By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
After his first Verizon IndyCar Series victory in over a year, Team Penske star Will Power has brought a bit of criticism upon IndyCar Race Control’s longstanding tradition of closing the pits when a yellow occurs.
It may not be a popular or safe move to win a race and immediately use it as a platform for criticism, but in this instance Power is right. What he is calling for is a Virtual Safety Car, along the same lines of what Formula One uses, in order to rectify pit stops under caution’s current status as a lottery that can often unfairly penalize a driver for doing well.
A perfect example is Power’s own Penske team mate Helio Castroneves who fell from first to 15th after being caught out on a yellow when Jack Hawksworth stopped on track. The pits immediately closed upon the yellow to prevent drivers from hurrying to make a stop and potentially causing further danger on track. Only after the field is lined up behind the pace car does Race Control open pit lane.
In F1, a Virtual Safety Car would have been triggered, which mandates drivers to slow down and hold the gap to the car in front, thereby not only safely controlling the pace and gaps, but allowing drivers to safely reach pit lane. Had such a system been in place last weekend, Helio could have come in on the first lap of the yellow and returned to the lead pack instead of getting mired in the midfield.
Power’s words perfectly sum up driver’s frustrations with the current status quo, “Look at Helio, caught out by a yellow. He’s done a good job, worked his way to the front, saved more fuel, gone a lap longer, but literally it’s like a drive-through penalty if you do that. You get put to the back. You’re leading, goes yellow, everyone pits, you go to the back. I believe that’s something that should change in IndyCar.”
IndyCar all too often gets compared to F1 and usually unfairly, but in this instance the sport would do well to take a page out of F1’s playbook and implement a VSC style system for 2017 and beyond.