Date: 27th April 2012 at 8:43am
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Due to the crashes suffered by Felipe Massa in Formula One and Henry Surtees in Formula Two in 2009 the FIA Institute have been looking at ways to improve safety.

The first part of the research evaluated polycarbonate windshields and jet fighter canopies in a bid to improve driver protection.

Both options however provided mixed results, the polycarbonate windshield shattered during its test while the jet fighter canopy flexed.

The latest test has been conducted on a titanium roll hoop structure and this has provided a much better result.

The roll hoop has been built by the Lotus team and during testing a 20kg Formula One wheel was fired directly at the roll hoop at 225 km/h. The roll hoop passed the test, deflecting the wheel away from the drivers head and also deflated the tyre limiting the chance of being deflected into other cars/people.

‘The roll-hoop basically did a very good job. It was able to keep a wheel away from a driver’s head. We tested it both by firing the wheel down the centre of the car, and also coming at it from an angle.’ FIA Institute technical adviser Andy Mellor told formula1.com.

‘The impact deflated the tyre during both tests, We tend to think that’s a good thing – it means that the wheel doesn’t bounce as much. It stops much more quickly if you can deflate the tyre.’

‘The research ultimately can’t be restricted only to wheel hitting, but it’s relevant to use wheels as they have a high mass and are a very real factor in such accidents.’


Further data will be analysed and researched before other tests will be considered. If it becomes a viable option the design will then be passed on to the Formula One’s Technical Working Group for discussion.

He concluded: ‘At this stage it’s almost pure research, which we need if we’re to understand what the loads are in such impacts, We’re not at all looking at final solutions as such. The work is absolutely exploratory and we are beginning to understand the mechanisms in order to protect a driver’s head in this kind of impact. This is the next step in a very detailed process.’