Baptism of Fire for Mercedes at Australian Grand Prix

off-my-wheelsBrian Joss –

New safety and medical cars make their debut

It will be a baptism of fire on the race track in Melbourne, Australia for the GT S and the C 63 S –
the new high-performance cars from Mercedes-AMG. At the first Grand Prix of the season at the weekend, the GT S will debut on the race track as the Official Safety Car of the FIA Formula One World Championship™. As the Official Medical Car of the world championship, the C 63 S Estate will be on hand to provide fast emergency medical care. Mercedes-AMG has been active continuously at the pinnacle of motorsport since 1996.

The C 63 S Mercedes Estate; the official medical car. Picture: QuickPic
The C 63 S Mercedes Estate; the official medical car. Picture: QuickPic

The new GT S is the perfect vehicle to guide the Formula 1® field safely around the track when bad weather conditions or accidents necessitate deployment of the Safety Car. The second sports car developed independently by Mercedes-AMG boasts ideal credentials for this tough job in the premiere motorsport competition. The front mid-engine concept with transaxle, the V8 bi-turbo engine with dry sump lubrication, the dual clutch transmission and the cutting-edge sports suspension with aluminium double-wishbone axles provide the basis for fast laps on the race circuit. Excellent driving dynamics are in the DNA of the Mercedes-AMG GT S: the intelligent aluminium lightweight design guarantees not only a low vehicle weight but also a low centre of gravity for the vehicle and an advantageous weight distribution of 47 to 53% between front and rear axle.

German Bernd Mayländer (43), driver of the Official Safety Car since 2000, said: “The gull-wing SLS AMG was my official car in Formula 1® for five years. Now I’m looking forward to the new Mercedes-AMG GT S, which I have been fortunate enough to get to know during its development phase. The new AMG sports car won me over immediately with its high-calibre race track performance.” The former DTM driver also works as an instructor for the AMG Driving Academy and as a Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador at selected events.

Stringent catalogue of requirements for the Safety Car include high cornering speeds, dynamic bursts of speed and fast lap times – the Safety Car is subject to a stringent catalogue of requirements drawn up by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). After all, it has to be capable of guiding the racing cars from the top class of motorsport around the circuit in extreme situations. And the Safety Car must not go about its work at too low a speed either, in order to avoid the tyres and brakes of the Formula 1® cars cooling down to an excessive degree and to ensure that the engines do not overheat. Bernd Mayländer, who shares the cockpit of the Safety Car with FIA Fuel Analyst England’s Peter Tibbetts (59), explains: “We are on stand-by in the Safety Car in the pit lane, waiting for instructions from the race organisers.” When bad weather or any incidents pose a threat to safe continuation of the race, the Safety Car team is duly deployed. The drivetrain of the Official Safety Car is the same system that features on the road-going version of the AMG GT S. With a maximum power output of 375 kW and peak torque of 650 N,m , the 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo engine guarantees high-end performance: the GT S dashes from a standing start to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds and attains a maximum speed of 310 km/h.

The GT S is fitted with a modified performance exhaust system for an even more striking and emotive AMG V8 engine sound.

The Mercedes-AMG GT S clearly has race track performance in its genes, as only a small number of modifications were required to transform it into the Official Safety Car. The AMG Speedshift DCT 7‑speed sports transmission corresponds 100% to the series production unit, for example. The Dynamic Plus package with which the Safety Car is equipped is optionally available to any GT S customer for a further increase in driving dynamics. The package also includes tauter spring and damper tuning, more negative camber at the front axle as well as an adapted speed-sensitive sports steering system. The performance steering wheel in black Dinamica micro fibre and yellow highlights in the instrument cluster round off the AMG Dynamic Plus package.

The Safety Car runs on particularly light cross-spoke forged wheels with fully integrated wheel bolt covers. The forged wheels painted in matt black with high-sheen rim flanges are fitted with tyres in standard size 265/35 R 19 on 9 x 19 (front) and 295/30 R 20 on 11 x 20 (rear). This wheel/tyre combination is also optionally available to customers for the Mercedes-AMG GT and the GT S.

