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Driver safety

 

During all Formula One history, regulations have changed drastically, always to increase the safety of the drivers and spectators. The following tables give an overview of the most important changes in the official FIA regulations from the very beginning of F1 until today.

 

The Full list of Formula 1 drivers who died during some racing event is here.
Check my article about improvement in racing car safety year by year
Check my article about improvement in track safety year by year
Article abour general safety in Formula 1 you can find here

 

Drivers safety

When the world championship began in 1950 there were seven races, 76 registered drivers and just one winner - Italian 'man of steel' Nino Farina. The formula for the sport was simple in 1950 - cars were not limited by weight and could use naturally aspirated or turbo-charged engines fixed at the front of the car. By 1955 engines began to move towards the rear, in 1968 aerodynamic wings appeared on the cars and in 1981 the carbon fibre chassis was invented.
If technology, and its crossover to commercial road cars, has radically altered the design of Formula 1 machines, drivers are always the same. The style of racing and the endurance and strength aspect has changed, drivers have evolved but they are the same type of people. The competitive instinct, a love of speed, working with machinery to feel that connection - that hasn't changed over the years. When you are out there driving it is just one guy in a machine trying to get the most of it. Now, same as 1950's.


1963 - 1967: Protective helmet and overalls obligatory.
1968: Recommendations on seat harnesses, fire-resistant clothing, shatter-proof visors.
1971: Max. 5 seconds for driver evacuation from car.
1972: 6-point harness Drivers' Code of Conduct published.
1973: International medical card & examination for all drivers. The pace car was used for first time during the Canadian Grand Prix.
1975: FIA standard for fire resistant clothing.
1977: Helmets must be to FIA-approved standards.
1978: Licence qualification requirements, F1 "Superlicence" required. Sid Watkins become Formula One’s official doctor at each event
1979: Life support system (medical air) obligatory.
1981: private car entries were banned (known in the world championship as privateers)
1983: McLaren and Lotus debuted cars featuring CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced polymer) chassis
1989: Drug testing on IOC model, introduced.
1993: Severe end-of-race crowd control measures imposed.
1994: head rules were imposed to enforce a headrest behind the drivers head firstly with a minimum area, then with a minimum thickness.
1994: Approved helmet standards reduced to 3 most stringent (Sell/BSI/SFI). Ear - phones banned; weight 1800gr max. Check-tests made on clothing and helmets in use.
1994:
Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix, a day after Roland Ratzerberger also lost his life in an accident during qualifying. The tragedies triggered a drive to improve safety standards and they were the last drivers to die at the wheel of an F1 car.
1995: 3-inch wide seat harness shoulder straps obligatory. F1 drivers Super licence criteria more stringent.
1996: Safety belt release lever must point downwards.
1996: Introduced obligatory cockpit headrest padding and higher and padded cockpit sides, with design tightly governed by the FIA regulation, as a result of crash tests carried out to investigate the mechanic of crashes in F1 cars. Initially the rules used a line in between the front and rear roll hoops to define the position of the padding, with 75mm wide pads being required either side of the drivers head.  Later regulations evolved to make these designs longer (reaching the steering wheel), the front and side pads made from one piece and padding has been widened to thicknes of 100mm. As demanded within the rules the padding must be Confor foam. This foam is relatively soft when touched, but when subject to a severe blow the foam hardens to absorb the load and is then slow to bounce back. This characteristic protects the driver from both the initial blow and any whiplash response.
1997: FIA supervision of conditions for private testing.
1998: Two shoulder strap anchorages recommended. Driver must be able to exit and replace steering wheel, in 10 seconds.
1999: Highly visible gloves recommended for signalling start line problems. "Marshal information Display" lights system to be fitted in cockpit. Seat belts must comply with FIA Standard 8853-98.
2000: Additions to the Drivers' Code of Conduct, Appendix L, Sporting Code: defensive changes of direction; pit exit lines.
2001: All the extrication seats must be removable with the same tool (or none) and without cutting the seat belts.
2002: raised cockpit sides to protect driver head
2003: Obligatory use of HANS and energy-absorbing foam around the F1 cockpits. Introduction of a layer of Kevlar to prevent monocoque intrusion.
2011. after Felipe Massa's freak accident in qualifying in Hungary, a new standard for helmets was introduced, which features a skin of two layers of carbon-fibre and one of Kevlar on top of the fireproof absorbent foam on the inside, and the addition of a strip of Zylon on the visor. It has a tensile strength 1.6 times higher than Kevlar and is said to make it essentially bullet proof.
2014: introduced penalty point system for drivers. If a driver accumulates more than 12 points he will be banned from the next race.

Jules Bianchi, best wishes5 October 2014, 25 year old MArusia driver Jules Bianchi suffered a "severe" head injury during Sunday's Japanese GP, when in heavy rain his car aquaplaned, left the track and ploughed into a CAT tractor recovery vehicle removing Adrian Sutil's Sauber, which had gone off at Turn 7 of the Suzuka circuit a lap earlier.

