The climax of the Formula One season is upon us, and the title race is still wide open. However, it's not just the racing drivers that will enjoy a special moment on Sunday; the safety car will be celebrating a major anniversary, its 250th Grand Prix.
The first time a safety car was deployed was at Magny Cours in 1996. It was a Mercedes C36 AMG – but not just any model off the assembly line. "That was my company car," recalls Bernd Mayländer, the current regular safety car driver. The C36 AMG was issued to him in April of that year but was recalled only one month later in May: "I thought I must have done something wrong in the ITC season."
In fact, his car was being converted into the later F1 safety car with its personalised number plate: S - BM 300 (BM for Bernd Mayländer). Since then, there have been nine other safety cars supplied by Mercedes. The model that has been used throughout the 2010 season is a new SLS AMG.
Since the safety car was introduced to the Formula One series in 1996, it has been deployed in 89 out of 249 races, i.e. 37.5%. In these 89 races, there were a total of 135 yellow flag incidents. Since its first outing in the 1996 French GP, the safety car has led the field for 574 of the total 15.508 race laps. It has been out on track for a total of 2.847 kilometres, equivalent to 3.8% of the 75.657km race distance covered during this period.
1996: C 36 AMG
1997-1999: CLK 55 AMG
2000: CL 55 AMG
2001/2002: SL 55 AMG
2003: CLK 55 AMG
2004/2005: SLK 55 AMG
2006/2007: CLK 63 AMG
2008/2009: SL 63 AMG
Since 2010: SLS AMG
Technical data: 2010 safety car
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Engine: 6.3L V8
Power: 420 kW (571 PS)
Maximum torque: 540 Nm
0 - 100 km/h (0 - 62 mph): 3.8 seconds
Kerb weight: 1.620 kilos
Weight distribution: 47:53 (front/rear)
Transmission: 7-speed gearbox
Gear change: 100 ms
Brake discs: ceramic, 402x39 mm (front), 360x32 mm (rear)