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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Since 1950, the speed, technology and glamour of Formula One racing has attracted people from all over the globe. And as the sport has developed, with the cars getting faster and the drivers younger, safety has become an increasingly important consideration for everyone involved.

In the early days, serious, even fatal crashes were almost an accepted part of a Grand Prix weekend. Nowadays, however, the FIA, the teams and event organisers all work to maintain the very highest safety standards. Extensive regulations, dedicated personnel and ground-breaking technology unite in managing the risks so that the fans can concentrate on what’s really important - the race!

Tunnels, Tests & Training
Did you know…?

- that the pit lane is divided into two driving lanes for safety reasons? The lane along the pit wall is the ‘fast lane’, and the other in front of the garages is the ‘inner lane. It is only permitted to
work on the cars - for instance, during a pit stop - in a specified area of the inner lane.

- that the FIA made the 400 metre-long tunnel in Monaco safer for the drivers by installing better lighting? Since 2001, an optical system has redirected sunlight into the tunnel’s interior, creating
a cone of light that makes entering the dark concrete tube easier for the drivers and provides almost optimal illumination inside the tunnel.

- that helmets have been compulsory in Formula One since 1953? Modern helmets consist of three main substances: carbon fibre for rigidity, fire-resistant aramide and polyethylene, which is designed to make the helmet shell impenetrable. A modern Formula One helmet weighs only about 1,250 grams.

- that the first crash tests were introduced in Formula One racing in 1985? Nowadays, a Formula One car must pass three dynamic and 12 static tests before it is approved. In the process, the survival cell must always remain completely intact.

- that the monocoque, the safety cell for the driver, consists of up to 12 layers of carbon and weighs less than 60 kilograms?

- that the 557 marshals and the 177 fire-brigade staff deployed at the Malaysian Grand Prix are given three weeks’ training before the race? This is intended to increase the safety for everyone involved.

- that mobile response teams include four salvage cars (S-cars) and two rescue cars (R-cars) as well as two extrication teams? The S-cars are equipped with a rescue cutter and extinguishing agents and, if necessary in an emergency, are able to tow a damaged car. They are manned by two experienced helpers. The R-cars are manned by an emergency doctor, four paramedics and a driver. They can reach any point on the track within 30 seconds.

- that Formula One racing hasn’t suffered a fatality since Imola 1994? That is proof that the risks of Formula One racing are well handled and that considerable progress in terms of safety has been made!

Hospitals & Helicopters
Did you know…?

- that the FIA has founded its own Institute for Safety in Motor Sport? That was one of the many measures for greater safety in Formula One initiated by FIA President Max Mosley as a consequence of the catastrophic spring of 1994. The President of the institute is Professor Sid Watkins, who has been the Formula One Medical Director for many years.

- that 5,500 additional crash barriers are fitted on the streets of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix?

- that approximately 15 hospitals are placed on alert during a race weekend? As a special service at the circuit, sometimes a dentist is also available.

- that the gravel traps in a run-off zone are about 25 cm deep and filled with spherical gravel stones of between 5 and 16 mm 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.

- that safety belts have only been compulsory in Formula One racing since 1972? It must be possible to release all the individual belts for the shoulders, pelvis and legs with a single hand movement, because the regulations specify that a driver must be capable of getting out of the car within five seconds.

- that the safety of the spectators at Formula One races is controlled by approximately 150 security officials, in addition to approximately 130 medics and doctors?

- that two ambulances and a helicopter manned by a doctor, two paramedics and a pilot stand by throughout the race. A second helicopter is kept ready outside the circuit and four additional ambulances are posted along the race track.

Black Boxes & Barriers
Did you know…?

- that every single thread in the T 800 high performance fibre used in Formula One helmets consists of about 12,000 microthreads? Each one of these microthreads is 15 times thinner than a single human hair. The total length of all the threads processed in one helmet is approximately 16,000 kilometres.

- that, to improve safety, the regulations that apply to the pit lane are just as stringent as the ones for the track? Anyone who exceeds the stipulated speed limit (60 km/h during all free practice sessions, 80 km/h during qualifying and race) is penalised. During practice and qualifying, every kilometre driven too fast costs €200. During the race, there is a time-consuming drive-through penalty.

- that a special high-speed barrier has been developed to improve the safety at particularly fast tracks and in corners with limited run-off zones? The new impact protection complements the conventional tyre stacks and is able to absorb the energy of a collision at 200 km/h.

- that the track organisers of Germany’s Nurburgring circuit have invested about 50 million euros in improving the safety of the drivers and the spectators in recent years?

- that for a monocoque, about 30 square metres of carbon-fibre mats are processed, in which the individual fibres are five times thinner than a human hair?

- that the first fire-resistant racing overalls were worn in 1979 by Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann? They consisted of five layers of a fire-resistant material, as also used by
NASA for space suits. Nowadays, the overalls, that are tailor-made to fit the drivers perfectly, are made of two to four layers of Nomex material.

- that it has been compulsory since 1999 for every Formula One car to be fitted with an accident recorder? The device resembles the black box in an aircraft and records all the speed and deceleration data, which provide the basis for further safety improvements.

- that the medical centre at a Formula One race track leaves nothing to be desired when compared to a modern hospital? Equipped with all the necessary medical devices and manned at all hours by one of three shifts, each including an orthopaedic surgeon, an anaesthesiologist and six paramedics, the medical centre takes care of First Aid and trauma care for injured drivers.

Carbon, Zylon & Nomex®
Did you know…?

- that drivers in an overall made with DuPont(tm) Nomex®* brand fiber can survive for 11 seconds even in temperatures of 840 degrees Celsius? In comparison, the maximum temperature in a sauna is 100 degrees, in an apartment
fire it would be up to 800 degrees and the lava in a volcanic eruption reaches between 750 and 1,000 degrees.

- that the safety precautions were made even more stringent just before the 2007 season? The nose and rear structures now have to crumple up more softly and a six-millimetre-thick layer of
carbon and Zylon protects the flanks of the safety cell. Zylon is also used for bullet-proof vests and is intended to prevent objects such as splinters from entering the cockpit.

- that Formula One tyres are filled with nitrogen instead of air? As a result, the pressure is kept constant even under extreme loads, which improves various factors including safety because
even the slightest changes in the tyre pressure of just 0.05 bar can lead to a reduction in the steering precision.

- that the drivers have been given the additional protection of the HANS system since 2003? HANS stands for ‘Head and Neck Support’. The helmet is fastened with two elastic straps to a frame that the drivers wear over their shoulders.

- that for reasons of safety, Formula One tyres are subjected to quality checks in the factory involving a total of 130 items? If a tyre displays even the slightest discrepancies, the entire series is immediately disposed of.

- that for fighting fires, especially in the vicinity of the pit lane, at least five fire engines, each manned by four firemen, are on stand-by around the circuit?

- that technicians from the FIA take a great deal of effort at every Grand Prix to check that all the cars comply with the safety regulations? The checks start with scrutineering each Thursday before the race and the final checks take place on the starting grid.

- that the first Safety Car in Formula One racing was used in 1973 at the Canadian Grand Prix?

- that the safety fences around the circuit at Albert Park, where the Australian Grand Prix is held, now measure 3.80 metres in height? They were enlarged by organisers in response to the death of a marshal who was killed by a flying wheel in 2001.