As ever, the former motorsport driver will perform an important role at the F1® season-finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE 12 December, 2020: For Bernd Mayländer, safety car driver at the FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2020, race week is when the excitement and anticipation really starts to build.

Having been in the job for 21 years, Mayländer has seen it all. But no matter how many times he arrives at a big event, particularly the season-finale, the adrenaline always kicks in as race day approaches.

“Usually the cars arrive at the race track on Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest,” Mayländer explains. “That’s the mechanical part where they’re preparing the cars and putting lights on top of the cars, looking at tyre pressure, oil, all kinds of things.

“From Thursday onwards it starts to get quite interesting for myself because we have the first communication check at around 12.30pm. It’s a little bit different at Yas Marina Circuit because we have a different time schedule. At around 2pm we have the track test because it’s a night race. We check the track, check the car. All communication elements and GPS systems get checked. The helicopter is following us and making sure everything is okay – it’s a proper test.

“Yas Marina Circuit is a very modern, and high quality, facility. It’s a really nice track. There is a nice flow and then by the hotel and the backside area around the marina there is a bit of a zig zag, which is quite tricky because you need quite a bit of traction, and we have to set the car up for that. It’s a nice place to finish the season and that’s why we always love to go to Yas Marina Circuit.”

Mayländer enjoyed a solid motorsport career, driving for the likes of Formula Ford and Porsche before becoming a safety driver after receiving a call from the late Charlie Whiting, a phone conversation which changed his life.

“I got a phone call in 1999, from a British number, and on the other end of the line was Charlie Whiting. He asked me to go to his office as they wanted to talk to me, it was during the San Marino Grand Prix, so I went and it was just a short five-minute meeting,” says Mayländer.

“He said they were looking for a new safety car driver for Formula 3000, and asked if I was available. I said yes and that was my entry to becoming a safety car driver for Formula 3000, and then from 2001 I’ve done it for all championships – F1®, F3000 and some other categories – and I’m still here after 21 years.”

While Mayländer may be the designated safety car driver, the German is part of a larger team which play a huge role in the overall event. Their importance cannot be overstated, and he pays tribute to the collaborative efforts.

“Crew is the correct word because I’m driving the safety car, but there is a lot more behind,” he says.

“My co-driver, Richard, is very important because he’s handling navigating and he has a complete overview from monitors and radio contact. We are connected to race control and that’s even more important than the safety car itself because you get all information from race control. They’re handling us and given us the right information about when we have to deploy or come back, and we just report to them what’s going on out on the track, such as a slippery area from wet conditions.

“Another part is the mechanics. We always have two safety cars and two medical cars with us. They have to make sure the breaks are in perfect condition, and tyre-wise they have to fuel up the cars.”

Having visited Abu Dhabi many times, Mayländer is looking forward to this year’s event immensely, particularly given the fact that, at one point, it looked as though the season might not even finish.

“I’ve seen a bit of Abu Dhabi,” he says. “Once I rented out a jet-ski, when we were based at a hotel in Downtown many years ago. It’s a nice place to go to because it’s not too far from Europe and it has nice temperatures. The shopping malls are great. Religion is really important and it’s always good to see different cultures in the world.

“The highlight of this year was when I got the call to say we were going back on track again. It was at the beginning of June that we really tried to get back. We started in Austria, and it was very important to see the motorsport family.

“It’s great that we were still able to organise a proper championship with many Formula 1® races. The FIA, together with F1®, have done a brilliant job. For myself, it was nice to spend such a long time at home as I’ve never done that before but there’s also a different life, the motorsport life, and if you stay at home for three months, you miss it.”

Naturally, Mayländer’s immediate thoughts are on ensuring this weekend’s event provides a fitting end to what has been an unusual Formula 1® season. Having been in the job for 21 years, however, his mind is never far away from what lies ahead.

“It’s been a tough second half of the year and the most important thing after Abu Dhabi is to get back to the family and prepare for Christmas,” he says. “I’m already getting prepared for 2021 but we still have to finish this season in a good way.

“I’m looking forward to going home, enjoying Christmas with the family and playing with my boys, before the testing season starts at the end of January.” For more information on the #AbuDhabiGP, please visit