There’s an amazing stat that in Formula 1’s entire history only one man has led over 1,300 laps in 212 Grands Prix, and yet he’s not even scored a single championship point. His name is Bernd Maylander, and he drives the F1 Safety Car.

Maylander, from Waiblingen in the southwest of Germany, has the ice-cold veins required when F1’s hot heads get out of line and crash. When the race needs to be neutralised, with the drivers’ lives literally on the line, he takes control in his specially prepared FIA Safety Car vehicle.

Gallery: Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Safety Car Driver: Feature

“The two calls are ‘safety car standby’ and ‘safety car deployed’,” says Maylander, who alternates between a Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series and an Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition. “And the moment they say ‘deployed’ I’m on the track, find the leader – then I get extra information if there’s an accident, maybe I have to stay right or left at a corner, I get told if there is debris.”

Maylander, a former racer himself in the DTM and FIA GTs, is in his 24th season of driving the F1 safety car and has only missed a couple of races since his debut in 2000. Mercedes was the sole supplier of the safety car until Aston Martin joined the programme in 2021, when duties became shared between the two cars.

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Safety Car Driver

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“It was very professional how Aston Martin joined the FIA,” says Maylander. “The first event was at Mugello during the Covid era, and here it was, the Vantage F1 Edition, it’s definitely a great sportscar. It’s definitely a bit different, the suspension, so the setup is a little bit different [to the more powerful Mercedes].

“Sometimes I feel like James Bond a bit! With Mercedes I raced for them, and maybe one day I can race an Aston... Maybe a historical one, or something.”

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8-powered coupe producing 528 bhp, enough to get to 62 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 195. It features an extra-large rear wing with a Gurney flap to produce a “very nice balance” – according to Maylander.

Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition Safety Car

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“I really like it,” he says. “I’d sat in one brand’s model for more than 20 years, then along came the Aston Martin and my first thought was ‘let’s see how good this car is’ – I’d never driven one before in my life.”

Where this car really differs from the model you can buy for the street is in the trunk, which is packed with electronic system control units, a wifi router, the same GPS tracker found in the F1 race cars, radio systems, and a data logger.

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Safety Car Driver

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“All the equipment we have inside the car – communications and wifi systems, GPS mapping, TVs – is for us to follow the race,” he says. “We have all this assistance inside the safety car, and we run on the racetrack every day in the morning to check it’s all working.”

Four cameras – two on the rear wing and two mounted on top of the roof, ensure Maylander has a great view of the all-important F1 race cars behind. His steering wheel and the console are standard, but with some extra switchgear for the safety car lights and radio (including a backup) and monitors that show the live TV feed, GPS driver tracker, and live timing.

The Vantage has a regular-sized fuel tank, and two cars (four in total, along with the medical cars) are brought to every event – and they alternate their use between F1 and the FIA-sanctioned support races.

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Saftey Car Driver

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Maylander admits they must have the engine running for the duration of the races, to keep its electrical systems and air conditioning powered up “so we’re not in a sauna for two hours.” Bernd usually gets through one set of tyres per car per weekend, but this can stretch to two sets if there’s a lot of action. He adds: “We have four mechanics with us, looking after tyres, brakes – I think between them they could fix everything.”

Since its introduction in 2021, even the 45-degree Celsius (113-degree Fahrenheit) heat of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia hasn’t proved a problem for the Vantage: “We haven’t had any problems with this car at all since we started, no issues.” He always has a quick debrief with the mechanics after every race, but “it’s always quite short before we rush to the airport.”

Maylander rarely gets a spotlight put upon him – but Max Verstappen’s “turtle” jibe about the Vantage in last year’s Australian Grand Prix, when he claimed it was lapping too slowly to allow him to keep sufficient tyre temperatures, certainly stung a little.

“The first 10 to 15 years, there was never any complaining from the drivers,” says Maylander on the topic. “But we were from a different time. Especially since 2022, with the new F1 cars with bigger tyres, then we heard some things, and I understand their side but they have to see our side too.

“When we, the FIA, deploy the safety car, it’s all about safety first. If you ever think from your seat in the grandstand or on your sofa at home ‘why is he driving so slow?’ There is a reason for that. I’d say, 90 percent of the time, I could drive quicker. But there is a background for this. Sometimes the field needs bunching up, sometimes there is an accident we have to move around.”

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Saftey Car Driver

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Although he didn’t make it behind the wheel of an F1 car, Maylander has found his dream job here. And his “safety-first” approach has kept lives safe that would otherwise be put in harm’s way. So is he going to quit any time soon?

“These 24 years have run like hell, so I’m ready for the next 10 or 15,” he smiles. “I still get nervous on the grid. But I still have a lot of fun, and it helps with partners like Aston Martin, to enjoy the weekend and the atmosphere.”