The Formula One car hardly entered a third of the track until the red flag temporarily interrupted the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend. The start of F1 races is usually chaotic, especially in the second half of the grid, so it was proved on Sunday when the Haas VF-20 driven by Romain Grosjean exited the third turn. Then he deviated to the right.
Unlike what happened next, crashes on the first lap are not uncommon in this sport. After hitting the guardrail at about 137 mph (220 km/h), Grosjean’s car suddenly split in half and caught fire-which has been more than 30 years. To make matters worse, the first half runs through the guardrail, which is located on both sides of the track. With the occurrence of crashes, this reminds people of the old days of F1, which took the lives of drivers such as Roger Williamson or Francois Cevert.
But Grosjean walked away cautiously, hurting more than the burn on his hand. This proves the safety of modern F1 design.
Should this be done?
It is unusual to see a modern F1 car split in half after a crash. In this case, this is by design. In F1 racing, unlike the car you drive, the engine of the car is installed in the compartment of the vehicle, and the engine is also a structural component bolted to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis. In an extreme collision (the collision record exceeds 50G), these bolts will break, allowing the two halves to dissipate energy in their own way.
But other F1 racers did not produce high G shocks like their cars. Another factor in the accident on Sunday was that the car penetrated the barrier. When the front of the car passes through, the hard-shell hard drive passes through most of the time and then stops. Although the monocoque has nowhere to go, the rear half (and most) of the car with the engine, gearbox, and battery are still driving. This is why the bolts get stuck, and why the back half of the car (mostly left intact) can be seen a few meters from the track.
No, the fuel cell is not broken
What happened next was a shock-before the director was cut off, a bright yellow flame gout flew into the air. (The Formula One car only showed more footage of the crash after learning about the safety of Grosjean.) The last time an F1 plane caught fire was in 1989, which should let you know how unusual this is.
That earlier crash led to new safety regulations requiring F1 cars to use Kevlar fuel cells contained in a monocoque. That is where Grosjean left behind and is protected by carbon fiber partitions. However, the fuel must be passed from the fuel cell to the engine. Although these fuels should use dry connectors, it is clear that some gasoline (maybe several kilograms) overflows and gets heated.
The sport’s technical director, Ross Brawn, pointed out that the penetration of guardrails does require further analysis. This guardrail (also known as Armco) has been replaced by more modern circuit protections such as Tecpro (common on Formula E and other F1 circuits) or SAFER barriers, the latter being widely used in IndyCar and NASCAR in the United States. .
Fireproof clothing is more effective this year
At the beginning of each race, a medical vehicle will chase the car, especially when such an incident occurs quickly to the scene. Fortunately, this crash happened after turn three, when the faster F1 car had time to abandon the powerful station wagon. Within 30 seconds of the crash, F1 travel doctor Ian Roberts helped spray some smoky Grosjean on the guardrail, and medical car driver Alan van der Mer der Merwe) used a fire extinguisher to pour them down.
This is longer than the time required for the F1 mandatory cockpit evacuation test, which stipulates that the driver must be able to exit the car within 10 seconds. But these tests were performed under ideal conditions, not when the car caught fire and wedged into the guardrail. Fortunately, since the beginning of the year, F1 has adopted stricter requirements for the fire-resistant suits that racers must wear during the race.
As an F1 racer, Grosjean wears long fireproof underwear, socks and a balaclava under three-layer fireproof overalls, fireproof gloves and fireproof shoes. They are all made of aramid fiber, called Nomex, and have poor thermal conductivity. . From the beginning of this year, all these items must comply with FIA 8856-2018 regulations, which require each piece of clothing to protect the wearer for 20% longer than the clothing they wear in 2019.
Halo device saved lives
In yesterday’s crash, perhaps the most important safety device was the halo device, which was introduced into the sport in 2017. Previously, the driver in the cockpit suffered many serious head injuries and fatal crashes. . It looks like the upper part of flip-flops, sprouting from the front of the cockpit opening and wrapping around the side to merge with the air box behind the driver’s head.
The halo is made of titanium, weighs about 20 pounds (9 kg), and must be able to withstand a shock of 125kN without fail. When it was launched in 2017, it was widely praised by car fans and even drivers, especially Grosjean. But the halo is almost certain of Grosjean’s life. The halo prevents the top of the guardrail from contacting the helmet, which must be fatal.
Indeed, Grosjean himself has now converted. In a video posted to social media from a hospital bed in Bahrain on Sunday night, he told his followers: “I didn’t participate in Halo a few years ago, but I think it’s the biggest one we brought to Formula One. Fun, without it, I won’t be able to talk to you today.” This French driver is the last season of the Haas team and he will compete in next week’s race-also at the Sachshill Circuit in Bahrain-but maybe Will return to the season finals in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.
List image by Tolga Bozoglu-Pool/Getty Images