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Interview with safety car driver Bernd Mayländer

Interview with safety car driver Bernd Mayländer
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H err Mayländer, do you know when a safety car was first used in Formula 1?

Mayländer: There there is a great deal of conflicting data. It used to be called a pace car. If you really are talking about the safety car, it should have been the beginning of the 1990s. If I can check my email, I can tell you exactly. I did something about it last year.

The first pace car was used at the 1973 Canadian GP. As you rightly say: The safety car was officially included in the regulations in 1993. You've been driving it since 2000. How did that come about?

Mayländer: I drove in the 1999 Porsche Supercup. Herbie Blash called me at the second race in Imola. He said Charlie Whiting wanted to see me. I thought: Oh, something must have gone wrong with Porsche. I had to come to the paddock first because I actually had no access rights. Our conversation lasted five minutes. Charlie was looking for a safety car replacement for Oliver Gavin in Formula 3000, who was driving there himself. I immediately agreed. At the end of the year Charlie asked me if I could do the last three races for Gavin in Formula 1. Unfortunately, I had to refuse the offer because I drove races myself that were about the championship. But because Oliver was orienting himself towards GT racing in the USA, Charlie told me to plan my assignments from 2000 onwards - including Formula 1. At the time, I didn't even ask about my salary. It was clear to me that I would do that. The Porsche team paid me for the hotel, flight and fuel. Later Charlie called me: Bernd, you are the first driver who has not negotiated.

Which moments are particularly memorable?

Mayländer: Bad moments were Monza 2000 when a firefighter was killed, Australia 2001 when a part of a marshal was fatally hit, and Japan 2014 with the death of Jules Bianchi. Big experiences for me personally were Fuji 2007 and Montreal 2011. Crazy races in which I had a lot to do.

How many races have you missed since 2000?

Mayländer: Three pieces. I was always in the hospital. In 2001 I smashed my heel and had to sit out two races. Marcel Fässler replaced me at the time. Swiss reliability: I would call him again today. In 2002 I had to pass a race because of a lung operation. Otherwise I pulled it off - even with a cold.

Ifif you enter it on YouTube, you will find a few accidents, but none with the safety car.

Mayländer: You always have to be aware of what your task is is provided. If I'm honest, I've been lucky every now and then. For example in Shanghai 2009. Heavy rain, longer safety car phase. Before the left-hand bend before the start-finish, a small stream ran across the route. I knew it. Still, I almost left. I had to brake before that. The weight is shifted to the front axle, the rear axle is relieved. Then you get on the water and the rear axle floats up. Fortunately, I reacted correctly when the car crossed. Seb later even praised me for it. The safety cars have become faster and faster over the years. At that time you were well sorted with 350 hp. Today there are almost 600. But it is also much more mobile. I have driving aids like the traction control, which I screw up in the rain.

How about ESP?

Mayländer: That is always off in the AMG GT R. Even in the rain. Maybe there's a little pride involved. But a racing driver doesn't want to wear ESP.

Bernd Mayländer in his safety car at GP Bahrain. The leader Lewis Hamilton follows him.

Your safety car has 585 hp. Mercedes-AMG is building a hypercar that will have twice as much power. Will you be driving in one of those in front of the field soon?

Mayländer: I don't know. It would be nice for me. I always want a fast safety car. If it's 1,000 hp, I'll gladly take it. Would the hypercar be the right safety car? I don't know if that makes a lot of sense for marketing.

How do you follow the races when you are not driving?

Mayländer: My co-driver and I are standing at the end of the pit lane and looking at the monitor. It runs over WLAN. We have different programs. Live image, onboard camera, time monitor, route map with the position of the cars. As in the medical car, there is also a display for g-forces in the event of an accident.

Some drivers complain on the radio that they are driving too slowly. The pilots will also tell you about it in the paddockon?

Mayländer: Funnily enough, the drivers who are right behind me always complain on the radio. A safety car should be slow. That's why it's called that. When I drive at full speed, I'm eight seconds slower than a Formula 1 car for an average of one kilometer. Of course you speak to me. When we meet at the airport, we often flirt about it. Vettel has already thanked me a few times because Ferrari is not that sensitive to tire temperatures. I am present at the driver briefings. I'll tell you: don't make life too difficult for me, keep your distance or don't let the gaps open up. Vettel has already been doomed.

Has the radio in your car ever failed?

Mayländer: Never fancy. On some routes there are disruptions in certain sections. For example in Silverstone at the end of Hangar Straight. Or in Monza in the forest. We have installed two radio systems in the car: a digital and a manual one. If we didn't get a signal from the race management via any, we just drive until something happens. You could also hold out a pit board for me.

Do you practice new routes on the Playstation?

Mayländer: What is that ? (laughs). No, I do it the old-fashioned way with a route inspection. On foot, by scooter or by bike. And on the Thursday before the race, I can shoot myself for an hour.

Isn't that more fun than in the race?

Mayländer: When it comes to the tension, the races are the highlight. Thursday is my driving highlight. I can try things out there, go a little over the limit. You don't try too much on Saturday and Sunday. Then I just call up the saved file.

The technology continues to develop. In the last few years the virtual safety car came: Ever been afraid of a job?

Mayländer: My first thought at VSC was: Maybe you want the safety -Car abolish. But I quickly saw the positive aspects of the VSC. You can intervene quickly and deal with many situations in which there is no need for a safety car. That's a perfect solution. In special situations, with debris on the track, the drivers have to be steered and be able to orientate themselves to someone. No virtual safety car can do that. Technology cannot replace everything.

What is your favorite route anyway?

Mayländer: I'm old-fashioned there. Suzuka is a wonderful track for me. It has everything that a racing driver's heart can bloom. Spa is in the same category. Sao Paulo also has a great layout for me. I like tracks where the next lap is not the same as the previous one. You try something new, try to turn the screw somewhere. Azerbaijan is tooGreat. Make a mistake and you'll be stuck in the guardrail. I don't like routes that are completely flat. Mexico, for example. The thin air makes it special: even I can feel the lower air resistance in the safety car. Mexico doesn't appeal to me in terms of layout.

If you weren't a safety car driver, what would you do?

Mayländer: Then maybe I would still race myself. There are many jobs that would have appealed to me after active racing. For example in the classic area. I do something for that every now and then. Safety in motorsport is generally important to me. I would really like to do more, but time doesn't allow it. The FIA ​​could have one or the other task.

In Bahrain you were the first to turn the last corner on the last lap. Have you ever thought of driving through instead of turning?

Mayländer: Just before you turn, the thought occurs to you whether you should actually drive over it to meet the checkered flag to take. There used to be the But I have never experienced before -. Not even in the frame race

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Safety cars in Formula 1: Bernd Mayländer's company cars

 Pictures: Interview with safety car driver Bernd Mayländer


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