Saturday 23 November 2013

Safety in Formula 1: Cockpit Safety (Part Four)

Michael Schumacher being strapped into the cockpit.
Source: googleimages.
Safety in Formula 1 or any form of motorsport is of paramount importance, and therefore my next blog will focus on ‘Cockpit Safety’. As per my previous blog about Safety in Formula 1 ‘HANS device’ this blog will now focus on the actual safety within an F1 cockpit. At the centre of the modern Formula 1 car is the 'monocoque' which incorporates the driver's survival cell and cockpit, and also forms the principal component of the car's chassis, with engine and front suspension mounted directly to it. Its roles as structural component and safety device both require it to be as strong as possible. According to Formula, “Like the rest of the car, most of the monocoque is constructed from carbon fibre - up to 60 layers of it in places - with high-density woven laminate panels covering a strong, light honeycomb structure inside.” 

The survival cell is surrounded by crash-protection structures which absorb energy in the event of an accident and features a roll-over hoop behind the driver’s head, made of metal or composite materials. The survival cell’s sides are protected by a 6mm layer of carbon and Zylon, a material used to make bullet-proof vests, to prevent objects such as carbon fibre splinters entering the cockpit. For safety reasons, no fuel, oil or water lines may pass through the cockpit and/or survival cell and the driver must be able to get out within five seconds without having to remove anything except seatbelts and steering wheel (which he must be able to refit within another five seconds).

Robert Kubica's 2007 crash at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Source: googleimages
According to FIA regulations, “The width of the cockpit must be 50 centimetres at the steering wheel and 30 centimetres at the pedals. The temperature inside the cockpit averages 50 degrees Celsius. The dimensions of the cockpit opening have grown over the years. Currently it must be 850mm long, at least 350mm wide at the pedals and 450mm wide at the steering wheel, with the rear half wider still at 520mm. The rear 375mm of the cockpit’s side walls must rise upwards at an angle of at least 16 degrees (to reduce the risk of injury in the event of one car flying over the top of another) and the edge of the cockpit must be enclosed in an energy-absorbing material with a thickness of at least 100mm.”

Did you know … that during his high-speed crash at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2007, Robert Kubica was subjected to more than 28 times the acceleration of gravity? This meant that his body effectively weighed two tons instead of 73 kilograms. Millions of spectators expected the worst, but thanks to the strict safety precautions in Formula One racing Kubica suffered only minor bruises.

Cockpit Safety has improved hugely over the years, and thanks to these vast improvements Formula 1 has now become a much safer form of motorsport. Let’s now take a look at the driver’s seat and the compulsory equipment required within the cockpit of a modern Formula 1 racing car. The driver’s seat is a single plastic cast, tailored to provide optimal support. The 1999 rules have stipulated that the drivers’ seat may not be installed as a fixed part of the car. Instead it must be possible to remove the driver and seat as one after an accident, thus reducing the risk of spinal damage. 

The compulsory six point Formula 1 safety belts.
Source: googleimages
All Formula 1 cars are now required to be equipped with a fire extinguisher system. This automatically spreads foam around the chassis and engine area in the event of fire and can also be operated manually by either the driver or marshals.

According to Formula 1, “An accident data recorder is also compulsory. Linked to a medical warning system, it registers important information such as speed and deceleration to tell medics how severe the impact was. In addition, there is a cockpit display with red, blue and yellow lights which informs the driver about any warning flags being waved around the circuit.” An example of this would be the huge (25G) impact Fernando Alonso faced when he had hit a kerb in the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in where the medical warning system was triggered and Alonso was then required to report to the medical centre.

These safety mechanisms were all put in place in order to ensure that the Formula 1 drivers are safe in all situations. I hope you have enjoyed this blog! Feel free to leave a comment.

Source: Formula
FIA Regulations (2005)

Saturday 16 November 2013

Safety in Formula 1: HANS (Part Three)

