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In Conversation With Bernd Maylander
He has been leading the way for all the Formula One cars for over a decade now, but still hasn't won a single F1 race himself. That's the official Safety Car Driver, Bernd Maylander
Maylander began his motor racing journey way back in 1980s with karting sport. In the following years the German participated in several renowned motor sport events and one of the achievements was in 2000, when he won the 24-hour Nürburgring and later that year he drove for Mercedes-Benz in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series.
Currently, Maylander's job is to drive ahead of all the participating Formula One race cars in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG as the Safety Car Driver. It's no easy task, he says, as sometimes he has to drive the SLS to the limit just to keep up with the extremely fast F1 machines. In case of an incident or accident, Maylander has to reach the spot quickly and inform the marshals over the walkie-talkie about the situation, so that they can act accordingly. He ended on a lighter note saying,“By the way, it is a nice feeling to have all the F1 drivers drive behind me.”
In the recent past, Maylander said, last year's Montreal, Canadian F1 race was quite challenging as it was one of the longest races where the drivers had to drive behind him for 28 laps. The winner, Jenson Button, led only half of the last lap. It might be challenging, but Maylander likes his job, as he gets to visit new countries because of his job which is a special experience.
Talking about some of his scariest moments on the F1 track, he mentioned Schumacher's crash at Indianapolis race in 2007. He said, “When the driver after a crash doesn't come out or move, it is very scary.” Massa's devastating crash last year also left a scar on his mind.
Coming to a more pleasant topic, I asked him how it was being an instructor with the AMG Driving Academy? He said, “It is nice to see the transformation in the customer before and after the event. Am sure we'll have the same smiling faces in India.” He is certain that the AMG Academy will be a hit in India, because, over the years, he has seen people from as far away as Australia come for the winter programme that is held in Sweden to be able to drive on ice and snow.
So how was it driving on India's first F1 track? The German said, “The Buddh Circuit is a fantastic race track with good safety measures. Good location and place to start in India.” This made all the Indians in the room beam with pride. But if there was something that needed improvement, what would it be? Without a moment's hesitation he said, “Apex 6,7,8,9, where Massa broke the front wing of his race car, should be little bit different. But it has one of the longest straights with some fast and some slow corners, which makes it overall a good track.” Yes, we were beaming again.
On this happy note, we called it a day for now, though we hope to bump into this straight talking Safety Car Driver again to talk about his F1 adventures.
Story: Sarmad Kadiri