Safety Measures underlying the thrills and spills of F1

Everyone is aware of the fact that with speed comes the added danger of accidents. All of us have heard of multiple accidents in our daily lives and many of them turn out to be fatal for the involved drivers.
When it comes to Formula 1, these crashes can be extremely fatal, because of the high-revving engines along with highly efficient power units throttling the drivers at speeds in the range of 200–300 kph.

RedBull Driver Alex Albon, with his RB16 at turn 16 in Bahrain FP2 2020.

Grosjean’s crash in Bahrain GP

Romain Grosjean of the Haas F1 Team suffered from a fiery crash, seconds after the beginning of the race, followed by a fierce explosion.
Starting at the 19th position on the grid, Grosjean pushed through a couple of places as the entire field was slowed down by a poor start by Mercedes’ driver Valtteri Bottas. At turn 3, Romain’s rear-right tire came into contact with the front-left tire of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri and forced Grosjean off-track at an approximate speed of 220 kph, right into the barriers.
According to BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson, the crash caused an impact of 53g, which is enormous when compared to an F-16 fighter jet experiencing a force of 9g, which is more than enough to knock a person out.
The Haas immediately burst into flames and due to the high impact energy, it split into 2 pieces where the cockpit connects to the powertrain. It is suspected that a connector line or a connector tank got punctured and caused the fireball.

Grosjean (left) escaping the fireball crash, with the rear-end of split-up Haas (right)

Lance Stroll upside down in Bahrain GP!

In the first lap, after the restart, Daniil Kvyat was involved in another accident at turn 8, attempting to move towards the inside. This resulted in a low-speed collision with Lance Stroll, which flipped his Racing Point.

Fortunately, Stroll wasn’t injured in this accident.

Safety measures in F1

  1. Formula 1 tracks are equipped with special barriers designed to dissipate the energy of the high-speed crashes. However, at the exit of turn 3, the barrier was a 3-piece steel guard rail, which is also designed to deform in the event of a collision. Had it been for the special barriers at the location of the crash, the severity of the event would have been completely different.
  2. Haas Driver Romain Grosjean credited the titanium protection device — “the halo” for saving his life. It shields the drivers’ cockpits and can withstand the weight of a double-decker bus. Had it not been for the halo, the split barrier would have come right on the visor of the Haas driver the result of which is left to our imagination.
  3. Although they are not credited enough, the Track Marshalls and the medical staff render excellent services when it comes to situations like this. Right after the crash, Grosjean was extracted out of the burning vehicle with the help of these professionals.
  4. The fire-resistant race suits are designed such that they can withstand being heated to 600 to 800 degrees for more than 11 seconds and this rigorous testing applies to everything from zips to socks to ensure that drivers are adequately protected from fire should one break out.
    It is because of this suit that Romain suffered from minor burns, instead of a dreadful injury.
  5. The survival cell, or monocoque, is the central part of the F1 car, in which the driver is seated. Built out of 6mm of strong carbon fiber reinforced composite with a layer of Kevlar which makes it penetration-resistant and crash-resistant as well.
    This cell is also equipped with a fire suppression system that can be activated by the driver or externally and sprays fire retardant foam around the monocoque and the engine.
  6. The roll hoop of a Formula 1 car forms a critical part of the overall safety cell for the driver. Mounted at the top of the chassis, behind the driver’s head, the roll hoop must support the weight of the car during a rollover accident and protect the driver’s head.
    This is what prevented Racing Point’s driver Lance Stroll from any severe injury.

Above all, Stay Safe!

There are many more such engineered items and measures that have been incorporated over the years to prevent any injury to the driver in the event of a crash. The crucial idea is that safety is vital in each and every sphere of our lives, especially when it comes to driving.
Accidents/crashes are inevitable in some circumstances but the damage control procedure, initiated after the event, is something we should focus on as well.

Thank you for reading!

IIT Kharagpur’22 | Mechanical Engineering | Hungry and foolish soul | Website: keshavbagri.live