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The F1 race where the Safety Car nearly ran out of fuel

Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has experienced a lot during his years behind the wheel of the car in Formula 1, with a particularly memorable – and unusual – moment coming at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix.

Safety Car 2007 Japanese Grand Prix
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Formula 1 Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has spoken of the unusual occasion where he feared that the vehicle may run out of fuel.

Maylander has been behind the wheel of the Safety Car in F1 since 2000, meaning that the former DTM driver has experienced a lot of during his time in the sport.

However, a particularly memorable moment came at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix. Due to torrential rain, the race at the Fuji Speedway was started behind the Safety Car, with the car then leading the way for the first 19 laps of the event before returning to the pits.

During this opening stint, Maylander admits that there were concerns about the vehicle's level of fuel.

Safety Car fuel concerns at 2007 Japanese GP

Maylander arrived into the weekend unfamiliar with the venue at Fuji, while the weather conditions on Sunday led to questions over whether the race would happen at all.

However, the event began with the Safety Car leading the pack.

"We did a couple of laps and just [got] a feeling, and already my co-driver Peter Tibbetts said, 'Bernd, you're doing a lot of laps,'" Maylander told the F1 Nation podcast.

"And I said, 'Yeah, but we have to just keep an eye on the fuel'. I saw that it was half, it was less than half and I said to Herbie Blash [then Deputy Race Director] on the radio, 'Herbie, how many laps do we have to go?'

"He said, 'Let's see, the weather [is] still bad'. I said, 'Okay, so just for your information, I think after five, six laps maybe we were running out of fuel'.

"And it was a [Mercedes] CLK63, so quite powerful, strong big engine, fuel consumption for sure was not perfect but, [in] the race conditions, you need a little bit more fuel."

A new situation

Eventually those fears were eased when the Safety Car was called in after 19 laps, and Maylander says that the team then switched to the 'spare' Safety Car – which is exactly the same as the 'original' – as they returned to their stand-by position in the pit lane.

The car was deployed again later in the Grand Prix following a crash for Fernando Alonso, but concerns over fuel were lessened by this being a much shorter stint on the track.

In general, Maylander admits that the situation was not something he had experienced before.

"Luckily, in the second session, I was just on the track I think for five [or] six laps, and everything was safe," he explained.

"But I never had this situation [concerning] running out of fuel.

"Herbie was already thinking, 'Okay, we [can] send the Medical Car on track', so they tried to prepare some back-ups. We'd never thought about that, but in the end, everything went well.

"Right now we're still doing the same procedure, if something like this happens, to keep everyone safe."

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