Mercedes SL63 selected as F1 safety car for 2008

Mercedes-Benz's long-time commitment to Formula 1 continues as it announces two new AMG vehicles supporting all F1 races on the 2008 calendar. The maker's flagship roadster, the SL63 AMG, will be the Official F1 Safety Car while the recently-unveiled C63 AMG Estate will be the Official F1 Medical Car for the year. Both models will be fitted with AMG optional equipment or otherwise modified to better cope with on-track life and the differing climates found on the F1 calendar.

Neither the SL63 nor the C63 Estate are exactly show-room stock. Changes include larger cooling ducts in unique front fascias, extra coolers for engine, differential and transmission oil along with power steering and coolant fluid, ceramic front brake discs for increased fade resistance, and lighter overall weights to offset the extra equipment necessary for the cars' duties. In the SL, the latter is achieved via removing the top-opening mechanisms and motors as well as sound insulation and utilizing carbon fiber reinforced plastic hood, quarter panels, trunk lid and fascias. All this adds up to a car claimed to be 484 lbs lighter than the production version, at 3,850 lbs.

The 525-horsepower SL63 Safety Car will be driven by 36-year-old Bernd Mayländer, whose job is to lead laps quickly enough to prevent the mutli-million dollar race cars' engines from overheating and brakes and tires from cooling excessively.

The 457 horsepower C63 AMG Estate Medical Car receives similar changes, where applicable, save for the lighter body panels and oil and fluid coolers, as speed and durability is less of a necessity. The Medical Car follows the race on the crash-prone first lap, then waits on the sidelines, ready to respond to emergenices.

The four-person team in the C63 is comprised of driver Dr. Jacques Tropenat (medic and amateur race driver), co-driver Dr. Gary Hartstein (official FIA Grand Prix Chief Medical Officer) and two medical assistants. The cargo area is stocked with all necessary emergency equipment, including a defibrillator and respirator.

Equipment fitted to both cars includes two monitors in the centre console to supervise happenings in the race, a two-way radio system, strobe, LED and safety lights as well as the F1 logos.

The maker's recent announcement will have a total of four cars (a back-up for each) prepared by the engineers at AMG, as each requires a back-up. Last year, a modified CLK 63 AMG was the F1 safety car, and an AMG was part of the support vehicles since 1996.