Tuesday 17 June 2014

Safety in Formula 1: Track Safety (Part Seven)

By Junaid Samodien
The Safety car leading the field around on a very wet circuit.
Safety in Formula 1 is very important and therefore the next article will focus on ‘Track Safety’. Circuit design has a major influence on the number and severity of accidents, hence venues wishing to stage a Grand Prix must meet very high track safety requirements, designed to avoid or minimise impacts in the event of a car leaving the circuit. Mark Webber spoke at a 2006 team sponsor Allianz event where he said that he thinks run-off zones made of tarmac are safer, but makes an important point: “Many drivers exploit that, and sometimes even overtake. In that way, they take a much bigger risk because the consequences of a spin are not so dramatic.”

Driver using the run-off area on circuit.

Run-off zones are carefully placed around the circuit. These are empty spaces directly beside the actual track, designed to passively or actively decelerate an out-of-control car, and prevent a collision with track walls or barriers. During the past year an increasing number of asphalted spaces have been introduced at various circuits as drivers have a better chance of regaining control of their vehicle.
Did you know …that the safety of the spectators at Formula One races is provided by approximately 150 security officials, in addition to approximately 130 medics, first aiders and doctors?

Nico Rosberg's Williams being decelerated by the gravel.
Although gravel has a decelerating effect the chances of controlling the car are fairly low and the danger of getting stuck is rather high. However, gravel traps still have their place on certain corners. The traps are normally about 25 centimetres deep and filled with spherical gravel stones of between 5 and 16 millimetres diameter. The stones are designed to generate as much frictional resistance as possible - like sand scattered on an icy pavement - and so reduce the speed of a skidding car quickly and effectively. However, there is often a practical problem with this concept: with a ground clearance of just 50mm and a smooth underbody, the cars often slide over the surface of the gravel trap without braking sufficiently.

The Marshals displaying the Safety car sign and yellow flags.
In the event of an accident, it is usually track marshals who are first on scene. On all FIA-approved circuits a marshal and a fire extinguisher must be posted along both sides of the track every 300 meters.

It is not just on the circuit that safety regulations apply. In the pit lane drivers must adhere to a strictly enforced speed limit - normally 60 km/h during free practice and 80 km/h during qualifying and the race. Drivers are fined during practice and qualifying if they break the speed limit, while in the race they would receive drive-through penalties. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article! 

1 comment:

  1. Another great post Junaid. Really enjoying this series!