Aston Martin is struggling in Formula 1, not just with its 2022 race car but also with the Safety Car it proudly deployed onto the field. The drivers have been so vocal that the FIA has been forced to respond with a statement.
The 2022 Formula One championship season is shaping up to be a great one, with Ferrari reclaiming the top spot as the event moves to Italy this weekend. Charles Leclerc will be hoping to expand his championship lead and pull away from Mercedes-Lewis AMG’s Hamilton and George Russell after winning the Australian Grand Prix.
However, while the championship race has become increasingly entertaining, there is one component of F1 that appears to be stirring renewed debate.
Some F1 drivers have criticised the Aston Martin Vantage safety car for being too slow during the recent Australian Grand Prix, but the sport’s governing body has a different opinion, as evidenced by the tweet below.
“The FIA would like to reiterate that the primary function of the FIA Formula 1 Safety Car is, of course, not outright speed, but the safety of the drivers, marshals and officials,” the organization wrote.
The FIA listed a number of objectives that could cause the Safety Car to slow down from its theoretical top speed, including as bunching up the field, negotiating an incident recovery, or avoiding track debris. As a result, the “effect of the Safety Car’s speed on the performance of the cars behind it is a secondary issue.”
“The speed of the Safety Car is […] generally dictated by Race Control, and not limited by the capabilities of the Safety Cars, which are bespoke high-performance vehicles prepared by two of the world’s top manufacturers, equipped to deal with changeable track conditions at all times, and driven by a hugely experienced and capable driver and co-driver,” the FIA says.
This comes after Ferrari’s Leclerc grumbled about the pace set behind the Aston Martin Vantage safety car during the last race.
“I was struggling massively to put some temperature in them, so I also struggled,” said Leclerc.
“To be honest, I wanted to complain [during the race], but then I checked how much the safety car was sliding in the corner and I don’t think there was anything more that he could give so I didn’t want to put too much pressure.”
Max Verstappen, the reigning champion, has made similar remarks, claiming that the Aston is “like a turtle” and that this has a bad influence on the 18-inch tyres adopted this season.
Because of their unusual wear features, the tyres have already been subjected to extra scrutiny, and having them get cold in the midst of a race because the pace car is too sluggish isn’t helping any of the teams.
The Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series safety car is five seconds faster every lap, according to Mercedes-George AMG’s Russell.
In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, even the Safety Car’s driver, Bernd Maylander, a former DTM racer, echoed Leclerc’s views.
“Of course, it’s nice that Charles Leclerc saw that I was absolutely at the limit. More was not possible with the best will in the world,” Maylander told the outlet.
All of this is bad news for the Aston Martin Vantage Safety Car, which is powered by a modified 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 528 horsepower (394 kW/535 PS) for its F1 duties. Although this is plenty, it pales in comparison to the Mercedes, which produces 730 horsepower (544 kW/740 PS) and is, of course, a true racing machine.
As a result, you’d anticipate the Aston Martin to be slower around a track than its rival, but it’s still going to be a humiliating year for Aston Martins at both ends of the Formula One field in 2022.
Something needs to be done to give the Aston more grip, or the car’s modest speed will result in colder tyres, which would lead to more wrecks, which is exactly what this car is designed to avoid.