Formula 1 is, arguably, the absolute pinnacle of motorsports racing. Unfortunately, with such high speeds comes increased danger, and that is why the safety cars and medical cars are almost as recognizable to the viewers as are the drivers’ car. It’s for this reason, that not just any car will suffice for such a distinguished role.
F1 uses Mercedes and Aston Martin for the safety car because the two manufacturers have lucrative sponsorship deals with F1. Mercedes have supplied the safety car and medical car since 1996, and Aston Martin joined in 2021, and the two marques share both roles over the season.
While it may seem like a fairly straightforward promotional arrangement – not unlike any other sponsorship on the F1 track – there’s more to it than money alone. Read on to find out more about why F1 uses Mercedes and Aston Martin safety cars and medical cars.
What Mercedes Is The F1 Safety Car?
The Mercedes F1 safety car is the AMG GT Black Series, and it has been since the start of the 2022 F1 season. This made the GT Black Series the 12th iteration of the official Mercedes F1 safety car, in the 24th consecutive season that Mercedes have been tasked with providing the safety cars.
In the 2015-2017 seasons the safety car was the AMG GT S. This coincided with Mercedes releasing the AMG GT S to the consumer market, alongside other facelifted models of the AMG GT. The GT R replaced the S in 2017. Since its introduction, the GT R was deployed in 44 races, and led the field for a combined total of 213 laps. The AMG GT Black Series made its debut at the Bahrain GP in 2022.
Given that – according to F1’s 2020 media statistics – each race is watched by nearly 90 million spectators around the world, it’s not difficult to see why Mercedes is happy to pay for the privilege of so many motorsports fans to see their flagship consumer sports car front and center.
But more important than just its frequent appearance in front of tens of millions of fans, the use of the GT Black Series as the F1 safety car allows Mercedes to tell a compelling story too.
Their marketing material proudly lauds the fact that the car had to be designed to such a demanding specification to make it the car of choice for this prestigious task, and so the designers developed the car on the basis of rigorous testing at the Nürburgring.
How Fast Is The Mercedes F1 Safety Car?
The Mercedes F1 safety car can reach a top speed of 202 miles per hour. While the car will likely never be pushed to the limits in the same way that F1 cars are, the Mercedes safety car still has to be able to go very fast. After all, the appearance of the F1 cars can be particularly deceptive.
Driving behind the safety car, where the cars can appear to be very slow moving, the cars may only be going about 20% slower on the straights. That means that in some of the faster parts of F1 tracks, the safety car must be capable of travelling at upwards of 160 mph for sustained periods of time. If not, the following cars would suffer from cooling tires and overheating engines.
The safety car can’t keep up in the corners though, as this is where F1 cars’ aerodynamics have the advantage. For this reason, lap times can sometimes be 60% longer behind the safety car versus when the track is clear. But the safety car is still driving amazingly fast, considering it doesn’t have the aero packages the F1 cars have.
In order to deliver on these particularly demanding standards, the AMG GT Black Series boasts a 4-liter V8 twin turbo engine that produces more than 720 HP. This monster of an engine is paired with hi-tech aerodynamics, including electronically adjustable diffusers to produce a car that is capable of an official top speed of 202 mph.
What Mercedes Is The F1 Medical Car?
The Mercedes F1 medical car is an AMG GT 63 S 4MATIC+. While the GT 63 isn’t the showstopper that the AMG GT Black Series is, it isn’t supposed to be. Instead, it’s a capable workhorse that can deliver timely emergency aid in one of the most demanding sports environments in the world.
The more keen-eyed viewers will have noticed that the GT Black Series is not responsible for all of the safety driving duties at an F1 race (even before Mercedes began sharing duties with Aston Martin – more on that in a minute).
While the safety car is often seen front and center – leading the competitors around the track in treacherous conditions, or following an accident – the humble medical car has a job that is equally important, if not more so.
