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Game changer - Singapore & the safety car 21 Sep 2011

The field goes through the first chicane, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leading behind the safety car The Safety Car on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 26 September 2010 Safety car leads the field.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 12 June 2011 Bernd Maylander (GER) FIA Safety Car Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 12 June 2011 The safety car leads the field. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 11 September 2011 FIA Safety Car. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011

When it comes to planning race strategy, a key component is factoring in the probability of a safety-car deployment. This is dependent on factors such as circuit layout, the ease of clearing an incident and predicted weather conditions. In Singapore, these factors come together to produce something close to a perfect storm: the safety car has appeared five times in the three races held there since 2008. That means that the Mercedes SLS AMG is almost certain to make an appearance again this coming weekend, as the Mercedes team explain...

Q: Which races have the highest probability of safety car deployment?
A:
Calculated in historical terms over the past ten years, both Singapore and Korea have a 100 percent record of safety car deployment - although, in the case of Korea, this is calculated on the basis of a single race. Every one of the three Singapore races so far has seen the safety car deployed, for a total of 20 laps. Indeed, this total means that only Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (93 laps) and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton (57 laps) have led more laps than safety car driver Bernd Maylander since the first Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. After Singapore, the races with the highest historical probability of safety-car deployment, during the past ten races, are Brazil, Monaco and Canada (all at 70 percent).

Q: How much has the safety car been used so far in 2011?
A:
After 13 races in the current season, just four have featured safety-car deployments - Monaco, Canada, Belgium and Italy. In total, there have been nine deployments, of which five occurred during the Canadian event, for a total of 5.5 percent of the racing laps. By way of comparison, after 13 races in 2010, there had been a total of 12 deployments in seven different races, accounting for 5.1 percent of the racing laps. The reduction in the number of safety-car deployments, and the significant reduction in the number of races at which it has been deployed, are perhaps surprising given the increase in wheel-to-wheel racing that has occurred this year. Indeed, the safety car wasn’t used at all in the first five races of the 2011 season - the first time this had occurred since 2004, and only the second time in the past ten years. Furthermore, the 2011 season has seen two wet-dry races in which the safety car has not appeared at all - Britain and Hungary.

Q: How many laps has the safety car led in total this year?
A:
So far, the safety car has led a total of 49 laps, equivalent to 218.3 km. Of these, 140 km were accounted for by the Canadian race. Indeed, the five safety-car deployments during this race lasted for 45.7 percent of the race distance - the longest safety car total laps recorded in the past ten years. The next longest deployments were at the 2010 Korean Grand Prix (26 laps, 146 km) and the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix (26 laps, 119 km). The race with the most individual safety-car deployments was the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.

Q: Which season saw the most safety car use in the past decade?
A:
Since the start of the 2001 season, the safety car has led almost 2,500 km - equivalent to approximately eight Grand Prix distances. 75 races have seen the safety car deployed a total of 117 times for 510 laps. The season which saw the most safety-car deployments was 2010, when it appeared 21 times at 12 races, for a total of 7.8 percent of the racing laps; in total, the Mercedes SLS AMG led a total of 87 laps for 452.3 km, equivalent to one-and-a-half race distances.

Q: Which seasons saw the least safety car usage?
A:
The seasons with the fewest deployments were 2001 and 2002, both of which saw just five safety-car periods. In 2001, safety-car periods accounted for 2.6 percent of all racing laps, while in 2002 this figure decreased to 2.3 percent. Overall, between 2001 and 2010, safety-car deployments accounted for an average of 4.2 percent of all racing laps. This means that the 2011 season has seen above-average safety-car usage; however, if one does not include the Canadian Grand Prix, safety-car deployments would account for just 2 percent of racing laps in 2011, well below the ten-year average.

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