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F1 Safety Car (Everything You Need To Know)

In the high-speed F1 racing, safety is of the utmost importance. That’s where the F1 safety car comes in. The safety car is a vehicle that is used to slow down the race and control the speed of the cars in certain situations, such as when there is a potential hazard on the track or when the track is too wet or slippery to race safely.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the role of the safety car in F1, including how it is used, who drives it, and the surrounding safety car rules.

What Does The Safety Car Do In F1?

The F1 safety car is used to slow down the race and control the speed of the cars in certain situations. The safety car is typically used when there is a potential hazard on the track, such as an accident or debris, or when the track is too wet or slippery to race safely. When the safety car is deployed, it leads the field of cars around the track at a reduced speed, and the cars must follow behind it in a specific formation.

The safety car is operated by a professional driver, Bernd Mayländer, who is trained in emergency response and track safety procedures. When the safety car is deployed, it is equipped with flashing lights and special signaling devices, and it can also be fitted with a screen that displays information and instructions to the drivers.

The safety car is an important part of F1, as it ensures the safety and integrity of the race. It is used to protect the drivers and other track personnel, and to ensure that the race can be completed safely and fairly.

What Is A Virtual Safety Car (VSC) In F1?

A virtual safety car, or VSC, is a safety measure used to control the speed of the cars in certain situations. The VSC is similar to the traditional safety car. However, unlike the traditional safety car, the VSC is not a physical vehicle that leads the field of cars around the track. Instead, it is a virtual safety system that is triggered race control team and is implemented through a series of regulations and procedures.

When the VSC is triggered, all cars on the track are required to slow down to a predetermined speed and maintain a certain gap between each other. This allows the race to continue without the need for a physical safety car to lead the field around the track. The VSC is typically used in situations where a physical safety car may not be practical or necessary, such as when there is debris on the track that can be easily removed without stopping the race.

The VSC is an important safety measure in F1, as it allows the race to continue without interrupting the flow of the race or compromising the safety of the drivers and track personnel. It is a key part of the sport’s safety strategy, and it is used to ensure that F1 races can be run safely and fairly.

F1 Safety Car Rules

There are a number of rules for drivers to follow when the safety car or virtual safety car is deployed.

Are cars allowed to overtake the safety car?

The only time cars can overtake the safety car is when lapped cars are told to un-lap themselves. This instruction is used at a race steward’s discretion and is usually given when the safety car is about to come in.

The reason for this is to free up the track and make sure the cars are in the correct race order for the restart.

Safety car restart rules

The drivers are told when the safety car is coming in, which is usually just as the safety car starts the final lap. The safety car then exits the track via the pitlane.

From a driver’s perspective, they are allowed to begin racing and resume racing speeds from when the safety car leaves the race track.

Most of the time, the lead driver begins to slow down before the race restart, which backs up the pack behind. As no cars can overtake the lead driver, all other cars have to slow down. This gives the lead driver an edge as they can then decide when to speed up and begin racing again. Most of the time the drivers behind can’t react quickly enough so a gap is built between first place and second place.

Can a race finish under the safety car?

Yes, a race can finish under safety car conditions if the track is unsafe enough to return to normal race conditions.

This most recently happened in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, as Verstappen won the race following the safety car.

Pitting under the safety car

Drivers can pit under both the safety car and virtual safety car. Most of the pitting under the safety car is advantagous, especially if you are close to the pitlane when the safety car is announced. This is because under safety car conditions all the others cars need to slow down, meaning you don’t lose as much time. It can also mean that even if you lose track position, all cars will be bunched together at the race restart, giving you the oppourtunity to pass those cars if you’re on fresher tyres.

What Is The Current F1 Safety Car?

Aston Martin Vantage F1 safety car
The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Safety Car – image via Wikipedia via this licesne

The F1 safety car has been shared between Mercedes Benz and Aston Martin since the start of the 2021 season. New for the 2022 season, the Mercedes safey is the AMG GT Black Series, whilst the Aston Martin safety car is an Aston Martin Vantage.

The above safety cars will remain the same for the 2023 F1 season.

Both brands also supply the medical car, which are the Mercedes AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+ & the Aston Martin DBX.

Who Drives The F1 Safety Car?

Bernd Mayländer is the current F1 safety car driver, and he has been the official F1 safety car driver since 2000.

F1 safety car driver salary

The safety car driver, Bernd Mayländer, is self employed and gets paid per Grand Prix, whilst also being reimbursed for travel expenses. His salary is not currently in the public domain.

History Of F1 Safety Car

The Formula One safety car was used in 1973, although it wasn’t properly introduced until the 1993 F1 season.

FiatTempra 16V1993
Porsche911 GT21995
MercedesC36 AMG1996-1997
MercedesCLK55 AMG1997-1998
MercedesCL55 AMG1999-2000
MercedesSL 55 AMG2001-2002
MercedesCLK 55 AMG2003
MercedesSLK 55 AMG2004-2005
MercedesCLK 63 AMG2006-2007
MercedesSL 63 AMG2008-2009
MercedesSLS AMG2010-2014
Mercedes-AMGGT S2015-2017
Mercedes-AMGGT R2018-2021
Aston MartinVantage2021-current
Mercedes-AMGGT Black Series2022-current

Safety Car FAQs

Are safety cars used in a sprint race?

Yes, both the virtual safety car and the normal safety car are used in sprint races.

Are safety cars used during qualifying?

Safety cars aren’t used in practice or qualifying as they don’t take place under race conditions. Instead, safetey messages are carried out through various flags and radio messages between the team and the driver.

Michael Scott

Michael is the founder of Into Turn One and has loved all things motorsport from a young age. Michael started following F1 full-time when Lewis Hamilton broke onto the scene in 2007, and Lewis is still his favourite driver.