Edited by: Junaid Samodien
Source: Google Images
Safety in Formula 1 or any form of motorsport for that matter is important and this week’s blog will take a look at the HANS device – the Head and Neck Support system. The HANS device is a safety mechanism made compulsory in many forms of motorsport. The device prevents the probability of head and/or neck injuries in an event of a crash. A major cause of death amongst drivers during races were through violent head movements, where the body remains in place as a result of the seat belts but the momentum keeps the head moving forwards, causing a Basilar skull fracture resulting in serious injury or immediate death.
Notable race car drivers who died from Basilar skull fractures include:
·         Formula 1 drivers: Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in the 1994 San Marino Formula 1 Grand Prix.
·         Indy 500 drivers: Scott Brayton, Bill Vukovich and Tony Bettenhausen.
·         NASCAR drivers: Adam Petty, Tony Roper, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Terry Schoonover, Grant Adcox, Neil Bonnett, John Nemechek, Dale Earnhardt, J. D. McDuffie and Clifford Allison.
Edited by Junaid Samodien
Source: Google Images
According to, “The original HANS device went on sale in 1990, but its large collar was unsuited to single-seater series with narrow, tight cockpits. However, after Mika Hakkinen's massive accident in Adelaide, Australia in 1995 (in which he fractured his skull) the FIA instituted research to establish the best way of protecting Formula 1 drivers' heads in major impacts. Airbag and 'active' safety systems were briefly considered, before the focus shifted to development of a HANS system suitable for F1 racing.”

Nico Rosberg discusses the HANS device

Did you know …that in tests HANS was shown to reduce typical head motion in an accident by 44 percent, the force applied to the neck by 86 percent and the acceleration applied to the head by 68 percent - bringing the figures for even large impacts under the 'injury threshold'?

Formula 1 mandated the HANS device in 2003 after extensive testing and sharing the results with the FIA, the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system consists of a carbon fibre shoulder collar (U-shape) which is secured under the driver’s safety belts and connected to his helmet by two elastic straps. In the event of an accident, HANS is intended to prevent stretching of the vertebrae and to prevent the driver’s head from hitting the steering wheel. The FIA has made HANS device compulsory for all International-level events from the beginning of 2009.

I hope you enjoyed the read! Please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Pirelli - Austin 3d Track experience

Saturday 2 November 2013


Records and Statistics of the 2013 United States Grand Prix

Safety in Formula 1: Helmets (Part Two)

Safety in Formula 1 or any form of motorsport is very important, and therefore my next blog will be based on ‘Helmets’. As per my previous blog about Safety in Formula 1 ‘Clothing’ this blog will now focus on the crash/racing helmet. I most certainly believe that the racing/crash helmets also play a pivotal role in the safety of racing. Crash helmets have been made compulsory in Formula 1 racing since 1953, but like F1 the cars, their design and construction have evolved enormously since the beginning of this form of motorsport. For racing drivers, head and neck trauma remains the greatest single injury risk in any form of motorsport, hence the introduction of helmets and the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system.


According to, “…modern F1 helmets must be supremely light - around 1250 grams is the norm - and strong. The lighter the helmet, the less weight it adds to the driver’s head under the extreme G-forces experienced in accelerating/braking/cornering, hence the smaller the risk of whiplash-type injuries. And the stronger the helmet, the greater its ability to absorb impacts and resist penetration during a crash.”

The visor is constructed from a special clear polycarbonate, combining impact protection with flame resistance and exceptional visibility. According to, “Most drivers use tinted visors, the insides of which are coated with anti-fogging chemicals to prevent them misting up, particularly in wet conditions.” Several transparent tear-off strips are attached to the outside of the visor, which drivers may tear off if need be to clear there line of vision or dirt that may accumulate during the race.

Did you know…that despite the cutting edge materials used in their construction, Formula One helmet liveries are still painted by hand? It’s an incredibly skilled job requiring hundreds of hours of work for more complicated patterns and designs.

In order to ensure that the Helmets meet the strict safety standards required the Formula 1 helmets are subjected to extreme deformation and fragmentation tests. According to, “To pass the tests the helmet is made principally of carbon fibre, polyethylene and fire-resistant aramide, and is constructed in several layers.”
Source: Google Images.
In 2011, helmets began to develop with the feature of new Zylon strip across the top of the visor to enhance protection significantly. This safety precaution become relevant when a spring fell of Rubens Barrichello’s (Brawn GP car) and struck Felipe Massa through the visor.  According to Formula, “The strip, which is 50mm tall across the full width of the visor, overlaps the top 25mm of the visor itself and extends 25mm above the helmet shell edge. The strip adds about 70 grammes to the helmet, but doubles the impact performance of the visor.” 

Last but not least the F1 helmets undergo wind-tunnel testing to help achieve a design that minimises the drag produced when the driver is travelling at speed. I hope that you have enjoyed the read! 

Thursday 31 October 2013

Redbull Racing RB7 in Cape Town

The Stunning RedBull Racing RB7 being prepared in the Garage at Killarney, Cape Town.
Photograph by: Junaid Samodien

On 27 March 2011, RedBull Racing brought their show car to Killarney, Cape Town and I've captured some amateur footage of the stunning RB7 show car in action. 

