Safety car, the unheralded hero of F1
Posted on: 05:25 PM IST Oct 26, 2012
Greater Noida: When everyone is in the fast lane, his may seem a low-key job, driving a car at a slow speed. Never mind the speed, he has a crucial role - to ensure nothing untoward happens on the track and beyond. He drives what is known in Formula One a safety car and his responsibility is to make sure everyone around the circuit is safe and secure.
A safety car is out on the track to limit the speed of the race cars on the track in case of a caution period (in heavy rain, accident or debris on the track). At every Grand Prix, there is a silver-hued safety car which essentially sees to it the race is not disrupted because of a mishap on the track. When there is an accident or a breakdown, the safety car gets onto the track and the race cars make a formation behind it till all clearance is given to proceed.
The man behind the safety car wheel is unsung and for 13 years now Bernd Maylander is holding on to it with all the care in the world. On television it might seem that the safety car is going at a snail's pace but the truth of the matter is the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, with an increase in power output to 435KW, is being driven on the limit.
"I am always prepared to go out to the track with the seat belt on. I have to be focused on my job. Everyone thinks that a safety car goes really slow because they compare it with an F1 car but I am constantly driving on the limit of the car," Maylander said, during an interaction with the media ahead of the Indian Grand Prix. The 41-year-old German, a former racer, said he was thankful that nothing major has happened in his tenure as a safety car driver. He added he was not bothered by the fact that some people get bored during the safety car period.
"People complain that the race gets boring when a safety car comes out, I'm not bothered by such talk. It is not just a matter of the safety of the drivers but the spectators, marshals and everybody involved. Safety is paramount," he said. He stressed on the communication between everybody during a race and how important it is.
"The car has two radio systems and two monitors to get a hang of things and communicate. Communication is the key here."
Talking about traffic and road safety on Delhi roads, Maylander said he was shocked and confused at how there wasn't an accident on every turn. He stressed the importance of safety and in his message to the Indian public saying: "Don't take too many risks, just drive safe. One needs to realise what can happen."