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Old 4th September 2010, 10:14   #1
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Default F1 safety car driver - Bernd Maylander

Hi, found a very detailed article on the role and activities of the safety car driver. One of the world's best jobs perhaps? But also very high pressure!

He is under the gaze of millions of people everytime he hits the track

Formula 1? - The Official F1? Website

Since 2000 the FIA has entrusted the task of driving the safety car to Bernd Maylander, a former successful touring-car racer. He knows how to keep the pace during the safety period just high enough so that the Formula One cars’ tyres and brakes do not cool down too much. Maylander started his career in karting at the end of the 1980s. In the following years he progressed to Formula Ford, the Porsche Carrera Cup, the FIA GT Championship and the German DTM touring car series.

Q&A with Bernd Maylander

Q: When are you deployed onto the track?
Bernd Maylander: According to the official regulations of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the car is deployed 'if competitors or officials are in immediate physical danger but the circumstances are not such as to necessitate stopping the race', for example after an accident or in severe rain showers.

Q: What’s the role of the safety car?
BM: It takes up its position at the front of the field and leads the Formula One cars around the track at reduced speed until the dangerous situation has passed. All the cars, beginning with the race leader, must line up behind the safety car.

Q: Who decides when you should take to the track?
BM: The decision is made by the FIA race director, Charlie Whiting. He also decides when the safety car phase is finished.

Q: How are the drivers informed about the safety car phase?
BM: The drivers are notified by the marshals and a 'safety car' board is also displayed to drivers as they cross the start-finish line. Additionally, the driver is informed via radio by the team and a warning light inside the cockpit flashes until the safety car phase is over.

Q: How long does the safety car remain on the circuit?
BM: It will remain until the hazardous situation is under control and the FIA feel that it is safe to resume. The laps completed during the safety car phase count as normal race laps. If the specified number of laps is completed, a race can also come to an end behind the safety car.

Q: What influence does a safety car phase have on the race strategy?
BM: As a rule, the teams use a safety car phase for an unscheduled pit stop, because it involves a much smaller loss of time than if the field is racing at full speed. If a team manages to bring its driver into the pits at exactly the right time, it can result in a crucial advantage. Because the field is pressed up close together during a safety car phase, it also increases the excitement for the spectators.

Q: Since when has the safety car been used in Formula One racing?
BM: Its first introduction was in 1973 at the Canadian Grand Prix. However, the FIA laid down clear guidelines for the role of the safety car in 1992.

Bernd Maylander’s race weekend

“Generally I arrive on Wednesday evening, at European races early on Thursday morning. We meet at the race track at around 10.00 am. First, I go to the FIA office, where we have a short meeting and go through the important documents for the race weekend, such as race schedules, circuit maps, rules and regulations etc. Then I get changed into my race overalls and I am in the safety car at 1.35pm. Between 2 pm and 3 pm the first circuit test takes place. The safety car is therefore the first car that enters the circuit each race weekend. The track test is very important because both the car and the track are being tested, also the radio system, the GPS systems, as well as the cameras.

“Then, I forward our test results to Charlie Whiting, change into my official FIA clothing and attend the Drivers Briefing for the GP 2 series. The meeting takes roughly 10-30 minutes, depending on the topics and how much needs to be discussed. After that I return to the hotel. I usually spend the evening exercising or I go for dinner with the teams and sponsors. It depends on which city we are in - cities like Melbourne and Istanbul obviously offer more possibilities to go out in the evening than others.”

“Friday morning we leave the hotel at around 7 - 7.30 am. After arriving at the circuit we have a brief meeting with Charlie Whiting, the press, the technical and software department and with my team. Afterwards we perform another GPS test of the circuit - this test is performed from Thursday through to Sunday. This is very important because a track system is built into the safety car and all other Formula One race cars, which not only provides an exact location of the vehicles but also transmits the flag signals on the side of the track to the display in the car. Tests have shown that the driver can see them much better on the display - this goes a long way towards increasing safety at the circuit.

