These are especially relevant to the Austrian Grand Prix, which is held on a mountainous track and prone to rain. You may have seen a ‘regular’ looking car with flashing safety lights mounted atop – this is the safety car. Brought out either after an accident, or in inclement weather, safety cars are introduced when, as the name suggests, racing conditions become dangerous to drivers. The race director and marshals announce a ‘safety car’ period, and the car enters the track.
In addition to flags being waved, flashing LED lights installed in the cockpit of each car also indicate the presence of the safety car.
A safety car will have two sets of lights mounted on a bar on the roof, green and yellow. The yellow are standard, while green lights indicate that drivers are free to overtake the safety car.
Whilst the safety car is deployed, drivers must stay in formation behind it – no overtaking is permitted, and cars must maintain speeds. When the safety car is ending its run, lights will be flashed to indicate it is entering the pit lane. At this point, green flags are waved and lights flashed to tell drivers they may race again. Till then, the safety car will lead the pack of racers, followed immediately by the race leader.
German racing driver Bernd Maylander, who earlier in his career participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has been the safety car driver for the past 15 years.
Several car makers have provided safety cars over the course of the history of Formula One – among them are Opel, Fiat and Lamborghini. However, since 1996, Mercedes have been the official supplier for the safety car, which this year are modified versions of the A C63 Estate and the AMG GT-S.