Q&A with safety car driver Bernd Maylander

By on Sunday, August 25, 2013

F1Bernd Maylander has enjoyed a long spell as the safety car driver for Formula 1 and its support events. We catch up with Maylander ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix

F1Zone.net: Spa is a favourite track for many drivers. How is it for you?

Bernd Maylander: In that way I’m also thinking like a race driver. I agree completely with the drivers saying that Spa is one of the highlights, very quick corners and then one of the most famous corner in the world, Eau Rouge, and I think everybody who knows racing they know something about Eau Rouge, the stories about what happened there, overtaking manoeuvres. Spa is still one of the most traditional Formula 1 race tracks, but also for touring cars and sport cars. I like it, it’s fantastic.

F1Z: What makes Spa so special?

BM: I think it’s a combination. It’s in the middle of nowhere, in a forest and you have not one part of the track where you can be somehow relaxed and you still have really good chances to overtake. You have to know the track. Cornering speeds here are amazing even in a Safety Car. You’re always looking for the next best lap and you’re still working on the driving style. On other tracks you find the limits very easily, very quickly, but here you’re still looking for it.

I was racing here in the FIA GT Championship so I know the track really well. The results were mostly good, I was few times on the podium so I have really good memories.

F1Z: On five separate occasions the races here were stopped because of crashes during the openings laps. Is this the most critical moment for the Grand Prix?

BM: For sure. I would say the first laps are always the most critical because the cars are quite close. At turn one here we have seen many accidents. It’s a hairpin and you arrive here at a really high speed. In the race, after the start, it’s ok I would say. The track it’s absolutely safe because they have done many things, run off areas, but still in a few corners you have to be careful because if you go just a little bit too quick and cannot make it you have to go wide.

F1F1Z: With the rain forecast there’s every chance of seeing another chaotic Belgium GP which fans would love to see. How about you?

BM: We have seen many difficult rainy races here at Spa. If it starts to rain on a part of the track and on the other part is dry, which can happen many times, that makes a very tricky situation for the drivers, for the teams and also for me. The Safety Car is always prepared for both situations so I have to drive on dry conditions still with my all-weather tyres.

I would prefer the start on dry and a little bit of rain during the last fifteen minutes. I still have the racing fuel in the blood!

F1Z: What are the sectors where incidents usually happen?

BM: For sure La Source especially during first lap, then turns five, six and then the last chicane you see there sometimes, like also last year in the race, some cars braking too late, using the run off area.

At Eau Rouge you have to make really a big mistake for something to happen, but usually right now is really safe. I heard from many engineers that it’s not that tricky anymore because the cars have so much downforce, it goes easily on dry conditions flat. In the Safety Car I have to say is very tricky because you arrive there in the fifth gear and you have to shift back to the fourth gear, so that’s the speed around 240kph, then you have to break to 180 and accelerate again. On top of Eau Rouge a F1 car has around 300, I have around 200. For me it’s difficult because my car is not stable. A F1 car weights nearly three times less and has a lot of downforce.

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