For the entirety of the 2022 Formula One season, the safety car and medical car will be provided by either Mercedes-AMG or Aston Martin. For the first two races of the season, the safety car was a Mercedes AMG GT Black Series, which is more or less a street-legal GT3 racing car with 730 horsepower and lots of downforce. During Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, however, the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage safety car made its debut, and drivers had some complaints.
The 528-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 sports car has much less grip and much less power than the Merc it stood in for. The Aston is said to be around 5 seconds per lap slower than its AMG counterpart. Through no fault of safety car driver Bernd Mayländer, the Aston Martin was a bit pokey around Albert Park when it was pushed into service twice during the 58-lap Grand Prix.
During the latter safety car deployment, for Sebastian Vettel’s solo crash on lap 23, many drivers had switched onto the hard compound tire. That tire has proven much more difficult to get heat into, and under safety car speeds it was nearly impossible to build temperature.
Max Verstappen made his voice heard following his retirement in Australia:
“There’s so little grip and also the safety car was driving so slow, it was like a turtle. Unbelievable. To drive 140 on the back straight, there was not a damaged car, so I don’t understand why we have to drive so slowly. We have to investigate.
“For sure the Mercedes safety car is faster because of the extra aero, because this Aston Martin is really slow. It definitely needs more grip, because our tires were stone cold.
“It’s pretty terrible the way we are driving behind the safety car at the moment.”
Australian GP winner Leclerc agreed that the safety car was moving too slowly for his liking, but kept his comments more reserved, as he had a front row seat for Maylander’s struggle with the car.
“I was struggling massively to put some temperature in them, so I also struggled,” said Leclerc. “To be honest, I wanted to complain, but then I checked how much the safety car was sliding in the corner and I don’t think there was anything more that he could give so I didn’t want to put too much pressure.
“For sure with the cars that we have now it’s very difficult to keep the temperatures in the tires behind the safety car.
Perhaps a 690 horsepower Aston Martin V12 Vantage would be the better answer for doing safety car duties from here on out? Or perhaps Aston could supply one of its Vantage GT3 race cars to pace the field. Surely that could do the trick.