A statement from the FIA said that Sutil had spun and hit the tire barrier and "marshals displayed double waved yellow flags before the corner to warn drivers of the incident. A recovery vehicle was dispatched in order to lift the car and take it to a place of safety behind the guardrail. While this was being done the driver of car 17, Jules Bianchi, lost control of his car, travelled across the run-off area and hit the back of the tractor."

Bianchi, who was unconscious, was transported by ambulance to the Mie Prefectural General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi, 10 kilometers from the track.
A CT scan revealed that he had suffered a "severe" head injury and he underwent emergency surgery before being moved to ICU. He remains in ICU at the Mie Prefectural General Medical Centre having undergone surgery, and is in a "critical but stable" condition .
FIA head of communication Matteo Bonciani revealed that the Frenchman is in a "critical but stable" condition.
Few days later family of Jules Bianchi have issued an update on his condition and revealed that he suffered a diffuse axonal injury  and is regarded as "critical but stable". A diffuse axonal injury is not the result of a blow to the head, but rather is caused by the brain moving back and forth within the skull as a result of extreme acceleration or deceleration. The injury is very common in automobile accidents. The movement of the brain within the skull causes lesions to the brain tissues, which cause permanent damage to the brain.

My thoughts are with Jules and his family.

2114: After Jules Bianchi accident FIA imposed the 'virtual safety car' rule to ensure drivers slow for warning flags in certain incidents. That would mean drivers being limited to certain predetermined lap time in the event of an incident that would previously not have been regarded as needing a safety car. It is an extension of the system currently used when a safety car is deployed, when drivers have to slow down to a certain level while waiting for the safety car to pick up the leader.
Bianchi died on Friday night July 17 2015 at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in his hometown of Nice, nine months after suffering serious head injuries in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix. His funeral was held on Tuesday morning in his home town of Nice 21 July 2015, at Sainte Reparate Cathedral in Nice shortly after 10am local time.


Assuredly, at some point or other, circumstances in F1 will come together to kill again. We never know when that might be. You cannot make motor racing 100 percent safe. What has been achieved in F1 in the last 30 years is extraordinary, but we must never forget that every time a driver steps into the cockpit of a racing car, they are at risk. They accept that and, if not, they walk away. They have the choice. Big accidents still happen – and always will – but today the consequences are different. The drivers are unhurt after an accident that would have killed them 40 years ago. That has happened because of advancing technology and a willingness to learn and do things differently.


2016: F1 cars will feature increased safety measures this year after teams were tasked with increasing the height of the cockpit's side protection by 20mm and strengthening the area to withstand a force of 50 kilonewtons (up from 15 kilonewtons last year). In order to improve analysis of any accidents, drivers must now wear in-ear accelerometers during every session of a race weekend and all multi-team tests. Every car is equipped with a high-speed camera in front of driver, recording driver head movements.

 

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Books to read


Some useful links:

Technical
- f1technical.net, a great site with a lot of technical information’s and explanations. Site is updated daily with news from F1 word.

Autosport
 - autosport.com, This site is a legend. A bible for racing lovers. News from all around the word. Unfortunately, to get access to all news, interviews and to open the site completely you should be subscribed to Autosport magazine. Anyway, great read.

James Allen on F1
- JA.F1 site (or blog) ovned by ITV Sport’s lead commentator on Formula 1 James Allen

Joe Saward blog
- joesaward is the Joe Saward official blog about Formula 1 world. Joe is an journalist, who write primarily about politics in and around motorsport, specifically on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship

Vital F1
 - vitalf1.com/ is another great site for Motor Sports fan’s like me. Site is relatively new, but great fun, with great discussion forum, Formula 1 news and forum.

 GP update
- f1.gpupdate.net, Site with fresh news from Formula 1

Planet F1
 - planetf1, another site with many different articles, news and statistics. Biased toward British teams, but anyway good read.

Gurney flap
 - gurneyflap.com, Great history site. You can learn a lot from this site. Pictures, cars and many many more. Great.

4mula1
-
4ormula1 is a database of Formula 1 history and statistics of drivers, teams, grand prix, and all results since 1950

Racecar engineering
-Racecar Engineering, an online magazine with a lot to learn from, a lot of technical information’s and explanations

FIA
 - fia.com, La Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, representing the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users. Head organisation and ruler in auto sport.

Wikipedia
 - wikipedia.org, I don’t believe that I have to tell you anything about this site. It’s not about Formula 1 technology, but you can learn a lot about that too.

Sutton Images

grandprix photo

Carbibles
 - carbibles.com, a great site for normal car users. Here you can find explanations of almost everything about your car and how it works. Technical reviews and explanations of some in-car gadgets.

Dare To Be Different
- Daretobedifferent.org Susie Wolff and UK governing body of UK motorsport have joined forces to launch Dare To Be Different, a high-profile new initiative which is about increasing female participation, not just on the track but in all aspects of the sport.