The CAR Top 10: F1 safety cars

Published: 03 April 2015

► Mercedes-AMG GT is 2015’s new F1 safety car
► It’s not the first distinctive pace car we’ve seen
► Any we’ve missed? Comment and let us know

1) Porsche 914: Formula 1’s first safety car

Porsche 914

The 1973 Formula 1 season is acknowledged as one of the most accident-strewn ever, leading to the introduction of the safety car for the first time. It made its debut at the Canadian Grand Prix in the form of a yellow Porsche 914, and a slightly shambolic one at that. Former F1 privateer Eppie Wietzes entered the track in the wrong position, enabling several drivers – including eventual winner Revson – to gain a lap on the field.

2) Lamborghini Countach: at Monte Carlo. Where else?

Lamborghini Countach

A glamorous racetrack needs a glamorous course car, and the Lamborghini Countach turned plenty of heads during Grands Prix at Monaco during the early 1980s. The V12-powered Countach set a benchmark in supercar history, and so it did in the history of course cars. They’ve never looked so cool again.

3)Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Formula 1 Angleterre 1993 Badoer Out Safety car… by crash71100

Following the 1973 debacle, the safety car was officially reintroduced to F1 in 1993. That year the Escort RS left rallying for a day and hit the tarmac with the Grand Prix circus. The Cossie showed up during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a shunt for Luca Badoer. Alain Prost won the race and collected a handy bunch of points to help him to his fourth and final world championship.

4) Vauxhall Vectra 4×4

Vauxhall Vectra

One of the less glamorous machines in F1’s course car history. Still, the Vectra safety car got all-wheel drive and 200bhp of turbocharged power. Sadly, it’s primarily remembered as being the safety car during F1’s black weekend at Imola in 1994.

5) Tatra 623: the unsafety car

It’s one of the more awkward moments of recent F1 history. While trying to extinguish a fire on his Footwork Arrows at the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix Taki Inoue was clattered into by the course car, suffering thankfully only minor injuries. The incident didn’t stop the Tatra 623 continuing for many years as the major assistance car in races around Eastern Europe.

6) Porsche 993 GT2

Almost as glamourous as Monaco’s Lambos, the 911 GT2 was another charismatic super-safety car. One of the last, and most hardcore, air-cooled 911s appeared in the 1995 Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps, in a race remembered for a tough dogfight for the lead between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill.

7) Renault Clio Williams: the longest safety car appearance?

Luca Badoer – yes, him again – caused the safety car to appear during the 1996 Argentinian Grand Prix. But the Clio had to stay on track for nearly 10 minutes after Pedro Diniz’s Ligier Mugen spontaneously combusted. An unexpected treat for French hot hatch fans.

8) The Mercedes era

Mercedes SLS safety car

Mercedes-Benz has been the official supplier for safety cars in Formula 1 since 1997. The most spectacular was undoubtedly the gullwing-doored SLS, which performed pacing duties for five seasons from 2010 to 2014.

9) C32 AMG: Nick Heidfeld hits the medical car

For almost 20 years Mercedes has also provided F1’s medical cars. The C32 AMG is perhaps the easiest to remember after Nick Heidfeld’s Sauber bumped into it during the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix weekend.

10) Mercedes AMG-GT S: the present safety car

Mercedes AMG GT safety car

When the 2015 Formula 1 kicked off in Australia the Mercedes-AMG GT S took over from the SLS as safety car. It’s virtually the same as the 4.0-litre V8 road car, with the only main extras the light bar on the roof, some stickers and various gadgets to monitor everything happening around the track.