Date: 31st March 2011 at 1:53pm
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Motor Racing helmet suppliers Arai have developed an innovative new helmet to improve safety in Formula One.

Following Felipe Massa?s accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, the vulnerability of the driver in this type of incident was highlighted. See BBC archive video.

Massa suffered a fractured skull when he hit a spring that had fallen off of Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. Barrichello?s Brawn had suffered a failure in its rear suspension, which left a spring bouncing down the track.

Massa?s Ferrari travelling at over 160mph at the time of impact hit the spring just four second later, leaving the Brazilian unconscious as he hurtled towards turn four. Luckily as he fell unconscious Massa?s feet fell on both the accelerator and the brake pedals, slowing the car down to 60mph as he hit the tyre barrier.

Massa?s life was saved by the carbon-fibre helmet he was wearing which had seen large steps forward in safety in recent years and Arai have now developed the next step.

The new helmet includes a Zylon visor strip across the exact area where the spring struck Massa along the area where the visor and helmet shell meet.

Measuring 50mm half overlaps the visor itself and the other half extends above the helmet shell edge, ensuring extra protection to the weakest part of the helmet without restricting driver vision.

?In tests we found that Zylon was better than carbon fibre for this application as it offers better energy-absorbing qualities. Our goal for the visor was to get the best performance-to-weight ratio for whatever material we chose. We?ve added about 70 grams to the visor, but we have doubled its impact performance.? FIA Institute technical adviser Andy Mellor told formula1.com.

The next phase for helmet safety will come from research from The FIA Institute and helmet manufacturers.

They are currently researching transparent ceramics and the use of high-performance optical materials to improve the visor itself.