Ever puzzled in regards to the F1 security automotive? We speak to its driver

Enlarge / Bernd Mayländer stands subsequent to the System 1 security automotive, a Mercedes-AMG GT R. The station wagon within the background is the F1 medical automotive.


Regardless of having adopted System 1 intently for a number of a long time, I nonetheless do not feel snug making predictions in regards to the races. Take the latest Turkish Grand Prix, for instance. Held in treacherous and changeable climate, have been I a betting particular person I would have stated there have been fairly good odds that the race can be interrupted with a minimum of one security automotive interval, maybe extra. As an alternative, security automotive driver Bernd Mayländer and his co-driver bought to look at your entire race from the consolation of their automotive with out being referred to as upon by race management.

The usage of a tempo automotive was nicely established within the US, however for a lot of F1’s existence, the game simply relied on trackside marshals with flags to regulate or neutralize a race within the occasion of a crash. That modified in 1993, when F1 bought over its case of “not invented right here” and adopted the follow, calling on the protection automotive’s companies for the primary time at that 12 months’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Mayländer and his co-driver sit on alert, waiting to be called into action by race control.
Enlarge / Mayländer and his co-driver sit on alert, ready to be referred to as into motion by race management.

Jiri Krenek/Mercedes-AMG

On that event, the automotive in query was a reasonably mundane Fiat Tempra sedan, with different races seeing the job carried out by a Ford Escort Cosworth RS, Honda Prelude, and even a Lamborghini Diablo, relying on what every race promoter organized. However from 1996 the game entered right into a partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which has equipped the autos ever since. (This 12 months, it has been joined by Aston Martin—which now makes use of Mercedes engines—with the 2 corporations splitting the races between them.)

For a lot of Mayländer’s profession he drove for Mercedes, racing in German touring vehicles (DTM) and sports activities vehicles just like the CLK-GTR. However in 1999 he was employed for the job of F1 security driver, racking up 420 races since then and nonetheless counting. Again in 1999, his workplace was a CLK 55 AMG, which had loads of energy however was a far cry from dealing with like immediately’s Mercedes-AMG GT R, which even on road-legal Pirelli tires is almost as fast as its race-going GT4 cousin. (For extra in regards to the GT R itself, try our evaluation from 2019.)

In 1999, the F1 safety car was this CLK 55 AMG, which probably didn't handle quite as well as today's almost-racecar.
Enlarge / In 1999, the F1 security automotive was this CLK 55 AMG, which in all probability did not deal with fairly in addition to immediately’s almost-racecar.


The GT R’s engine isn’t an important part, nonetheless. “For certain you at all times want quite a lot of energy, issues like that. A very powerful factor—and it is also actually improved over the past 22 years—is all of the gear you are utilizing contained in the automotive. Twenty years in the past, nonetheless generally you could not actually hear race management, otherwise you have been driving across the racetrack with hand radio as a backup. And now now we have two digital radio techniques, even we will get an electronic mail if it is actually vital,” he informed me.

The choice to deploy Mayländer and his co-driver, Richard Darker, rests with F1 race management. That may occur due to climate, if there’s an excessive amount of water on the monitor or an excessive amount of spray for the drivers to see, or due to a crash on monitor that security staff have to answer. His job is to guide the pack of F1 vehicles behind him, one thing that usually frustrates these drivers.

Mayländer has racked up 420 F1 races and counting since taking up the job of safety car driver in 1999.
Enlarge / Mayländer has racked up 420 F1 races and counting since taking on the job of security automotive driver in 1999.


However these F1 drivers cannot at all times see what Mayländer can from his cockpit. “So we attempt to make it in a secure method for the state of affairs. For my facet I at all times prefer to drive as fast as potential, and it makes additionally actually good enjoyable in the event you actually can drive on the restrict. However the velocity is said to the directions of race management,” he defined. Nonetheless, he does attempt to maintain cornering speeds excessive sufficient that the F1 vehicles do not lose all the warmth of their rubber.

For the primary 320 races of his safety-driving profession, Mayländer’s passenger was Peter Tibbetts, who can also be the F1 official chargeable for ensuring the groups aren’t bending the foundations with the composition of their gasoline or oils. The final hundred have been with Richard Darker; it is his job in the course of the race to function the pair of tablets fitted to the cockpit, in addition to the radios.

The safety car's most important feature is located in the trunk—the communications equipment that ties it into race control.
Enlarge / The security automotive’s most vital characteristic is situated within the trunk—the communications gear that ties it into race management.


Mayländer has tried doing all of it himself, though not throughout an F1 race. “I lined a few races in System Three this 12 months on my own alone. When you have got quite a lot of contact with Race Management, you must press the button [to use the radio], you must examine the monitor, you must report back to race management, you must give them data track-wise—that is a extremely robust job as a result of nonetheless, you must drive on the restrict,” he informed me.

Mayländer drives the safety car during wet conditions during the Saturday of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. When the track is this wet, the spray lifted into the air by the F1 cars' wet tires can make it impossible to race safely.
Enlarge / Mayländer drives the protection automotive throughout moist circumstances in the course of the Saturday of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix. When the monitor is that this moist, the spray lifted into the air by the F1 vehicles’ moist tires could make it unimaginable to race safely.

Jiri Krenek/Mercedes-AMG

I’ve by no means seen Mayländer lose management of his automotive (though that just about occurred to Yannick Dalmas in the course of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016), however subsequent time you see him on TV he is likely to be working the tires on his GT R more durable than you assume. “The primary two or three laps, they’re actually good, however then in addition they lose grip, and then you definitely begin to slide slightly bit; you’ll be able to really feel it,” he stated, proving that it is not solely F1 drivers who complain about tire graining. “When you have an excellent, drivable automotive, you have got an excellent feeling. However if in case you have a troublesome automotive to drive—it additionally will depend on the monitor circumstances—it is not straightforward, nevertheless it’s my job. However fortunate me, the present security vehicles are very drivable.”

“Particularly now with Monaco, Azerbaijan, these type of tracks—if it is moist, you can’t make even a small mistake. As a result of with a highway automotive with practically 2,000 kilos with the gasoline, with the co-driver, with me, you actually need to know what you’re doing,” he defined.

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