                                                                              Engineers put on the engine cover and wheels.
                                                Neel Jani strapped into the RedBull Racing RB7 and ready to come out onto the circuit.

                                                        Neel Jani streching the legs of the stunning Redbull Racing RB7 on circuit. 

 These brief clips were filmed by me at Killarney Racetrack in Cape Town, South Africa.


Saturday 26 October 2013

Records and Statistics of the 2013 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI Grand Prix

Safety in Formula 1: Clothing (Part One)


From the end of time safety has always been a factor in Formula 1, and since the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, there has been no other fatalities due to the introduction of a variety of safety measures and precautions such as:  Helmets, HANS, Clothing, Cockpit safety and crash testing. I’ve decided to draw up a series of Articles, where these Safety Measures can be discussed in detail.

The Helmet and HANS safety gear.
Clothing in the world of Formula 1 is often disregarded when considering the enormous collection of other high tech safety equipment. Hence me starting my series with a segment about “Clothing”. The Formula 1 safety clothing also has a primary purpose; to protect the driver in case of serious fire. Since 1975 the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has required that driver clothing be flame retardant so as to offer protection in the event of a fire. Now-a-days the key material used for Formula 1 and other racing suits is Nomex - a fire-resistant, lightweight artificial fibre. It is subjected to an open flame with a temperature of 300 to 400 degrees Celsius that acts on the material from a distance of three centimetres - only if it fails to ignite within 10 seconds can it be used in a driver’s overalls.

The fireproof balaclava used in Formula 1
Fires have become less of a problem for Formula 1 in recent years but this has not led to a disregarding of safety clothing. The clothing that is used in Formula 1 today is made from fire-proof materials that are so efficient they can protect a driver as his car burns around him. The items of clothing include overalls, gloves, boots and balaclavas in an attempt to shield every part of the driver's body in the event of a fire. It’s not just the driver that has to wear the levels of safety clothing. Pit crews must wear equal amounts of safety gear as the pit lane is the most dangerous place on a Formula 1 racing track.

According to Formula – “The zip on the suit must also be able to withstand the same temperatures and must not melt or transfer heat close to the driver's skin. Even the thread used to sew it together must be fire resistant, as must any patches, although the majority of sponsor logos are now printed on - a change that has helped cut the weight of overalls by over half a kilo in the past few years. But not only are modern race suits light, they’re also breathable to in order to allow the several kilos of sweat produced by the driver during a race to escape.” The racing suits should also have two large ‘handles’ on the driver’s shoulders. These straps should be capable of supporting the combined weight of the driver and his seat, which in the event of an accident can be removed from the car by marshals ‘as one’, in order to minimise the risk of complicating injuries.

Underneath his race suit the driver wears a further layer of flameproof underwear, and under his helmet a fireproof balaclava. Gloves may appear as an insignificant piece to Formula 1 safety clothing but are disputably the most important of all. According to Formula – “They must be made as thin as possible to ensure the driver can maintain his connection to the car whilst also remaining fire-proof enough to protect. The same can be said for Formula 1 boots as the soles of these are made extremely thin so the driver has the closest contact with the pedals of the car.” 

There is no doubt that the safety clothing has made Formula 1 far safer, looking back to the fifties when drivers wore cloth overalls, goggles and leather driving caps the advance in technology is almost unbelievable. In one of the most dangerous sports in the world it is reassuring to know that so many designers are producing items of clothing with the driver's safety as their primary concern.

Sunday 6 October 2013

RUSH - Review

Release Date: 04 October 2013 (South Africa)
Running Time: 202 minutes
Genre: Action/Drama
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Brühl and Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Ron Howard
Rating: 9.5/10

When first hearing about the making of Rush, I was a bit sceptical about how the story and plot will be put together, but after seeing it I have to say that Ron Howard has captured the essence of Formula 1 and the strong history between Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

Rush is a return to form for Ron Howard after his successful movies Apollo 13, How the Grinch stole Christmas and Cocoon. Similar any great sports movie, Rush breaks the boundaries of its genre. Where most racing films leave it all on the track, Rush smartly makes the story about the drivers behind the wheels and there alive surrounding the sport.

Rush is based on the true story of Formula One racing rivals James Hunt played by Chris Hemsworth and Niki Lauda played by Daniel Brühl. Rivals since their early days in Formula Three, the story centers around their battle for the 1976 World Championship.

