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Video: F1 tests safety roll hoop

2012-04-30 08:44

FRONT SAFETY HOOP: The FIA hopes to install front safety hoops on F1 cars to prevent accidents such as the one suffered by Felipe Massa in 2009. We can't help wonder about driver visibility though...


LONDON, UK - Traditional Formula 1 fans who believe the 2012 step-nosed cars look odd may have to take a deep breath before considering the latest safety concept being tested by the sport's governing body.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said it had tested a forward roll hoop, a metal structure placed right in front of the driver, as part of new measures being assessed to increase cockpit safety.

F1 cars have a hoop behind the driver to protect the head in the event of the car rolling over but one positioned forward would guard against a frontal blow to the helmet caused by a bouncing tyre or debris.


The FIA has been considering various radical ideas, including jet fighter-style canopies, since Ferrari's Felipe Massa suffered a near fatal head injury after being hit by a bouncing spring during the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

In 2009 British driver Henry Surtees, son of former F1 champion John, was killed after being struck on the head by a loose wheel in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch.

The FIA Institute published a video (here) showing a test of a titanium front roll hoop, made and supplied by the Lotus F1 team, at an airfield in eastern England.

A 20kg wheel and tyre was fired at the hoop at 225km/h by a cannon powered by compressed nitrogen.

The FIA said: "Shielding their (drivers') heads from debris and impacts is now, arguably, the most critical area in single-seater safety research.

"The increase in cockpit side protection in the 1990s marked a substantial stride forward, but the life-threatening injuries suffered by (Massa and Surtees)...highlighted the potentially horrific effects that flying debris can still have," the FIA sai.d


The FIA has already tested a canopy, which flexed but stayed intact, and a windshield, which deflected the wheel but shattered, with the same equipment.

FIA Institute technical adviser Andy Mellor: "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."

"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," added Mellor.

The FIA recognised that a front roll hoop would "mark a dramatic visual departure" from the cars fans were familiar with at present.

Drivers would also need reassuring that their sightlines would not be impeded by the structure and more research was needed.

Any final decision on any of the measures would be up to the sport's rule makers, in the case of Formula One the FIA's technical working group, and was still some way off.

Watch the FIA safety test below:

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