"Then I accelerate at full throttle to the safety car line at the pit lane exit. This is where I wait for the first vehicle."
Bernd Mayländer, born in 1971 in Waiblingen, is a German race car driver. He cut his racing teeth in kart racing in the 1980s. Gradually rising through the ranks, he competed in series such as the Porsche Carrera Cup, which he won in 1994. In 1995, he switched to Mercedes-Benz and the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). He has been the official Formula 1 safety car driver since 1999.
From amateur kart racing and Porsche Cup Sport races to the DTM – touring car/sports car racing had always been his dream. He had never even considered Formula 1.
Formula Ford 1600 was the first real test of his considerable skill behind the wheel. After this, he progressed to the Porsche Carrera Cup, which he won overall in 1994. Then he came to the attention of Mercedes-Benz, who engaged him for the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM). In 1997, he switched with Mercedes to the FIA-GT1 championship, driving the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR.
It was purely by chance that Mayländer became the official FIA safety car driver in 1999. He was taking part in the Porsche Super Cup at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. On the Thursday afternoon, the deputy race director Herbie Blash asked him to drive the Formula 3000 safety car. And just a few weeks later, Charlie Whiting asked him if he could envisage doing the same in Formula 1. In the same year, he drove a Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He was still dedicated to racing alongside his demanding F1 job. In 2000, Mayländer and his teammates Uwe Alzen, Michael Bartels and Altfrid Heger won the 24-hour race on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife in a Porsche 996 GT3 R.
Throughout 2001 and 2002, Bernd Mayländer continued to compete in the DTM for the Manthey Racing team in a Mercedes-Benz CLK.
In 2001, he won the last race of the series on the Hockenheimring. In 2003, he raced in the DTM for Persson Motorsport.
In 2004, he drove his last DTM season for Team Rosberg.
In May 2005, he was one of 18 drivers participating in the Mercedes world record attempt – 30 days of racing around the clock, over a distance of 100,000 miles, and with an average speed of 224.823 km/h.
Bernd Mayländer realized that the dual burden of racing and his F1 commitment was taking him to his limits. For this reason, he decided to let racing take a back seat in order to devote himself fully to his position as safety car driver.
In September 2016 in Singapore, he took part in his 300th Grand Prix as official safety car driver.
Motor sports have become safer, but danger remains a part of his job. Bernd Mayländer talks about his challenging F1 job driving the 520 horsepower Mercedes AMG GTS, a road racing car fitted with road tyres.
"You just have to function and develop the necessary routine over time," says Bernd Mayländer. He is entrusted with guiding the race drivers around any debris or other hazardous situations on the track. Over the radio, he receives immediate updates on the severity of the incident, but none on any injuries to drivers or bystanders. So naturally he wonders how serious it is when he drives past an accident site. In situations such as these, he must keep a cool head, focus entirely on his task and make sure that the medical car can get through.
His usual parking spot during the race is at the end of the pit lane. This is where he waits behind the wheel with his co-driver, helmet on, buckled up and ready to spring into action.
Safety car driver Bernd Mayländer at work – strange and entertaining deployments, serious accidents and hazardous situations.