Week after week, the most powerful Mercedes-Benz cars take key positions in Formula One races. And for the last 25 years, the Safety Car in the world’s premium racing category has been silver-metallic and has been sporting a star.
To hold back the Formula One drivers who are thirsting for success during the safety laps in the rain or after an incident, you need not only their respect, but also the corresponding engine performance and an excellent car. That has never been lacking in the Formula One safety cars – especially since Mercedes-Benz has been providing the FIA with appropriate cars from its Affalterbach facility.
In addition, for 20 years, Formula One has had a safety car driver who is better known than many of the racing drivers themselves. Of the more than 350 races in two decades, long-standing safety car driver Bernd Mayländer has not been behind the wheel of the silver racing car with the yellow light bar on the roof on only four occasions – due to injury.
Former DTM driver Bernd Mayländer had a chance experience involving the safety car several years before he first took the wheel of that car in a race and without knowing that, four years later, he would be driving it as a full-time driver right up to today. When Mayländer joined Mercedes-Benz as a works driver in the mid-1990s, he, like all the other drivers, was entitled to an appropriate company car bearing the sports badge.
Mayländer, who originates from Schorndorf in Swabia, proudly chose a silver Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG with his preferred registration number S – BM 300, but ended up handing it back much quicker than he would have liked. “At the time, Mercedes was looking for a well run-in C 36 AMG at short notice, and so I returned my car in May 1996 after only a short time because it was needed as a safety car in Formula One,” he reminisces.
“My first safety car in Formula One in 2000 was a Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG. It was a comfortable luxury coupé with ventilated leather seats and lots of power.” The high-speed laps driven by this thoroughbred racing driver in the Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG a few years later, which gave him the feeling of a real sports car for the first time, were particularly spectacular. “When it rained, it was quite treacherous due to the light tail,” says Mayländer, “It was a real beast to drive – but it was really good fun.”
Mercedes-AMG GT R: Kraftstoffvebrauch kombiniert: 12,4 l/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 284–282 g/km.1
During the current season, week in, week out, he drives a 585 PS Mercedes-AMG GT R, which itself is every bit at home on the race track as the Formula One cars. Mayländer, who is a Mercedes-Benz Brand Ambassador, drives a series trim car with a light bar, radio communications, street-quality tyres with the ESP switched off and special traction control. Together with his co-driver, he is permanently in contact with race control and the driver of the Medical Car – also a Mercedes-AMG, and either holds the cars back or allows them to carry on racing again. “In the smaller racing series, I drive the safety car at about 70 percent of its capacity,” explains the passionate racing driver, “but in Formula One you’re always over 90 percent. It’s like a real endurance race and everyone wants me to go faster so their tyres do not cool down.”
The safety cars of the last 25 years read like the who’s who of the exclusive brand name with a star. In addition to powerful coupés such as the Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG, Bernd Mayländer and his predecessors have been allowed to drive such high-performance models as the Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG, CLK 55 AMG, SLK 55 AMG and the SL models, whose AMG versions have up to 386 kW / 525 PS. Even more spectacular was the first car developed and built by Mercedes-AMG for the purpose, the SLS AMG, and the current safety car, a Mercedes-AMG GT R.