The first time a safety car was ever used during an F1 race was during the Canadian Grand Prix in 1973 where a yellow Porsche 914 was used.
The safety car, driven by former F1 privateer Eppie Wietzes, was released in response to a huge crash between Jody Scheckter’s McLaren (No. 0) and Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell (No. 6), on the 32nd lap, that brought ambulances onto the track, and the amount of debris strewn across it.
The introduction of the safety car in Formula One was made as a result of several particularly nasty crashes during the 1973 season, but especially the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort Circuit that claimed the life of Roger Williamson.
What makes the safety car's introduction interesting has more to do with the controversy and confusion that it caused when it came out, rather than its use in F1. When the Porsche was released, It came out in front of the wrong driver, Howden Ganley, in the Iso-Marlboro IR (No. 25), Frank Williams first F1 car. which allowed several drivers, including eventual winner Peter Revson, to gain a lap on the field. Remember that back then things were done completely by hand, as this was before electronic lap timing. So when they saw Ganley immediately behind the safety car they presumed it was he who was in first on the restart and resumed their counting and reporting of overtakes to match.
Team Lotus manager, Colin Chapman, thinking Emerson Fittipaldi had won the race, performed his traditional victory celebration of tossing his cap in the air at the end of what he believed to be the 80th lap.
It took the race officials roughly three hours to correct their mistake and presented the win to Peter Revson in the McLaren No. 8. Naturally, this decision is still disputed by Fittipaldi, whose Lotus was classified second, 32.7 seconds behind Revson.
Even though this was in 1973, it was until 1992 that the FIA laid down clear guidelines for the role of the safety car in in Formula One