race restarted, taking third place from him with four laps to go.

Perez said the VSC system was “totally wrong” and “interfering with the outcome” of the race. He pointed out that he was initially told the race was about to resume on the approach to Turn Eight, but did so much later than expected at Turn 13.

FIA sporting regulations begin that once teams receive the “VSC ending” message, the race then resumes “at any time between 10 and 15 seconds later”.

However, on this occasion, a problem arose with the VSC system. The race did not restart and the VSC continued. The FIA ​​switched to a back-up system, and the VSC end-of-period procedure was triggered a second time.

“A second VSC end message was sent due to a hardware issue, which led to an automated switch to backup systems which worked exactly as they should in this scenario,” an FIA spokesperson said. at RaceFans.

“The same information is provided simultaneously to all teams. The countdown from the end of the VSC until the green light displayed on the signs at the edge of the track is always random.

During a VSC period, a target maximum lap time is set that drivers must not exceed. To ensure that they are meeting this target throughout the round, their difference from it is measured at a series of intervals.

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When a race is due to resume, drivers pay close attention to these intervals, ensuring they reach them as soon as they are cleared to do so without violating the “delta” time difference.

In today’s race, when Perez’s race engineer Hugh Bird told him “virtual safety car ends” as he approached accelerated turn eight, Perezd restored as much of a lead on Russell as possible below the delta.

However, the race did not restart and Russell closed in on Perez at Le Beausset. Red Bull reminded its driver to “stay on the delta”. He asked “why doesn’t it end?”

“Stay on the delta,” Bird reminded him. The second instruction to restart the race is then passed. Bird told Perez: “Virtual safety car ends” as he rounded Bendor, Turn 12.

Behind him, the communication on Russell’s radio was more one-way. Ricardo Muscconi told him that the VSC period was ending as the chicane approached. When it continued, Musconi said “always the end of the VSC, watch your delta” as Russell closed in on Perez.

Like Bird, Musconi told his driver that the VSC period was ending when the second message arrived. As both drivers took power, Perez had more wheelspin than Russell, who passed him approaching Turn 14.

Speaking after the race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was unsure whether the two cars had received the same information. “What was frustrating for him was that there was a problem with the race control, with the VSC, because they couldn’t turn it off, so they had to do a reset,” said Horner.

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“Just talking to him he was saying he wasn’t going to have the delta in his car. So he was right on his delta and I think George got ahead of him, but was in the delta, or maybe- be that the information about these two cars was different, so we have to go and explore that.

As the FIA ​​said, there was no indication that the drivers had received different instructions. But in the unusual circumstances of the VSC period not ending as expected, Perez had reacted slightly differently.

Other teams found themselves in the same position. Asked by RaceFans if the VSC situation had caused any confusion over the restart of the race, Alfa Romeo track engineering manager Xevi Pujolar said: “No, it’s just boring because we thought, okay, the safety car was ending and it wasn’t ending and then we didn’t know what was going on.

“But a few seconds later it was a message from race control and we informed the drivers that there was a problem. But other than that it was fine.”

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French Grand Prix 2022

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