Friday 15 June 2018

Q&A with Formula 1 Safety Car driver Bernd Mayländer.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-Benz
Bernd Mayländer has been driving the safety car in Formula 1 since 2000 and has led the field for over 700 safety car laps. He knows how to keep the pace during the safety car period just high enough so that the Formula 1 cars’ tyres and brakes do not cool down too much.

Who is Bernd Mayländer? Bernd started his career in karting at the end of the 1980s. In the following years he raced in Formula Ford, Porsche Carrera Cup and the DTM series. In 2000, he won the 24 Hours Nürburgring. When the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series was resumed in 2000, he was racing a Mercedes.

The Formula 1 safety car is the first car to go out on to the circuit each race weekend. The first track test (on a Thursday), is very important, because both the car and the track is being tested, as well as the radio system, the GPS systems, and the cameras. Bernd then forwards the test results to FIA race director Charlie Whiting, and he then decides whether a track is up to standard. 

Bernd Mayländer: "Whenever I notice something unusual on the track, such as short or misplaced kerbs, for instance, I inform Charlie Whiting in our meeting after the test."

In an interview, he tells us about the greatest challenges posed by his job.

What is the biggest challenge for the safety car driver? 
I need to know where there has been an accident, where in the field I join the track, where the other cars are and if there are any cars that need to overtake me. I also need to know where they can best overtake me without creating a risk for the other cars or for the marshals. I'm also in constant contact with race control. Every safety car deployment is different - but that's what I like about it. 
Bernd Mayländer leading the field in Azerbaijan.

You were given a new car this season, a Mercedes-AMG GT R. How did you go about familiarising yourself with it? 
Over the winter, I had five days in the new car on a high-speed test track in Nardo, Italy. It didn't take me too long to familiarise myself with it, as I've driven a GT S before. The new car is overall faster though; it's about one second quicker per kilometre on the race track. The car is equipped with a specific communications and GPS mapping system and with highly visible safety lights, but most of the car - the engine, the gearbox, the suspension - is all standard. 

One of the most memorable races in terms of safety cars was the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix? What are your memories of it? 
Bernd Mayländer: It was a crazy race. I led the race for 46.9 percent of the distance. It turned out to be the longest Grand Prix in Formula 1 history because the weather conditions were so bad that they had to suspend the race for quite a while. In fact, the conditions were so bad that I even had the time to grab a coffee and a bite during the red flag. I had my snack in the race control room; that way I could make sure that I wouldn't miss any important information.

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