The safety cars main function, as its name implies, is to assist in maintaining safe track conditions throughout the Grand Prix weekend. It is driven by an experienced circuit driver and carries an FIA observer who is in permanent radio contact with race control.
If an accident or incident occurs that is not severe enough to warrant suspending the race, but which cannot be dealt with under yellow flags, then the safety car will be called on to the circuit to slow the cars down.
It will come on to the circuit with its orange lights on and all drivers must form a queue behind it with no overtaking allowed. The safety car will signal backmarkers to pass by using its green light until the race leader is immediately behind it, followed by the rest of the field in race order. Any lapped car between cars running on the lead lap must pass those cars and the safety car before proceeding slowly around the track to take up their correct position at the back of the pack. No car is permitted to enter the pits until all cars are lined up behind the safety car in race order.
If the incident that brought out the safety car has blocked the pit straight, the clerk of the course may direct the safety car to lead the field through the pit lane. Cars are free to stop at their pit garage should this happen.
When the safety car is ready to leave the circuit it extinguishes its orange lights, indicating to the drivers that it will peel off into the pits at the end of the current lap. The drivers then continue in formation until they cross the start-finish line where green lights will indicate that they are free to race again.
In exceptional circumstances, such as in extremely poor weather, a race may begin behind the safety car, which will put its orange lights on at least a minute before the start to indicate this. When those lights switch to green the safety car will lead the field around the circuit in grid order.
Overtaking on this first lap is not allowed, unless a car has a problem. The safety car will peel into the pits at the end of the lap and drivers are free to race once they have crossed the line to commence the next lap.
All laps completed behind the safety car count as race laps.