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Why Bernd Maylander is the safest pair of hands in F1

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Of course the FIA’s F1 safety car driver Bernd Maylander. The 51-year-old from Waiblingen in southwestern Germany has the icy veins to keep F1 drivers in check when things go awry.

Mehland, now in his 24th season driving the safety car, has missed just a few races since his debut in 2000 – including Monaco in 2001, when he fell with a broken heel returning to his hotel before a DTM race On the wall Oschersleben. Meilander, winner of the 1997 FIA GT Championship and winner of the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2000, has mastered safety car procedures over the years.

He explained: “The two calls are ‘Safety Car Standby’ and ‘Safety Car Deployed’. When they say ‘Deployed’, I’m on the track, find the leader – and then if there’s an accident, I get Extra info, maybe I have to turn right or left around the corner and if there is debris I’ll be told.”

FIA technical assistant Richard Darker drove the safety car alongside Melander.

“I spend more weekends with him than I do with my wife!” Melander chuckled. “We’re always ready, in the same parking spot at the end of the pit lane, fully dressed, helmets on, we’ve got all the information from the race director – ready to go!

“But, for sure, there are moments where you slow down and your blood pressure drops after the start, and we have real-time feedback on two monitors in the car, so we have time and GPS trackers to monitor all the tracks the car on it. If there is a crash, we know the G-forces the car was subjected to during the impact.”

Once deployed, Maylander became the focus of the FIA’s attention, as running ahead put him in a privileged position in terms of relevant feedback.

Maylander was on standby throughout the live session, preparing for the event and in contact with race control

Maylander was on standby throughout the live session, preparing for the event and in contact with race control

Photography: Mark Sutton

“In this job, information is everything, but ultimately it’s the radio telling you where to go,” he said. “I have my plan, I know what to do, but any other changes come over the radio. We also report to race control, for example on rainy days. But even if I suggest ‘I think it’s a red flag’ because it’s too wet Now, the decision still rests with race control.

“I’m just a guy who can see what’s going on ahead, but they have a lot more input. In particular, I can spot any debris in orbit very well, sometimes the TV might miss them. So we’ve been doing it over the years progress.”

Mehland’s busiest day came at the wild, rain-affected 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix. He led 34 laps that day.

“Now we know that if we do more than five laps, it’s definitely going to be a red flag and start over,” he said. “The teamwork has also changed – when I started at the FIA ​​we had eight people on the track, now we have 60.”

Aston Martin joins the team

Mercedes was the sole supplier of the safety car until Aston Martin joined the scheme in 2021, when the two cars shared responsibility.

“The first race was at Mugello in the Covid era with the Vantage F1 Edition,” said Maylander. “It’s a great sports car. It definitely has a different suspension, so the setup is a bit different (for the more powerful Mercedes).

“From the first moment I felt really good, it’s a good car to drive. Of course, all the drivers want more power, but with the safety car it’s less important for us … it’s about drivability, safety and the tools we have in the car — that’s the most important thing about my job.

“I felt comfortable from day one. Of course, the two products from the two brands are different, but at the end of the day, I can only say that there are positives to both.”

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is a four-liter twin-turbocharged V8-powered coupe producing 528 horsepower, a 0-62 mph time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 195 mph . According to Maylander, it has an oversized rear wing with Gurney flaps to create “really nice balance”.

Melander leads Motorsport.com editor Bradley on safety car tour

Melander leads Motorsport.com editor Bradley on safety car tour

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

“I really like it,” he said. “I sat in a brand for over 20 years and then Aston Martin came along and my first thought was, ‘let’s see how good this car is’ – I’d never driven it before one.”

What really sets this car apart from what you can buy on the street is the trunk, which is filled with electronic system control units, Wi-Fi routers, GPS trackers (exactly the same ones fitted to F1 cars), radio system and data logger.

“All the equipment we have in the car, the communications and Wi-Fi systems, the GPS maps, the TVs that we watch the games on,” he said. “We have all this help in the safety car and we run it every morning to check that it’s all right.”

Four cameras – two on the rear wing and two on the roof – ensure Maylander has a clear view of the all-important F1 cars following behind. His steering wheel and console are standard, but there are some extra switchgear for safety lights and radio (including backup) and a monitor showing live TV feed, GPS driver tracker and real-time timekeeping.

The Vantage has a regular-sized fuel tank and two cars (four in total, along with the medical van) are brought to each race – they alternate between F1 and FIA-sanctioned support races.

Maylander admitted they had to keep the engine running throughout the race to keep its electrical system and air conditioning energized “so we don’t spend two hours in the sauna”. He usually changes one set of tires per car every weekend, but this can stretch to two sets if there’s a lot of action.

He added: “We have four mechanics, tires, brakes – I think they can fix everything.”

