Is Formula One Safe Enough?
Last Sunday, Formula One kicked off its 2016 season at Albert Park, Melbourne. Those who watched the race would have thought luck was on Alonso’s side. For those who didn’t watch the crazy highlight reel, Alonso walked away from a life-threatening 200km/h+ crash, measuring an initial impact of 46Gs. Both Fernando Alonso of McLaren and Esteban Gutierrez of Haas both made contact before Turn 3 at the Australian Grand Prix.
Thanks to today’s strict safety regulations and technologies each team produce in Formula One, both of them were able to walk away from this scary situation unharmed. After Alonso and his MP4-31 came to a rest at the back of Turn 3, his first instinct was to get out as quick as he could to let his anxious mother back at home in Spain that he was ok.
“I saw a little space to go out and went out quickly – my mum will watch TV so I want to be out quickly and say I am okay. But yeah it was quite a big one. I’m thankful to be here, especially to the FIA and continual safety – I’m probably alive because of that”.
Formula One has come a long way with safety since the early ‘90s, if Alonso crashed like this 15-20 years ago you can almost be certain he would not be getting out of his car. On record, it shows that more than 40 Formula One drivers have died prior to the year 1994. Majority of these deaths have been found to be caused by deformations of the cockpit where the driver sits in, imagine yourself mangled in that wreckage.
Formula One teams have put serious thought into keeping their drivers in one piece, and even though they have reduced the amount of death tolls during the last 20 years it doesn’t stop there. In the 2016 regulations, all teams were required to raise the side-head protection by 20mm, and the impact crash test force was increased from 1.6 tonne-force to 5.6 tonne-force. In short, if you have watched the introduction scene of Formula One 2016 on TV recently, you would’ve seen the stated cockpit withstanding strength of 250 tonnes.
Now looking at 2017, the FIA has confirmed that there will be some sort of enhanced cockpit protection (a.k.a. Halo Design) brought in to the next coming season. Basically the purpose of this protection device will minimise debris contacting the driver’s head. We’ve seen what happened to Felipe Massa back in 2009, when a spring dislodged from Ruben Barrichello’s car and struck Massa in the head. And in recent news, the passing of Justin Wilsons in 2015; where he died on track from flying debris in the video below.
What do you guys think of the new Halo design? Will it work or will it more likely to cause danger such as reduced vision?
Images via Skyport F1