RANKED: 10 of the Coolest F1 Safety Cars Ever

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Cool F1 safety car Merc SLS with Gullwing doors

The Safety Car is a fairly regular sight in Formula 1 these days, with Mercedes and Aston Martin  sharing the role over the last few seasons with their latest and greatest sports cars.

Over the years, however, there have been some weird, exotic and wonderful Safety Cars used in F1. Here’s a look at some of the coolest.

The birth of the safety car in F1

The  safety car in Formula 1 wasn’t introduced until 1973, when the sport entered one of its ‘crashiest’ seasons.

Before that the races were controlled by the marshals and their flag signals. Yellow flags would slow the drivers down and red flags would stop the races completely if something serious happened

As 1973 saw so many incidents, the sport’s organisers wanted to find a way to keep the racing flowing without bringing it to a complete stop.

So after taking inspiration from other motorsports like the Indy 500 that always had a pace car, they decided to introduce their own safety car. The first time it appeared was at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, and it was a lemon yellow Porsche 914.

For a number of decades there wasn’t one particular vehicle contracted to be used all season for the safety car role. It often changed from race to race which gives as a very eclectic collection to look back on.

The 10 coolest F1 safety cars ever

Here’s my countdown, from 10 to 1, of the coolest F1 safety cars ever to be used in the sport.

10: Mercedes C36 AMG - 1996 & 1997 seasons

Mercedes C36 AMG F1 safety car

1996 was the first time that the samee safety car was used all season. And to set the precedent for the next 25 years, that car was a Mercedes.

It was no ordinary Merc, however. It was a C36 AMG, the first C-Class Merc to be tuned by the powerhouse AMG. Running their car at the front of the F1 field helped the tuning brand gain visibility across the world, bringing international recognition of their ability to shoehorn big V8s in to normal family sedans. Very very cool.

The C36 AMG started a long and healthy relationship between Mercedes AMG and Formula 1.

9: Honda Prelude - 1994 Japanese Grand Prix

Honda Prelude F1 safety car

Ok, so a Honda Prelude isn’t the type of car you’d normally associate with the word cool. It wasn’t that cool when it came out and 30 years of aging hasn’t done a huge amount for it either.

However, looking back at it now, a Honda Prelude in the rain at the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix is a pretty cool thing. 

Maybe it’s because of the absurdity of it, or maybe it’s because it’s a Honda, at Suzuka, with Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jean Alesi breathing down its neck.

8: AMG GT Black Series - 2022 & 2023 Season

Merc AMG Black series F1 pace car

Since the first Merc was used in 1996 we’ve seen almost the entire AMG range used as the safety car at one point or another. So it’s been hard to pick just a few out.

In 2021 the AM GT Black Series was used. This was the most hardcore of the AMG lineup, developed and tuned for un-comprimising track use. In a change from the normal silver it was painted red to help the drivers see it in heavy rain.

The big V8 is a rare sight in the real world and is a cool car full stop. That’s why it made the list.

7: Ford Escort RS Cosworth - 1992 & 1993 British Grand Prix

Escort Cosworth F1 safety car

Ok, this one’s on the list because I’m from the UK. To you folks across the pond, the words Escort RS Cosworth might mean nothing at all.

But to a bloke who grew up in 90s England, the ‘Cossie’ was the ultimate Max-Power pinup car. A massive whale-tale spoiler, wide body kit, big wheels and a bigger turbo on an otherwise unassuming Ford Escort was as cool as it got.

So for one of these to be used as a safety car in two Grand Prix is even cooler.

6: Renault Clio Williams - 1996 Argentine Grand Prix

Renault Clio Williams Formula 1 Safety car at the 1996 Argentine GP

Renault Cio? Not cool. 

Renault Clio Williams, the ‘90s hot hatch fettled and tuned by Formula 1 team Williams? Very cool

The 1996 Argentine Grand Prix saw one of these little pocket rockets being used for the safety-car in a one off appearance.

Whilst the Clio would had that delightful chassis with the lift-off oversteer French hatchbacks were known for, it did only have 148bhp.

Given the F1 cars in 1996 had over 700bhp, fat slick tyres and lots of downforce, there’s no doubt the Clio’s driver would have been absolutely gunning it. But it was still too slow and the drivers couldn’t keep any heat in their tyres, so it wasn’t used again.

5: Porsche 911 993 GT2 - 1995 Belgian Grand Prix

Porsche 911s are cool cars, especially older ones. The 993 is the last of the air-cooled 911s so for enthusiasts it’s the last ‘proper’ one.

The GT2 was the hottest version that Porsche made, and this was the first time that badge had been seen on any of their road cars.

The 911 had a twin-turbo 425bhp flat six, and made one appearance as the safety car during the 1995 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps.

Certainly a lot faster than the Clio and knowing what those GT2s are worth nowadays, a little bit cooler as well. It’s well worth of a spot on the list of coolest F1 safety cars ever.

4: Mercedes SLS AMG - 2010 & 2014 seasons

Mercedes SLS AMG Bernd Meylander

Ok this is the last Merc on the list. But in my opinion it’s the coolest.

The SLS was an AMG special, equipped with a 560bhp bruiser of a V8 and a pair of Gullwing doors, paying tribute to the original 300SL.

Seeing one liveried up as a F1 safety car was very cool, especially after a run of more ‘normal’ AMG coupes.

3: Lamborghini Diablo - 1995 Canadian Grand Prix

Lamborghini Diablo

Ok top 3 coolest F1 safety cars now, and at third place is the Lamborghini Diablo.

No matter who you are, where you go or what you think, the wedge-shaped Diablo is an incredibly cool car. So for it to be stickered up and used at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix as a safety car is even cooler.

2: Porsche 911 930 Turbo - 1976 Monaco Grand Prix

Porsche 911 930 Turbo

Number 2, and it’s another Porsche. This time it’s the earlier 911 but no average model. It’s the 930 Turbo, the first Turbo model that Porsche made and one that was known as the ‘widowmaker’ for its spikey boost and snappy handling.

At the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix it was used as a safety car. All the glitz and glamour of Monaco, combined with what is now an iconic Porsche, is a very cool thing indeed.

1: Lamborghini Countach - 1981, 1982 & 1983 Monaco Grand Prix

So the coolest F1 safety car ever is… another Lambo. But it would take something special to usurp the Diablo, and the only other Lamborghini that could do that is the Countach.

Iconic for its wedge shape and at the time incredibly futuristic design, the Countach is now an absolute classic. The right models are worth millions.

I honestly don’t think things could get any cooler than this. Imagine telling your grandkids you were the guy that drove the Lamborghini Countach Formula 1 safety car at the Monaco Grand Prix. Coolest thing ever.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport guides based on my own experience as a racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who want to learn more about racing.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

I’ll send you a weekly email with insider info on the latest F1 news and results. 
Read by over 5,000 busy F1 fans each week.