Explain “Turtle Gate”

Despite his big role, Maylander has received little attention – but Max Verstappen did a ‘turtle’ taunt at Vantage at last year’s Australian Grand Prix when he publicly claimed that Vantage’s lap times were too slow to keep him close enough The tire temperature certainly stings a bit.

Verstappen outspoken about safety car criticism at Melbourne Park 2022 - Mehland says he can always go faster but there are downsides to doing so

Verstappen outspoken about safety car criticism at Melbourne Park 2022 – Mehland says he can always go faster but there are downsides to doing so

Photography: Carl Bingham/ motorsport pictures

“For the first 10 to 15 years, the drivers never complained,” Melander said on the subject. “But we come from a different era. Especially from 2022, the new F1 cars have bigger tyres, and then we heard some things and I understand their side, but they have to see our side too.

“When we at the FIA ​​deploy the safety car, safety comes first. If you’re sitting in the stands or on the couch at home thinking, ‘Why is he driving so slowly? “, and there’s a reason for that.

“I would say, 90 per cent of the time, I can go faster. But there’s a context. Sometimes the field needs to gather, sometimes there’s an accident and we have to move around.

“In Baku, we changed it a little bit so I was going faster, but you’d be laps behind the safety car, so there’s always a positive and a negative, and we can’t make everyone happy. I can Understanding from the driver’s side, if they’re losing performance and tire pressure, I know they’re in hypertensive race mode!”

Proud of his role, Mehland doesn’t think he’ll be hanging up his helmet anytime soon.

“These 24 years go by so fast,” he says with a laugh. “And, yes, it’s changed a lot, but the fundamentals are still the same. So, I’m ready for the next 10 or 15 years.

“I’m still nervous about starting. I’m still having a lot of fun and having a partner like Aston Martin helps me a lot. Sometimes I feel a bit like James Bond!”

Maylander is proud of his role as FIA safety driver and doesn't intend to end there

Maylander is proud of his role as FIA safety driver and doesn’t intend to end there

Photography: Jerry Andre / motorsport pictures

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Ocon: 'I have much respect for Aston Martin'

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Esteban Ocon had a great Sunday afternoon. Across the streets of Monaco, the Frenchman appeared to be at one with his Alps, which eventually even earned him a podium finish. Ocon told a news conference that he looked back on the weekend with a very good feeling.

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Perez “cannot afford another zero” in F1 2023 season

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The Red Bull driver was last in Sunday’s race and was out in Q1 qualifying.

He went on to make five pit stops in a dismal race that saw him twice passed by team-mate and race winner Max Verstappen, who now leads the championship by 39 points.

Although it marked Perez’s first game of the season without scoring, the Mexican said his error was “costly” and “unacceptable”.

He said: “We paid for my mistake and it was very costly. I just have to apologize to my whole team because it was unacceptable for this kind of mistake to be made.

“I have to move on and learn from it, I can’t afford another zero in the tournament.”

Despite the poor finish, Perez had a “very good” start to the race, finishing 15th on lap 30, but dropped back into the standings after a couple of incidents and a period of rain.

He also collided with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen in the corner on lap 34, breaking his front wing.

Perez said he “didn’t know what happened” but was “considerably hurt” by the incident.

He added: “It went well. Unfortunately I hit traffic early on and that put us back where we were. Then it rained and we were one of the last to pit.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

“Then I cut the wall and it all became a mess. Me and Magnussen broke my front wing and he just came out of the chicane (deeply) and it went bad.

“When you’re in those positions, you’re always taking a lot of risks.”

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it had been a “bad weekend” for Perez, blaming the poor result on a crash in qualifying that “put you at a disadvantage”.

He also said Perez was inside Ocon’s maintenance window before getting stuck behind slow-moving traffic.

Horner said: “We took a very aggressive strategy. Stopped on the first lap and you could see how fast he was in the free space and how much the others were saving.

“He actually came back inside the pit window on Esteban Ocon, and then (Logan) Sargeant and the slow car started to struggle and, of course, you couldn’t overtake.

“Then he got involved in a melee with (George) Russell and damaged the front wing. It was just one of those weekends where he got nothing done.

“He saved a lot of money in the pool, so he might need a new pair of underwear after that.

“For him, it’s just one of those weekends where[he should]turn the page and I think for him, the sooner he gets to Barcelona the better.”

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Verstappen: 'We always have to be perfect'

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Max Verstappen gave a masterclass in the narrow streets of Monte Carlo. The Dutchman once again showed his raw talent, whether in the rain or on dry tarmac. If the Dutchman fails to win, there are still two contenders for the title. Teammate Sergio Perez and his friend Fernando Alonso. Will the Spaniard get another chance at victory soon? Verstappen responded at a press conference.

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