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)

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