In the real world of motorsport, Safety Cars are essential to neutralise the racing. Marshals are out on track to retrieve debris or stationary cars, after all. But since that is not the case in the virtual world, are Safety Cars needed in sim racing?
Last week, many of the top F1 Esports drivers were competing in Round 12 of PSGL’s top PC tier. During the pitstop window, some of the drivers had pitted before one of them crashed, which brought out a safety car.
This resulted in the drivers who had not pitted gaining a load of free positions. Ferrari driver and reigning PSGL champion Bari Broumand finished third behind his main rival Jarno Opmeer, and tweeted his frustrations after the race.
That got us thinking. Why even have the safety car enabled at all?
Sim racing is, of course, attempting to replicate real racing. As a result, the argument can be made that removing the need of a safety car would break the immersion. Of course, with many people in sim racing who want to get as close to the real thing as possible, it is an essential part.
But unlike pitstops, tyre wear, fuel usage, and even weather to a certain degree, it is very imbalanced as to how it affects people’s races. It’s a necessary evil though in the real world, and assuming the rules are applied correctly, can be chalked up to “that’s just part of racing”.
However, in that aforementioned PSGL race, when the driver crashed out, their car just instantly despawned. So the only purpose the safety car serves is to neutralise the race to protect the non-existent marshalls.
It just feels completely unnecessary as it tends to randomly benefit some and ruin the races of others.
Where It Works
This is not to say there are no situations that do not warrant a safety car in sim racing. A slow moving car trying to return to the pits under its own power, or a stationary car or big pile up with no quick de-spawning are examples in online races. But what about single player?
If you play an F1 game career mode and you have mechanical failures enabled, drivers can stop or be slow on the racing line. Having parts fail on a racing game can be annoying, since it is unavoidable in the real world. But it is seemingly a randomised function in sim racing.
So whilst many people like the immersion, it is safe to say the vast majority of sim racers are there to enjoy some competition. If any competitive environment can bypass a feature that is not unavoidable for the sake of fairness, it should do that.
Plus with someone’s internet connection essentially acting as a potential equivalent for mechanical failures in sim racing, who should also have to worry about an engine randomly blowing up?
As unpopular an opinion this might be, sim racing does not need to fully replicate everything in real racing. Unless iRacing and the F1 games can add marshalls that behave like actual humans to remove each individual piece of debris over a period of laps, it can be removed altogether.
Of course, there is the added element of bunching the field back up to go back racing. But then why not just throw a competition caution? They do it in a lot of American-based motorsports. State a designated period of time for when a caution will come out, so the drivers can time any pitstops they have.
Of course, that runs the risk of creating artificial racing and not letting the race run naturally. Overall, it’s a slippery slope with no definitive correct answer. It all comes down to whether one wants to part with some immersion for the sake of fairness.
But in high level competitive championships with prize money on the line for example, safety cars just don’t serve any purpose other than to shake up the natural order like a Mario Kart race.
Do you think safety cars are needed in sim racing? Are there any surprises to you? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!