Formula 1 drivers are urging teams to reconsider the sport's safety car rules following the chaos caused by backmarkers in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
A thrilling battle for the leading positions at Interlagos after the safety car period was ruined by the top men losing time trying to work their way through heavy traffic. The situation has prompted calls for a rethink of the safety car rules – and a possible return to the old regulation that meant backmarkers were waved through so all the leading men were in race order at a restart.
Force India's Adrian Sutil told AUTOSPORT: "I think it was a complete mess. I was a fan of the rules from last year, that you could lap yourself back, it was all good.
"We have seen so many problems caused by lapping cars after safety cars. Singapore for example, the [Mark] Webber/[Lewis] Hamilton incident happened because Webber had to lap another car, a Virgin, and he went out of the corner slower and created chaos.
"That was very similar in Sao Paulo, even worse. I had no clue where I was, I was also getting lapped by [Fernando] Alonso, but nobody told me, I had no blue flags. I was trying to understand who was behind, if it was [Felipe] Massa or Alonso because Massa was still behind me [in the race order]. Then I thought, 'OK, I think I have to let him by.' It was just a mess."
He added: "Especially when it comes to the end of the season and drivers fight against each other for the championship it's just a shame if first and second are split by three or four cars, it's unfair. After a restart you have a possible chance to pass the other cars, but with cars in between it's just not good. Hopefully, they will try to make any changes for next year.
"Last year, the teams agreed to change it back again like it is this year. The drivers have power and if we all say we don't want it, we also can talk to our teams to make complete agreement and then push for it. It has to be discussed first with everybody, but at the end we are racing and if we think the other rules are better, why not?"
Rubens Barrichello said: "I would love to see Formula 1 a bit more flexible, because in Brazil there was no doubt that it would have been a lot better to see the backmarkers coming back – and I was one of them in a way. But then they would argue that in Monaco in a wet race, how are you going to do it? So the flexibility that I want is that you might envisage something for one race and not another, that is all. But for the show it would have been better."
Robert Kubica added: "I think it would be better [with the old rules], but it is very difficult. There are positives and negatives. It will take longer time because drivers need to re-catch the pack, but it is complicated for the fans. Everybody after the safety car would like to see the fight."
Nick Heidfeld, who was given a penalty for holding up the leaders while being lapped in the closing stages of Brazil said: "We have discussed it in briefings. We had it in the past and there was a dangerous situation once so that is the danger, but the danger is also if there are lapped slow cars in the middle of the field trying to let you by and you don't see them. Yes, I would prefer the restart to be the proper order."
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said after the Brazilian Grand Prix that he believed the safety car rules should at least be discussed.
"I think that for sure at the restart we knew that it was impossible to attack," he said. "We have seen what Fernando was able to do in the last couple of laps, in free air, he was really able to attack and when we saw it was not possible to attack we saved what we could do to keep the position.
"We saw with the backmarkers not a really good situation with everyone, not in particular against anyone, but to see that this is a problem – also for safety. It is something that we need to discuss and talk for the future because it is not really good."
However, not all the drivers believed that the Brazilian situation meant that a rules rethink was needed.
"I don't think it is an unmanageable situation as long as it is clear for everybody," reckoned Nico Rosberg. "That is the one area where everyone needs to improve so that all those drivers are informed very quickly that they are being lapped – by me, for example.
"I felt like I was in the middle of it, as I had three guys in front who didn't know they were being lapped and two guys behind who were trying to un-lap themselves. It is a question of communication being better from team to driver and from race control to the team. So I don't think we need to straightaway think about changing the rules."