Bernd Maylander has been F1’s Safety Car driver since 2000, so he is well accustomed to how different drivers behave when they are leading the pack just behind him.
In a recent interview, Maylander revealed that Lewis Hamilton is “definitely the toughest” driver to have leading the pack under the Safety Car, as the Brit often piles on the pressure by telling his race engineer to ask Maylander to speed up.
“Nico Rosberg, he was also very quiet behind me, always in the right distance. Sebastian [Vettel], yeah, also hard. Quite close to Lewis, but Lewis is definitely the toughest.”
Continuing, he said: “I have to say sometimes it’s quite difficult with Lewis behind me because he’s always pushing, he’s accelerating, he’s braking, he’s driving really zig-zag. Sometimes he’s getting very close to the car.
“I’m not sure if he wants to push me, because he knows it. That’s his driving style. He’ll try to do everything to keep his tyres in the right temperature window [so] he’s in the right moment back again.
“So he’s quite strange to [have] following because sometimes I’ve lost him in the mirror – is he on the left side or the right side? – because he’s in my blind spot,” Maylander added.
He also emphasised that the Safety Car – a Mercedes AMG GT R – is considerably slower than modern-day F1 cars even when being driven on the limit.
“If I’m right, [F1 cars lap at] about one minute 17 seconds [around the Algarve International Circuit]? They’re doing a 1m14 or 1m15 in qualifying or something like this? My quickest lap also with new tyres is about 1m58s [around Portimao]. That’s the difference,” he said.
“We always count it per kilometre. That’s much easier. Between eight and nine-and-a-half seconds [difference] per kilometre. It’s a different world, Formula 1.
“I tell you, it’s like if you compare it to airplanes: it’s like a nice private jet against a Starfighter. Both are flying, but at a different speed.”
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