Aston Martin and Mercedes to share duties for the first time


As a car manufacturer, there is one way to guarantee that at some point your car will lead the Formula One field every season: build the safety car.

It is why Bernd Maylander is ofter jokingly referred to as one of the most successful racing drivers you’ve never heard of, having lead the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, all in their peak. It was of course because since 2000 he has been the sport’s official safety car driver.

The first ever safety car in F1 was actually a yellow Porsche 914, deployed at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix with two bright yellow flags nailed to the rear to make it clear what its purpose was.

Its usage though was far from flawless, with the vehicle failing to correctly identify the race-leader during a flurry of pit stops.

The mistake was only noticed after the race when it emerged that victor Peter Reveson had gained a lap on the field because the safety car had missed him. The result stood.

The mistake meant that drivers and teams were not overly keen on the idea and it was not until the early 1990s, when a family-sized Fiat and even a Ford Escort were used as safety cars, that it became a regular part of a grand prix weekend.

In the 21st century, we have become accustomed to Maylander driving a high-performance Mercedes around at the front of the field, with the team footing the bill for its maintenance and production in exchange for the marketing value of its exposure.

However, the team who have dominated the front of the grid, both in terms of racing cars and safety vehicles, will not have it all their own way in 2021.

Aston Martin, newly returned to the grid after owner Lawrence Stroll rebadged the Racing Point team, will join them in the duties.

Their safety car, decked out in trademark British racing green, will be a modified Aston Martin Vantage with a four-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and will operate at 12 of the planned 23 race weekends in 2021.

They will also run a DBX medical car, driven by Alan van der Merwe who shot to fame when his vehicle was first on the scene last year to treat Romain Grosjean after a horrific crash in Bahrain.

The Mercedes safety car has had a new paint job for 2021 (Photo: AFP)

Mercedes will still be spotted leading the pack when the race is neutralised as they have for the last two decades at the other 11 races this year, although it will look different from the car we have become used to seeing.

Maylander will, instead of driving a silver Mercedes every other week, be in a red car with the same badge on it. The 2021 Mercedes safety car will be an AMG GT R with a similar bi-turbo four-litre V8 engine to its Aston Martin counterpart while the medical car on their weekends will be a C63 S Estate.

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