Maylander leads many laps but can never win

Bernd Maylander poses with his 'office'

Bernd Maylander poses with ‘his’ SLS

If Bernd Maylander totted up all the Formula 1 laps he has ever led, the German would be up there with race winners and champions, but none of them would count because even if the 43-year-old Safety Car driver has led the field more times and in more races than most drivers, he has never so much as scored a point and never will.

Sunday’s German Grand Prix is also his home race and, if he makes an appearance, Maylander will be in the Mercedes that all must follow – even works drivers, title rivals and race favourites Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hockenheim is the closest circuit to the town of Waiblingen where he grew up, but Maylander will not be thinking about enjoying any moment of glory. If he spends the whole afternoon poised at the pitlane exit without his services being needed, so much the better.

“I know this track really well. I know almost every blade of grass, every curve,” he told Reuters in an interview in the Hockenheim paddock. I don’t feel bored if I don’t have to work.”

Bernd Maylander leads in Monaco this year

Bernd Maylander leads in Monaco this year

“I still have my fun on Thursday afternoon [doing inspection laps] and every morning when we have a small marshalling test. Then maybe the next race you are taking quite an important role. But you know, at the age of 43 years you don’t need so much attention any more.

“I still have the feel in my blood and racing genes so that’s why I am still doing this job. I like to drive a quick car.”

Maylander never raced in Formula One, being appointed Safety Driver only after a career in sportscars and in the German Touring Car championship (DTM) with Mercedes, but he has no regrets about that. All he ever wanted, he said, was to drive a sportscar.

“I was never thinking of being a Formula 1 driver because for me it was a dream to drive a DTM car and then an FIA GT1 car. This was always my dream. When I realised that Formula One is also quite nice, I was old,” he smiled. “I am still happy.”

Since taking on the F1 role as an employee of the governing FIA in 2000, Maylander has lost count of how many laps he has led and how many races he has been involved in. What he does know is that in 15 seasons, he has missed only four grands prix.

Bernd Maylander driving for Mercedes in DTM in 2003

Bernd Maylander driving for Mercedes in DTM in 2003

He is also certain that if he is called on, it will only add to the tally of laps led. According to respected German motorsport reporter Michael Schmidt, who has kept a running account, last year it amounted to 48 laps.

The year before it was 52 and 57 in 2011. That number ballooned in 2010, with 83, after 48 in 2009. So far this season, Maylander’s tally stands at 25.

In some races his involvement is only fleeting, just long enough to rid the track of debris or remove a car. In others, however, he really gets to hog the limelight.

“I remember a few grands prix really well like Fuji, Montreal in 2011 when I was leading more than 47 percent of the race,” he smiled.

In that rain-hit race in Canada he did 28 laps at the front of the field, while McLaren‘s Jenson Button went on to win after taking the lead only on the last lap in what turned out to be the longest race – in terms of time – ever staged.

Bernd Maylander in his 'office'

Bernd Maylander in his ‘office’

At the Australian Grand Prix in 2006, the only driver who led more laps was eventual winner Fernando Alonso.

“These are quite funny things. But I always say the best grands prix are the ones without any safety car on the track and no medical car on the track,” said Maylander.

His favourite track is Suzuka in Japan, and also Spa – both particularly demanding and fast tracks where safety car interventions are to be expected.

“I like the kind of corners, you really have to be exactly on the right line (at Suzuka),” he explained. “Make a small mistake and you will be off also in the safety car if you are on a quick lap. Spa, it’s fantastic. Austin is a beautiful track and I’m also looking forward to Sochi.”

Formula One drivers, following the gleaming silver Mercedes SLS AMG, may and do complain about how slow it is but Maylander is adamant he is flat out all the way.

The one thing he has to do is avoid crashing himself – particularly at street circuits like Monaco where the metal barriers pose a constant danger as he threads his car through corners and chicanes at speed.

“I don’t really like to talk about that. It’s one of the worst situations. It’s never happened so far. Knock on wood,” he said, tapping the table.

“The safety car has to stay safe on the track and you go as close as you feel comfortable. I think in Monaco you don’t really need a qualifying lap to be quick enough. It’s always safety first.” (Reuters)