The FIA has put out a statement defending the Aston Martin safety car after criticism from a number of Formula 1 drivers regarding how slow it is.
At the end of a nightmare Australian Grand Prix weekend for Aston Martin’s F1 team in Melbourne — where the team slipped to the bottom of the constructors’ championship after multiple crashes and penalties for both drivers — its road car also came under fire. The V8 Vantage alternates with the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series as the safety car in F1, but Max Verstappen says it has been too slow on a number of occasions.
“There was just so little grip, also the safety car was driving so slow, it was like a turtle,” Verstappen said. “Unbelievable. With that car, to drive 140 (kph, or 87mph) on the back straight, where there’s not a damaged car anymore, I don’t understand why we have to drive so slow. We have to investigate.
“For sure, the Mercedes safety car is faster because of the extra aero; the Aston Martin is really slow. It definitely needs more grip because our tires were stone cold. We went into the last corner, I could see Charles (Leclerc) understeering. So I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll back off a bit more’ and I had a better line. It’s pretty terrible, the way we’re driving behind the safety car at the moment.”
While he has a vested interest as a Mercedes driver, George Russell added: “On a serious note the Mercedes AMG is like five seconds a lap quicker than the Aston Martin safety car, which is pretty substantial.”
Following the comments, the FIA felt moved to defend the role of the safety car and states raw pace is not its main asset.
“In light of recent comments regarding the pace of the FIA Formula 1 safety car, the FIA would like to reiterate that the primary function of the FIA Formula 1 safety car is, of course, not outright speed, but the safety of the drivers, marshals and officials,” the statement read.
“The safety car procedures take into account multiple objectives, depending upon the incident in question, including the requirement to ‘bunch up’ the field, negotiate an incident recovery of debris on track in a safe manner and adjust the pace depending on recovery activities that may be ongoing in a different part of the track.
“The speed of the safety car is therefore generally dictated by race control, and not limited by the capabilities of the safety cars, which are bespoke high-performance vehicles prepared by two of the world’s top manufacturers, equipped to deal with changeable track conditions at all times and driven by a hugely experienced and capable drier and co-driver.
“The impact of the speed of the safety car on the performance of the cars following is a secondary consideration, as the impact is equal amongst all competitors who, as is always the case, are responsible for driving in a safe manner at all times according to the conditions of their car and the circuit.”