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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 January 2021

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Behind the wheel with the safety car driver

Bernd Maylander and his team are a vital component of the Formula 1 race week

Bernd Maylander stands beside the safety car at Yas circuit. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit
Bernd Maylander stands beside the safety car at Yas circuit. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit

Not all the drivers participating in this year’s Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are here for the silverware.

While the teams concentrate on the race, Bernd Maylander has wider concerns. The German is the safety car driver at the event, and the role he and his team play is crucial. If an incident takes place that blocks the track, or leaves debris that is likely to be a danger to racers, the safety car will be deployed to slow the drivers down until the marshals have performed a clean-up operation.

This is Maylander’s 21st year in Formula 1 but, despite his longevity in the job, he always experiences an adrenaline rush as the race approaches, particularly as he and his colleagues have a vital job to perform even before the action begins.

They must always carry out a series of checks to ensure both their own car – a Mercedes-AMG GT R – and the track are in optimum condition for what lies ahead. They inform race control of any adverse conditions around the circuit, such as unusually slippery surfaces, that could prove problematic to drivers.

There are two safety cars and two medical cars in the set up, and the team has its own mechanics.

Maylander is fond of the Abu Dhabi F1 event, saying: “It’s a nice place to finish the season and that’s why we always love to go to Yas Marina Circuit.”

The driver enjoyed a motorsport career prior to his safety car duties, driving for the likes of Formula Ford and Porsche.

Like many involved in the sport, he has found the season challenging, largely due to the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s been a tough second half of the year and the most important thing after Abu Dhabi is to get back to the family and prepare for Christmas,” he said.

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Updated: December 12, 2020 03:31 PM

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