“I follow the practice session on the monitor in the FIA trucks, but I am not in my car because there is no safety car during the practice session. I can always be reached though, in case the safety car is needed. The Formula One drivers briefing takes place at 5pm and during the driver briefing the previous race and the current race are analyzed and we discuss what can be improved and how. The meeting is led by Charlie Whiting and all Formula One drivers and test drivers, FIA race stewards and I are present. After the meeting I return to the hotel. I try to exercise or go for dinner with friends - it is completely up to me how I plan my evening.”

“Saturday morning the FIA arrive at the track very early and have another meeting and this is followed by a GPS test, then I watch the third practice session. Directly after Formula One qualifying, the countdown starts for the first GP2 race. The GP2 race on Saturday afternoon is principally the same as the Formula One race, just at a different time and with different cars. Saturday evening we usually socialize a little but we tend not to stay up that late because Sunday is the all-important race day.”

“On Sunday we arrive even earlier at the track. It is one of the greatest moments of the weekend - to see how the circuit and the people slowly awake and embrace the exciting day ahead. The toughest part of the day for me begins right after the GPS test. After the second GP2 race, the Porsche Supercup takes place and at 1pm the showdown for the Formula One race begins.

“At 1.10 pm my boss Charlie Whiting brings the official Formula One safety car to the starting grid and hands it over to me. I check again whether the camera and the radio function properly and I make sure I get the most recent weather update, which is a very important part of my race preparation. At 1.50 pm I join my co-driver in the car. We adjust our helmets, buckle up and check the radio frequency.

“At 1.55 pm we leave the starting grid and park the car in the agreed parking position for the first lap. As soon as all cars have completed the first curve, I am told to move the safety car to the parking position for the rest of the race by my colleagues in Race Control. I observe the race on the TV monitor in the car and I also watch the weather. I usually communicate two to three times with Race Control to check whether all frequencies function properly and to receive further weather updates.

“When I get a command, I always have to confirm it by stating what I am currently doing. It is like the relationship between an airplane pilot and air traffic control: when the pilot receives the order he then confirms it and also re-confirms the update of his or her new position. In addition, our mechanics also follow the radio on the pit lane.

“If the race is finished without a safety car phase - which is thankfully usually the case - I wait for the last race car and I follow it. With this, I notify the marshals that there are no other cars coming behind me and that they are able to enter the circuit. If no support race takes place, my day usually ends there. There are races, after which I leave straight away and others where we depart on Monday morning. When my work is done it is nice to spend Sunday evenings at home.”

When an incident occurs
“If the weather conditions worsen, or an accident occurs, I communicate with Race Control several times. I give them my opinion of the situation and I wait for their feedback. Race Control then decide whether I will be deployed or not. Along with the information I provide, Race Control takes the information of the weather station and the teams into consideration.

“If Race Control sees potential for the deployment of the car, I get the command - ‘Safety car stand-by!’ I prepare for deployment and wait for further commands. If I receive a ‘Safety car stand-down!’ the dangerous situation no longer exists, and there is no need for me to go on the track.

“If I hear ‘Safety car GO!’, I immediately drive onto the circuit and try to quickly go in front of the leading car, so that the race cars can line up behind me. During a safety car phase, safety is the most important element; however, I still need to maintain a certain level of speed. This is so the race cars do not overheat from the lack of cooling air or that their tyre pressure does not decrease.

“The teams also have an impact on the speed I drive. They inform Race Control if they want me to speed up or slow down. I tend to drive at my limit during the Safety Car phase - the Safety Car often seems slower than it is. However, for the Formula One drivers 280 km/h is quite slow. Just to give an example, a Formula One race car is on average 35 to 55 seconds faster with every lap it completes, depending on the length of the track. This means that a Formula One car can overtake the safety car every three laps. It is incredible how fast these cars are.

“I then stay on the circuit until the hazardous situation has been overcome. This is the decision of Race Control. Thereupon at the end of the second section I switch the warning lights off. Before taking the next possible exit, I turn into the pit lane and the grid is released. Overtaking is only permitted after having crossed the start/finish line.”
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Old 6th September 2010, 02:55   #2
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This is really nice information about F1 Safety car.They play the most important role during the race and especially when there is an incident on the circuit.
More than anything,its a huge responsibility.
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Old 6th September 2010, 11:17   #3
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BBC SPORT | Motorsport | Formula One | The speed freak in F1's safety car

The speed freak in F1's safety car

By Sarah Holt

When the big cats of Formula One are still locked up in the paddock, the mice in the machinery come onto the track to play out a private duel.

