What type of car is F1’s safety car? Who provides the series with the vehicles – and who even drives it?

The deployment of the safety car in F1 usually means something serious has happened out on track.

It could be an accident in the grand prix or weather conditions are so bad that visibility for drivers is limited so much that it is not safe to continue racing at normal speeds.

Put out by race control, it collects the pack of drivers, neutralising the race until the danger has passed – ALL lapped cars now overtake before racing resumes…

But what even is the safety car in F1? What model of car is it and who provides the series with the equipment and who drives it?

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What is the safety car in F1?

First appearing at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, the safety car’s introduction to F1 was initially treated as an exception rather than the rule.

In 1993, it was introduced permanently, although standard road cars were used – including Fiats, Hondas and at Opel Vectra at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix where Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were both killed.

Since 1996, Mercedes-Benz has supplied F1 with the safety car – an agreement which lasts to this day.

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Mercedes’ current safety car offering is a Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series.

It is modified with lights to instruct drivers what is going to happen – with them going out to signify the safety car is coming in at the end of the lap.

The on-board crew can also communicate with race control – such as when providing feedback of conditions in the wet.

However, in 2021, a new brand joined Mercedes-Benz in providing the safety car to F1.

As part of their renewed interest in F1, Aston Martin now share safety car duties with Mercedes.

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Aston provide a Vantage for use – which is similarly equipped to the Merc GT.

In 2022, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Mercedes has provided the safety car in F1.

Who drives it?

There is also another car essential for grands prix – the medical car.

This is the one you might see at the back of the field at the start, which follows the drivers around the first lap in case of an incident.

It will also be a Mercedes or an Aston depending on who is providing them at that race.

The safety car in F1 is driven by former racer Bernd Maylander (below) – a former DTM and Touring car ace.

The medical car is usually in the hands of Alan van der Merwe with Dr Ian Roberts at his side.

It was van der Merwe and Roberts who were first on the scene of Romain Grosjean’s fiery accident at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix – the latter helping Grosjean from the burning wreck of his Haas.

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