The evolution of the safety car
The safety car comes out when there is danger on track. For example, if there is a crash that obstructs the circuit in any way. It could also appear from the pit lane if the track surface becomes increasingly slippery with rain or oil. Another reason is that a person or demonstrator – or whatever you want to call them, could run onto the track. I know it’s unlikely but it’s happened! Look at the 2000 German Grand Prix and the 2003 British Grand Prix. The safety car basically slows all the other cars down until the hazard is cleared or gone.
The first time it was used was in the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix (when it picked up the wrong driver as the leader which must’ve been a laugh-out-loud moment), but it was first officially used in the 1993 Brazilian Grand Prix. The clouds closed in on the Interlagos circuit and sparked a monsoon. Cars were trudging through the thick water and spinning all over the place. Then the time came! Guess what the car was? A Fiat Tempra! Yes a Fiat! Just think of how much slower it would’ve been than the F1 cars. In the late 90s, the first Mercedes was introduced as the safety car. The massive German brand still supplies safety cars to F1 to this very day.
The safety car can also dictate the pace of a Grand prix at the start and at the finish of a race.
Here is a list of all the Grands Prix where the safety car has started or finished the races:
-1997 Belgian Grand Prix
-2000 Belgian Grand Prix
-2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
-2007 Japanese Grand Prix
-2008 Italian Grand Prix
-2011 Canadian Grand Prix
-2014 Japanese Grand Prix
-1999 Canadian Grand Prix
-2009 Australian Grand Prix
-2009 Italian Grand Prix
-2010 Monaco Grand Prix
-2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
-2014 Canadian Grand Prix
-2014 Japanese Grand Prix
The current safety car is the beautiful (and I emphasise the word beautiful) Mercedes SLS AMG with the curves of smooth metal around the edges. It’s been in use since the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix and I hope they keep it for a bit longer. The doors open upwards as though it’s a flamingo stretching its wings. The slot gaps at the sides gives the car gills like a shark. The size of the V8 engine is an astonishing 6.2 liters and the transmission is automatic with 7 gears along with a dual-clutch. Together this gives the car a little growling sound as it goes past.
The rules of the safety car will change in 2015. After the safety car period, instead of having a rolling re-start, the re-start will be standing. This is where the cars will line-up in race order on the grid slots on the start/finish straight. Finally, I bet you also that the electric model of the Mercedes SLS AMG – introduced in 2012, will be the next safety car as F1 is not only a global sport but sustainable at the same time.