Get down to the circuit early enough on a Thursday and you might catch a glimpse of the silver safety and medical cars blitzing round the track.

Drivers Bernd Maylander and Jacques Tropenat are there to test their cars, the cameras and timing equipment - but the duo cannot resist a race-off too.

"There is a little bit of competition between Jacques and me," laughs Maylander, the man behind the wheel of the safety car for the last seven years. "We fight to set the best lap on Thursday, that's the only competition for us during the weekend."

But "Maylander versus Tropenat" is not just about two frustrated former racing drivers letting off steam , it is also invaluable practice for the breakneck speeds they need to reach to keep up with F1's racing pack.

"It looks boring on the TV when the safety car comes out" Maylander tells BBC Sport. "It looks really, really slow, I know."

The thing is, it isn't.

Maylander's safety car is a Mercedes CLK 63 AMG, capable of reaching 62mph in 4.5 seconds (about twice the time it takes an F1 car), with modified brakes, tyres and aerodynamic parts; Maylander fondly describes it as "a small race car".

"The top speed I can reach, on Silverstone's long straight for example, is 155mph - but it looks like 60mph compared to the F1 cars," the German said.

"The difference between a safety car and a F1 car is like a jumbo jet and a star fighter. To put it simply, I could never win a Grand Prix in the safety car."

When the safety car is deployed, Maylander has the prospect of keeping 22 Formula One cars under control, a scary sight in anyone's rear-view mirror.

But Maylander cannot just amble along - he has to keep them running at a comfortable pace, to prevent loss of tyre pressure or engine overheating.

Low tyre pressures caused by running too slowly behind the safety car were considered to be a contributing factor in the crash that killed Ayrton Senna in 1994.

After a number of laps behind a much slower safety car than is used now, the Brazilian lost control of his Williams in a 190mph corner when racing resumed.

With his tyres below optimum pressure after running so slowly, the effect on the car of bumps in the corner was exacerbated.

So Maylander is well aware that if he does not put the pedal to the metal, the repercussions could be serious.

"The speed of the safety car is really fast, it is on the limit of the car," explains the 35-year-old. "You could never drive on the road like that.

"I have to drive 99% up to my limit. I can't drive over my limit - that extra 1% is to make sure I'm safe.

"The drivers know I have to drive really hard in a much slower car, but if they push me then I know I can drive a little bit quicker. We have to play together."

As well as the looming presence of the F1 drivers, Maylander also has to contend with instructions from race director Charlie Whiting via the radio and further directions from the observing co-driver sat alongside him.

He is put under pressure by the bad weather or accident that saw him deployed in the first place, as well as being in the public gaze.

"There are so many people watching on TV that I have to be careful not to make mistakes," says Maylander.

"If I go off the track, everybody will say 'what's going on?' - and that's also part of the pressure. You can't make any mistakes."

During the Nineties, the sport's governing body, the FIA, decided to employ professional safety drivers rather than former F1 drivers, and Maylander was offered the job after a career racing Porsche sports cars and for Mercedes in the German touring car championship, the DTM.

After a year's apprenticeship in Formula 3000, Maylander joined the F1 circuit full-time in 2000.

"I understand what is going on in the brain of a racing driver," says Maylander. "We are like a big circus family, touring the world.

"I know all the drivers, but especially Alexander Wurz (Williams) from old Formula Ford days and Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) as we were juniors together. Our friendship has stayed and we still talk a lot.

"All the drivers know what I have to do for my job and they respect that."

Despite his involvement at the pinnacle of the sport, Maylander, who says he never dreamt of being an F1 driver, has yet to get behind the wheel of a Grand Prix car.

But he has a plan to change that by calling on his contacts at McLaren-Mercedes.

"If McLaren win the championship I will ask (team bosses) Mr Ron Dennis and Mr Norbert Haug," laughs Maylander.

"It might actually be fun for practice - but I don't want to see what it's like in a race.

"I do miss the competition of racing but I like to drive the safety car, it's an important job and I feel like a lucky man."
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