FIA safety car driver Bernd Maylander has given a behind-the-scenes insight into his vital role during F1® race weekend at Yas Marina Circuit.
Mr. Maylander, a former successful touring-car racer, took the wheel of the FIA’s official race safety car back in 2000, meaning he has performed the role at every edition of the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX since the first race in 2009.
“Yas Marina Circuit is a fantastic place to race,” he said. “The track architect is a good friend of mine and it feels like home. There are short slow corners, good opportunities to overtake, and high speeds on the two long straights. It’s a big test of driver skill.”
The 45-year-old German said his preparation begins on Thursday as he checks over important documents such as race schedules, Circuit maps, and rules and regulations with FIA race director, Charlie Whiting.
In the afternoon, he becomes the first car on the Circuit as he takes to the track in his unmodified Mercedes-Benz AMG GT-S to re-familiarise himself with the twists and turns of the iconic Yas Marina Circuit. He works on perfecting his cornering lines and braking points, identifying any new hazards, and testing tyre pressure, GPS signal, cameras, and radio systems.
“This isn’t like a Sunday afternoon drive to get coffee,” he said. “It’s a one-hour test on the limit.”
A busy schedule of safety car duties for the GP2 and GP3 Series races culminates on Sunday when the F1® grid lines up for the start of this year’s mouth-watering title deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
During the race, Mr Maylander is constantly at the wheel of the parked safety car, following the race on a monitor and listening to the radio for the command to be deployed. During a safety car phase, he must drive at close to his limit to prevent the F1® racing cars from overheating due to lack of cooling air.
His day is over when he joins the track behind the last car and notifies marshals that there are no other cars behind.
He added: “I feel very lucky that after my racing career, I’m still involved in motorsport at the very best and highest level.”
One of the FIA’s main objectives is to reduce the number of global road accidents through its Action For Road Safety campaign. The organisation says road traffic accidents are the cause of 50 million injuries every year worldwide.