Most crashes in F1 tend to occur in the opening lap. Tires tend to be colder, there isn’t as much grip on the track, the drivers are eager to jostle for position, and, importantly, they are all closely bunched together. While F1 has made great strides in recent years to improve its safety record, it’s still a sad reality that accidents do occur.
It’s for this reason that there is also a dedicated medical car, equipped and able to arrive at the scene of a crash promptly, and to deliver emergency first aid. It’s also for this reason that the medical car sets off from the back of the grid of drivers on the opening lap.
The Importance Of The Medical Car In F1
The importance of the medical car in F1 was demonstrated at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, when Romain Grosjean had a fiery lap 1 crash. His car went into the barriers and ignited, and it was the medical team of Alan van der Merwe and Dr. Ian Roberts that arrived rapidly on the scene to help extract Grosjean from the flames.
What Aston Martin Is The F1 Safety Car?
The Aston Martin safety car in F1 is an Aston Martin Vantage. It’s one of Aston Martin’s most premium models, and features the same engine as the AMG GT R, which previously served Mercedes’ role as the safety car in F1. The Aston Martin Vantage safety car first featured in the 2021 F1 season.
While Mercedes is a veteran in the business of F1 safety cars, Aston Martin is a complete newcomer, having only arrived in 2021. Not unlike Mercedes’ choice of the GT Black Series, Aston Martin wanted to ensure that they were showcasing their premium consumer sports car in the role, and so have opted for their Vantage to take up the mantle.
The Vantage that fulfils the role of safety car has received some tweaks from the road-going ‘standard’ version though. While the large rear wing is the most suitable, it has received a whole host of tweaks including aerodynamics alterations, improved thermal management, and low profile tires.
How Fast Is The Aston Martin F1 Safety Car?
The Aston Martin F1 safety car can reach a top speed of 195 mph. Official figures from Aston Martin reveal that the ‘F1 Edition’ (the safety car version) of the Vantage will go from 0-62 in 3.6 seconds. All of this is made possible by the Vantage’s monstrous 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine.
What Aston Martin Is The F1 Medical Car?
The Aston Martin F1 medical car is a slightly modified DBX – the brand’s much-lauded first SUV. Not unlike the role fulfilled by the Mercedes GT 63 S 4MATIC+, the use of the DBX to provide medical assistance is a fantastic showcase for its versatility.
In addition to sharing safety car duties from 2021, Aston Martin also secured the right to share medical car duties. Given its relative obscurity when compared with the Aston Martin models that have been poster material for car fans for generations, viewers could be forgiven for not knowing what Aston Martin is the F1 medical car.
This beast of an SUV has the same 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine as the Vantage, but couples it with 632 liters of boot space. There aren’t many alternatives that offer such a balance of performance and practicality.
Why Are There Two Safety Car Manufacturers In F1?
There is no definitive reason for the use of two safety car manufacturers in F1. However, tying Aston Martin’s reentry into the world of F1 as a team with a role as safety and medical car supplier was great publicity, so it was likely a big investment from Aston Martin.
In 2020, Mercedes-Benz (the marque, not the F1 team) stated their intent to gradually increase their stake in Aston Martin (again, the brand, not the team) from 5% to a maximum of 20%. This relationship between the two brands probably made it easier for Mercedes to be on board with sharing the roles of safety car and medical car with Aston Martin.
However, given that it probably costs a lot of money for the brands to secure the spot as safety/medical car, it likely also made financial sense for Mercedes to be happy to split the bill with Aston Martin. However, the total cost isn’t known, and this is just speculation, but it makes sense that it was Aston Martin, part owned by Mercedes, and not another team’s manufacturer to get the role!
F1 uses Mercedes and Aston Martin for the safety car and medical car because both marques pay for the privilege. Mercedes have been the brand of the F1 safety car since 1996, but Aston Martin joined in 2021. Both share the roles of safety car and medical car.