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Verstappen: F1 must speed up “turtle” Aston Martin safety car

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has urged Formula 1 to consider speeding up its Aston Martin safety car as drivers struggled to heat up the tyres at the Australian Grand Prix, calling the car “a turtle”.

During Sunday’s 58-lap race, the Aston Martin Vantage safety car, piloted by former DTM star Bernd Maylander, was called into action twice for an off by Carlos Sainz and a crash for Sebastian Vettel.

However, because most drivers were on the hard tyre at the time, they had difficulty getting any heat into their rubber behind the Vantage, which is slower than the Mercedes with whom it shares safety car duties.

Last year, Aston Martin and Mercedes began sharing the supplies of official race vehicles, with Aston supplying a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 Vantage with 528bhp.

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Mercedes introduced a new Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series with 730 horsepower in 2022, which was utilised in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Mercedes is far closer to a genuine track vehicle than the Aston, with a lap time of roughly five seconds faster.

Verstappen, who finished second behind leader Charles Leclerc on both restarts before retiring, said the Aston “was like a turtle” that hindered drivers from beginning the race with enough heat in their Pirelli tyres.

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“There is very little grip, and the safety car is moving at such a sluggish speed that it resembles a turtle. Unthinkable, “Verstappen was enraged. “There was no damage to the car when we drove 140 [km/h] on the back straight, so I’m not sure why we have to drive so slowly. We need to look into it.

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“Because of the greater aero, the Mercedes safety vehicle is undoubtedly faster, as this Aston Martin is extremely slow. Our tyres were ice cold, so it clearly needs extra grip.

“The manner we’re driving behind the safety vehicle right now is quite bad.”

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Melbourne winner Leclerc agreed with his 2022 rival but said he didn’t want to complain on the radio once he saw how hard Maylander was working to go as fast as he did.

“To be honest it always feels too slow in the car because with those Formula 1 cars, we have so much grip and it’s very, very difficult, especially on the compound we were all on, which was the hards,” he said.

“I was struggling massively to put some temperature in them, so I also struggled. To be honest, I wanted to complain, 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.

“For sure with the cars that we have now it’s very difficult to keep the temperatures in the tyres behind the safety car.

Third-placed Mercedes driver George Russell quipped: “We don’t have the issue with the Mercedes-AMG safety car!

“On a serious note, the Mercedes-AMG is like five seconds, a lot quicker, than the Aston Martin safety car, which is pretty substantial.”

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