Formula 1 drivers will have greater protection when in the cockpit after the FIA Institute announced a new side impact system which will be introduced next year. And JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan has given us his views.
After a year-long collaboration between four teams – McLaren, Mercedes, Marussia and Red Bull – and the FIA Institute, cars will feature a system designed to improve safety in angled impacts.
At the moment, crushable tube structures are attached to the side of the chassis to protect drivers from a side impact, but they can break off during oblique accidents, such as the one suffered by Robert Kubica in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
“I was in the meetings when it was all discussed in the Technical Working Group,” said JA on F1 technical adviser and former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan. “Andy Mellor, who is the FIA Institute’s research consultant, has done a very good job at listening to the teams and putting the FIA’s own ideas forward to come up with a solution.”
The new system is an evolution of the old one but uses carbon fibre structures fitted to each side of the car which do not shatter, instead progressively crushing down.
“When you had an oblique impact, sometime the structure would sheer off and we’re obviously very keen that that doesn’t happen,” added Gillan. “The structure needs to be very efficient in checking in and absorbing the impact. The video [below] shows that very clearly.
“A lot of work has gone into it because you have to make sure the change doesn’t negatively impact another part of the car. A lot of work has gone into it.”
During testing, structures were able to absorb nearly 40kJ of energy in both normal and oblique impact directions. The new system is likely to save teams money on crash tests because it will be integrated into the chassis and won’t require a separate impact test.