The “unlapping” of vehicles is one of the most crucial choices that must be made in Formula 1 racing. With this procedure, lapped cars—those who are behind the leaders by one lap—are permitted to pass the safety car and re-join the line. This is done to protect the battles from interruption and to maintain the fairness of the race.
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What is Unlapping in F1?
In Formula 1 racing, unlapping is a crucial procedure that enables lapped vehicles to pass the safety car and re-join the pack in behind. This is done to prevent fights from being interrupted and to keep the race fair (in terms of fuel and tyre wear).
Unlapping during safety car
Unlapping is the process of allowing vehicles that have been lapped throughout the race (by the race leaders) to pass vehicles that have lapped them and the safety car during the safety car period and rejoin behind so that everything is in order. They are able to overtake the safety car and get in line behind it, finishing their lap and preventing further lapping. The safety of all drivers on the circuit is ensured by the overtaking drivers waiting until the race director gives the okay before doing so themselves.
Unlapping during normal race condition
If the previously lapped car is faster than the leaders, unlapping can also be done during normal race conditions, but it must remain clean and the lapped racer must avoid a crash as he is not engaged in combat with the leader since he is 1 lap behind and not engaged in a battle for the race win or championship.
For instance, Verstappen was leading the 2018 Brazil Grand Prix when a lapped Ocon attempted to unlap himself mid-race, resulting in a collision and losing Max the victory.
How Does Unlapping Work?
The race director determines when vehicles are permitted to unlap during a safety car. In the contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Michael Masi let drivers who were between Verstappen and Hamilton—Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel—to unlap themselves during the safety car period. Some lapped cars, such those driven by Michael Schumacher, Lance Stroll, and Daniel Ricciardo, weren’t. Mercedes protested to the race officials as a result, and they finally chose to toss it out.