What makes F1 safe for drivers

Updated: Oct 29, 2011, 17:08 PM IST

Greater Noida: When 24 F1 cars line up on the grid tomorrow for the maiden Indian Grand Prix, the motorsport world will follow it keenly as it is the first major racing event after the tragic deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli.

The two incidents have plunged the motorsport fraternity into deep shock as they came about within seven days. IndyCar racer Wheldon died on October 16 in Las Vegas while Moto GP rider Simoncelli succumbed to injuries he suffered during the Sepang event on October 24.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had avowed that F1 races are safe and the drivers endorsed his view by saying that they are not concerned about their safety.

The great Michael Schumacher said that drivers push the cars to the limit because this is what they love to do while Sahara Force India`s Adrian Sutil remarked that F1 cars are safe.

They have a point as the last casualty that F1 witnessed was way back in 1994 when Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger and three-time world champion Ayrton Senna died during the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy.

The question is what is it that makes Ecclestone and the drivers feel so confident about Formula One racing.

Ever since those deaths in Imola, F1`s safety measures have undergone a sea change. From manufacturing of the car to clothes that drivers wear during the race, everything has been designed in such a way that a racer can escape with minor injuries even after even after suffering a crash.

Here we take a look what is required for making F1 materials, according to FIA.

The `monocoque` or the tub of the car is a very strong component and it includes drivers` surviving cell. It is made from carbon fibre with up to 60 layers and no fuel, oil or water lines may pass through the cockpit. It is fitted in such a way that the driver is able to get out of the car within five seconds without having to remove anything except seat belts and steering wheel.

The width of the cockpit, where the drivers sits, must be 50 centimetres at the steering wheel, and 30 centimetres at the pedals. The cockpit opening 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. This is done 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.

The survival cell`s flanks 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.

The driver`s seat is a single plastic cast and should not be a fixed part, and must be possible to remove the driver and seat as one after an accident, thus eradicating the risk of spinal damage.

All F1 cars must 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.

The cockpit is required to be equipped with a master switch that deactivates car`s electronics, fuel pumps and rear light.

During a 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.

Bureau Report