F1 today is a remarkably safe sport, but for many many years the sport was mired by the deaths of its star drivers in often avoidable circumstances. At times the regulators didn't do enough, but the F1 we see today is undoubtably a huge success story when considering their efforts over many years. With that in mind, here are some of the more interesting facts about safety in Formula one:
1. The first Official F1TM Safety Car in Formula One was used in 1973 at the Canadian Grand PrixThe only problem was, when it came out the organisers had no idea who was actually leading the race. It was pouring with rain in Mosport park, and a heavy crash between two leading drivers forced the organisers to send the safety car out to round up the field, starting with the leader. There were a few laps of chaotic discussion, as various teams all argued that their man was leading. In the days before precise timing however, no one knew who to believe. After a few laps the Safety Car simply gave up looking for the leader and picked up Jackie Oliver’s Shadow, who definitely wasn’t leading, and in the end Mclaren driver Peter Revson crossed the line first after benefiting hugely from the mix up. Hours of arguing between the teams followed the race, and the result is still disputed.
2. Safety belts were not compulsory in Formula One until 1972.And unlike in road cars, for several years after this date they were more of a hindrance than a help, as following a serious crash a driver would frequently be belted to the inside of a burning or heavily mangled car. Things improved with the introduction of carbon fibre construction in the 1980s, and the design of more practical seatbelts.
3. Modern F1 Drivers wear fireproof clothing, using two to four layers of material made of Nomex® fiber1The fireproof suits are tailor-made to fit perfectly, and guarantee drivers can survive for 11 seconds in 840° Celsius. That’s hot enough to melt lead, and shows the incredible extent of the steps the F1 fraternity have taken over the years to increase safety for the drivers in even the last 5 or 10 years.
4. At the Monaco Grand Prix, several divers are on hand to rescue any driver who might crash into the harbor basin.It sounds like a strange measure, especially given that no driver has even come close to ending up in the harbor in modern times. However, in 1955 Alberto Ascari did manage to achieve just that, somersaulting his car into the sea at high speed on the run out of the tunnel. Ascari miraculously escaped with nothing more than a broken nose, but was tragically destined to die shortly afterwards at a test session in Italy.
5. Roughly 12,000 carbon-fibers are used to mould a Formula One helmet, with each one just 15 times thinner than a human hair.Carbon Fibre is the standard material for race-car construction in the modern era, due to its exceptionally low weight, combined with a strength several times that of steel. In an open wheel car, a driver’s head is probably the most vulnerable area of the entire car, and even now a sturdy helmet can is often the difference between life and death.
6. The car’s safety cell sides include the same material used for bullet-proof vests…And they must withstand an impact of 250 tons. In this respect, F1 cars are paradoxically amongst the safest motor vehicles in the world.
7. A Formula One car takes 1.9 seconds and travels 55 meters to stop from a speed of 200km/h.This creates a deceleration force of up to 5G, meaning a 75kg driver will be pushed against the seatbelts with a weight of 375kg. Advances in carbon fibre brake disc technology, as well as the incredible light weight, mechanical and aerodynamic grip of an F1 car, have all contributed to making this possible.
8. The safety of the spectators at Formula One races is provided by approximately 150 security officials, in addition to approximately 130 medics and doctors.As a result of measures like this, no spectators have died at an F1 race weekend since the 1970s. Indeed the safety of those who came to was given priority far earlier than that of the drivers, whom (it was argued at the time) had made a conscious choice to risk their lives. The Le Mans disaster of 1955 and the tragic F1 accident of Wolfgang Von Trips in 1961 were the main catalysts for improving safety for spectators.
9. Since 1997, every Formula One car has carried an accident recorder, similar to the black box in an aircraft.This was deemed necessary after the mysterious manner of Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash in 1994, which to this day is a source of speculation among F1 fans. Senna was the best driver, yet had crashed on an apparently easy corner without any prior warning that he was struggling with a car problem. In the end, Senna’s Williams team endured a lengthy manslaughter court case brought on by allegations that they had built a dangerously unsafe car for Senna, though Frank Williams and chief engineer Patrick head were cleared of any wrongdoing.
10. Formula One has suffered no fatality since the Imola Grand Prix in 1994.The great Ayrton Senna – at the time the best driver in the world, if not ever - was the last driver to die at the wheel, and his tragic passing produced mass mourning in his native Brazil, where he is still idolised as a sporting god. That the sport has been so safe for so long is thanks in part to the significant safety steps made in Ayrton's memory.F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, but Allianz, in conjunction with the AMG Mercedes Petronas F1 team, are launching a campaign to show how ordinary motorists can learn lessons from F1's incredible history:
Road Safety in 2013:-Traffic crashes are the single greatest killer of 15 to 24 year olds in OECD countries.-Increasing average speeds on public roads by just 5% leads to an increase in fatal crashes of approximately 20%.-With a blood alcohol count of 1.5 g/l the crash rate for fatal crashes is about 200 times that of sober drivers.-The risk of accidents increases 2 to 5 times when making a phone call while driving.-Almost half of drivers have emotional or distressing feelings when driving.(Sources: World Health Organization, European Commission – Mobility & Transport, European Road Safety Observatory, Allianz Center for Technology