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F1

How a rule change contributed to two of F1's most controversial moments

A change was made to the rule book for 2007 and reversed on this day 15 years ago. Yet before and after the rule was withdrawn, two of the sport's most controversial moments took place.

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January 27 marks 15 years since a certain Safety Car rule was dropped from F1's regulation set, one which could have changed a number of results in the time since.

We all know how the Safety Car procedure goes now: yellow flags are usually flown first before the FIA Race Director determines either the Mercedes or Aston Martin vehicle is needed to bunch the field up and allow track marshals to recover any obstruction on track.

Savvy strategy will often see drivers dive into the pits immediately to save themselves time whilst making a tyre change, often before the pack is closed up behind the Safety Car.

Yet this wasn't possible in 2007 and 2008 as procedures were implemented to close the pits as soon as the Safety Car was deployed, only opening when all cars were lined up in formation.

A message was then given by race control saying that the pit lane was open, allowing a flurry of activity - back during a time when refuelling was still a key part of the pit stops.

Any driver entering the pits before the message was given would be handed a ten-second stop-go penalty, regardless of whether the stop was necessary to avoid running the fuel tank dry.

Affected races

This regulation was a key factor in the 'crashgate' incident that saw Fernando Alonso triumph at the Singapore Grand Prix after Renault teammate Nelson Piquet Jr crashed to trigger the Safety Car.

But ahead of the 2009 season, following pressure from teams, the FIA took away the regulation and instead implemented new technology to measure a minimum lap time.

There is no doubt that F1 is a better sport for the change, but how different could some races have been? The obvious difference being the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where Max Verstappen was able to dive into the pits for a fresh set of tyres to attack Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season and take the championship.

That wouldn't have been possible under the 2007 and 2008 rule and instead, the duo would have battled on older, harder tyres.

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