‘What just happened?’: Safety Car driver opens up on Lewis Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi heartbreak

Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has now opened up on the "manipulated" 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Formula 1 Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has seen it all in his 23-year career at the pinnacle of motorsport, with the German having had an incredible amount of talent in his rear view mirror.

Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, just a few of the names who’ve sat patiently (most of the time) behind Maylander waiting for the German to peel back into the pits.

The German Safety Car driver has recently been reflecting on some of his memories from his incredible career and the challenges its presented, with Hamilton being responsible for certainly one in particular.

Maylander revealed that Hamilton has a habit of ‘hiding’ behind the Safety Car, to the extent where the German is unable to see the seven-time World Champion.

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“Lewis always hides a bit behind the car,” Maylander told Auto Motor und Sport.

“You always have to look into the blind spot – where is he?”

Unfortunately for Maylander, not all of his memories are as light-hearted as that, with the German having played a pivotal role in the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

It was the late Safety Car following Nicholas Latifi’s crash which led to former race director Michael Masi breaking two of the sport’s regulations, which combined saw Verstappen claim the 2021 title rather than Hamilton.

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Masi failed to follow the rules and was later deemed to have made a ‘human error’ by the FIA, after the Australian called the Safety Car in a lap early and failed to allow every lapped driver to un-lap themselves.

Hamilton was instantly on the team radio stating that the race had been “manipulated”, something it seems that Maylander perhaps shares a similar view on.

Maylander revealed that after peeling back into the pit’s seconds before the final lap, he kept his “helmet on” and went straight to the “back of the paddock”, after admitting that he “had to be on my own”.

“I walked through the hospitality area with my helmet on and sat down at the back of the paddock first,” Maylander recalled.

“I had to be on my own first to think ‘what just happened?’”

Not all of his memories from being F1’s Safety Car driver are as unhappy as that, though, with him having gone on to share some of his most “memorable” moments from his career doing a job he “didn’t know that you could get paid for”.

“After five minutes I was out of the office again and had an extra job.” the German said, based on his memory of being appointed as F1’s Safety Car driver in 1999.

“I didn’t know that you could get paid for the job!”.

“The Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji in 2007 was memorable,” he told F1 in 2018.

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“Also, the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011, where I led for almost 50% of the race! I didn’t get any trophy, but I did almost miss my flight home because the race ran so late.

“But that’s my job, to keep everyone calm and safe. To lead the field and control the race.

“The 2019 German Grand Prix is another example. It was a great race, I was on the limit. I went wide in a few corners, for safety reasons. In a race car, you have to stay on the track, but in the Safety Car, it’s paramount that you don’t crash.”