The high-performance ceramic composite braking system is also optionally available for the road version of the GT.

In appearance, the Mercedes-AMG GT S Safety Car displays the striking FIA and F1® logos and the light bar on the roof. The positioning and design of the carbon-fibre air scoop and the light bar are the result of extensive wind tunnel tests.

All signalling functions on the light bar are performed by fast-responding, energy-efficient LEDs. Overview of functions:

Orange: As soon as the Safety Car is deployed, the orange LEDs are switched on. The flashing orange light in the middle and the steady lights on the outer ends of the light bar indicate “absolutely no overtaking”.
Green: When the GT S takes up a position in the middle of the field at the beginning of a Safety Car phase, the two central LED panels on the front and rear of the light bar are switched from orange to green. Green lights indicate to all Formula 1® drivers that the Safety Car is to be overtaken.
Mounted on the light bar is a TV camera such as is also used on the Formula 1® racing cars. Another camera is located on the stowage tray behind the seats.

The special number plate at the rear with Safety Car lettering and orange/green LEDs is synchronised with the light bar and provides for added safety in the dark or in rain. The headlamps and tail lights perform an additional important signalling function: whenever the Safety Car is on the track, a stroboscopic effect makes the car even more conspicuous.

While Mayländer is fully focused on the race track and keeping an eye on the Formula 1® field in the rearview mirror, Peter Tibbetts is in radio contact with the race organisers. Mayländer and Tibbetts also communicate with each other by radio. A second radio system is integrated in the cockpit as a back-up solution for emergencies. Peter Tibbetts monitors the Formula 1® vehicles by means of two iPads®.

In order to ensure that the racing weekend goes off smoothly, all systems undergo thorough testing with the Safety Car and Medical Car before and during the event.

Six-point seat belts and sports bucket seats with the AMG emblem provide maximum support for the Safety Car’s crew. The interior of the GT S otherwise is the same as the production vehicle.

The new Mercedes-AMG GT S is replacing the SLS AMG, which served as the Official Safety Car of the FIA Formula One World Championship™ from 2010. The gull-wing model was deployed in 10 out of 19 races last season and entered the race track 14 times in all.

The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S makes its debut on the race track as the second Official Car alongside the GT S, succeeding the C 63 AMG Estate in this role. The new Official Medical Car of the FIA Formula One World Championship™ is on hand to provide fast emergency medical care and is crewed by up to three medics. At the wheel is South African racing driver Alan van der Merwe (\ 35). His co-driver is the official FIA head physician, Dr England’s Ian Roberts (51). The rear accommodates one or two assistant medics from a selected specialist hospital near to the race circuit concerned.

The Medical Car follows the field in the starting lap, as the racing cars are grouped particularly closely together in this critical phase of the race. In the event of an incident, the medics are thus able to reach the scene of the accident as quickly as possible and administer first aid immediately. During the race, the Official Medical Car is lined up alongside the Safety Car in the pit lane.

The Medical Car offers exceptional race track performance to ensure that no time is lost in emergencies: the 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Estate generates a maximum output of 375 kW and peak torque of 700 N.m. Acceleration from zero to 100 km/h takes 4.1 seconds. The Medical Car is also fitted with an LED light bar on the roof. FIA and F1®logos, headlamps and tail lights with signalling functions and the illuminated rear number plate bearing “Medical Car” lettering distinguish the Medical Car from the series production vehicle. The 490-litre luggage compartment accommodates the complete scope of emergency equipment, including defibrillator and respirator.

Official Safety and Medical Cars from Mercedes-AMG have been doing duty since 1996 and both official cars from Mercedes-AMG will be on hand at all Grand Prix meetings of the 2015 season. During the race weekends they guarantee maximum safety not only in Formula 1®, but also at all support races.

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