Based on the real-life rivalry between Hunt and Lauda is indeed a gripping one. Lauda buys a seat in Formula 1 and through his superior knowledge of mechanics he is able to make any car run faster than any other team could, but then makes the jump to the top-level Formula One first.
Lauda is able to drive any car faster than anyone else on the circuit, except perhaps Hunt. Hunt is an equally talented driver on the track, but is a much bigger risk taker. Lauda’s talent is seen quickly and very early in his career and he signs a prestigious deal with Ferrari. Hunt struggles to sign on with a team due to his high risk state and his partying reputation, though he finally gets a drive after a team (McLaren) decides to take a chance on him.

Rush is a very gripping story in the way that it portrays the two drivers.
Where it would be the obvious choice for Hemsworth’s to play the charismatic James Hunt as the hero and Brühl as the unlikable Niki Lauda as the villain. Audiences will find themselves cheering for both drivers at different points in the film.

The acting, particularly from the two leads, is fantastic. Hemsworth is very convincing as portraying the high-spirited British driver. Brühl is able to match his performances and is a far more reserved one. Olivia Wilde is great in her brief time on screen as supermodel Suzy Mille.

The music used is really effective. This was necessary as the story that revolves around the 1976 Formula 1 season. Overall, Rush is a brilliantly put together movie and a definite must WATCH!!!!!

Friday 26 July 2013

Understanding Understeer from Oversteer

Graphic Illustration of Understeer vs. Oversteer
Source: Google Images

As a car enthusiast, I literally eat, sleep and dream cars, but I always tend to struggle with understanding the terms: Understeer and Oversteer. Whenever one watches a car related programme you always tend to hear the motoring terms: Understeer and Oversteer. With this blog, I will attempt to explain: Understeer and Oversteer. I hope that you enjoy the read!

Top Gears: Richard Hammond explains Understeer and Oversteer

What is Understeer and Oversteer? These are predominantly vehicle dynamics terms used to describe the sensitivity of a vehicle to steering. Simply put, oversteer is what occurs when a car steers more than commanded by the driver. Whereas, understeer occurs when a car steers less than the amount commanded by the driver. Some motoring journalists attribute “Understeer” to Front Wheel Drive (FWD) cars, whereas Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) cars predominantly “Oversteer”, which makes them the ideal car to use for drifting.

Now that you are aware of what “Understeer” and “Oversteer” is, I will now go about explaining Oversteer and Understeers, as well as the causes and methods to correct both Oversteer and Understeer if are faced with the situation.

Explaining Oversteer
As a driver it’s unlikely that you’ll ever experience oversteer unless you’re driving/pushing a car over its limits of grip. According to, You can recognise oversteer if:

·         The rear of the vehicle becomes unstable and ‘light’ due to lack of grip.
·         The car starts to rotate so the driver is facing towards the inside of the corner.

There are four major causes of oversteer:
1.    Entering the corner too fast.
2.    Accelerating into the corner, too early or too aggressively.
3.    Braking into the corner or mid corner.
4.    Lifting off the throttle mid-corner.

Correcting Oversteer. explains how to correct oversteer: “Whatever the cause of oversteer it is important to keep the front wheels pointing in the direction you're hoping to go. If you fail to do this, the most likely result is a spin. You should apply enough steering lock to point the wheels in the direction of the slide. Too little and you're likely to spin as the back continues to come round, too much and the car will rapidly over-correct, often resulting in a spin in the opposite direction. The skill can only be mastered with plenty of practice and should become instinct if you're planning to drive fast on a track.”

Explaining Understeer
As stated previously Understeer will not happen if you aren’t pushing a car to its limit. Understeer is most likely to result from these situations:
·         Accelerating into a bend
·         Braking into a corner
·         Ploughing into a corner too fast
·         Low traction conditions on the corner such as ice or oil

Active causes of Understeer
·         Cornering speed
·         Throttle
·         Braking
·         Steering inputs
·         Weight transfer
Recommended ways to correct understeer are:
  • Be as smooth as you can
  • Don't enter corners flat out, and accelerate as you exit
  • Don't brake in a corner. The only exception to this is if you are using trail braking...

One can now establish that “Understeer” and “Oversteer” are will most likely to occur when pushing your car to the limit. In conlusion, I believe that you should only experience these driving dynamics on a racetrack, because tracks are there for racing and many tracks are open to the public. Therefore, I suggest rather push your car on a track/circuit than on the street because you’d be much safer. I hope that you have enjoyed this new blog!