Safety Statistics demonstrate the FIA new #F1 pit lane regulations are monumentally absurd

Sometimes in life a good dose of perspective is required. The FIA have decided to ban all non-FOM media and TV people from the pit lane forthwith because a tyre came loose from a Red Bull car, bounced down the pit lane and injured an FOM TV cameraman.

Further, everyone must now wear helmets if they are working on the car at anytime they are present in the pit lane and official FOM TV crew must film from afar on the pit wall.

Interestingly those sat on the pit wall studying data screens with their backs to any high risk events out of sight are excluded from these regulations. These people are sat in a very dangerous location and historically the main reason for their presence was to operate a manual stopwatch as they viewed the cars passing by.

Granted, there is one other reason for the pit wall posse risking life and limb and that is should the pit to car radio fail there needs to be a man who can hold out board each time the teams drivers pass to give them information.

So let’s try to put the rampaging tyre event at the German GP and the subsequent FIA emergency regulations into some kind of perspective.

The UK has been consistently either the safest or in the top 2 safest nations in the world when it comes to road safety. The latest comparable international survey (that we have available from 2009) had the number of fatalities on the roads of Britain as 3.8 per 100,000 of population. This compares with 23.8 per 100,000 in Malaysia.

The UK numbers have fallen each year since then to 3.0 per 100,000 but we have no international comparisons.

Remember these are deaths we are measuring from normal people’s wandering around, minding their own business in their normal daily activities.

The last time we saw a rampant tyre on the loose injuring pit lane personnel was in 2010 exactly 3 seasons ago in Hungary. Mercedes had a similar problem to Red Bull and a tyre from Nico Rosberg’s car made a bid for freedom and hit an ex colleague of his from Williams, ‘big Nige’.

Nico had this to say. “After I heard my tyre hit big Nige, one of my old Williams truckies, I was more concerned about my tyre than him. But seriously its great he doesn’t have any serious injuries and I’m sorry for the incident”.

So in 57 races since this incident we have had 1 more tyre ‘flying free’ incident where someone has been injured. During that time there have been 12,236 tyres changed in race conditions during 3059 pit stops.

If we put this into per 100,000 as we have for UK road deaths, this gives us 8.17 pit lane injuries per 100,000 tyres changed in F1 – or 32.69 pit lane injuries per 100,000 cars pit stopped.

Now – there have been more pit stops at racing speed done than the above recorded race stops. These occur during testing and practice. TJ13 asked a team head mechanic how many of race simulated pit stops are done each race weekend and the answer was at least as many as occur during the race – and this excludes winter testing.

This would give us 4.8 pit lane injuries per 100,000 tyres changed compared to 3.0 road fatalities per 100,000 people each year in the UK. Yet some may argue these simulated race pit stops do not carry the same pressure as a race pit stop – so we’ll exclude all of these from our study.

However, we are being generous to F1 when comparing the risk factors. Road deaths verses pit lane injuries appears unfair. The latest road injury figures we have for the safest country in the world are from 2011. They show there were 37.29 serious road injuries per 100,000 population and 288.59 slight road injuries per 100,000 people.

The injuries suffered by our FOM camera man Paul Allen and Willaims truckie ‘big Nige’ are classified in the road safety statistics toward the upper end of ‘slight injuries’ and the lower end of ‘serious injuries’.

So what can we draw from this. Well from a scientific point of view we are comparing apples and heffalumps.

What we do know is that for the average person going about their daily business in the country with the safest road traffic injury statistics in the world, each year in every 100,000 people, 288.59 of them are injured going about their every day activities in a road traffic incident (2,308 per 100,000 in Malaysia).

Contrast this with people working in the highly dangerous pit lane in the world’s premier motor racing series. For every 100,000 pit stops (which will take about 98 years), 32.69 people will be injured by flying wheels.

Conclusion: The FIA road safety campaign is clearly a better focused activity in need of the Association and monsieur Todt’s urgent attention than is the the knee jerk regulations they have introduced to improve safety in the F1 pit lane.

26 responses to “Safety Statistics demonstrate the FIA new #F1 pit lane regulations are monumentally absurd

  1. So the TV coverage will now suffer because of the over-reaction to this incident….Brilliant move. I’m sure that everyone in the pit lane understands the risks and accepts them. I’m betting that the FIA will have a second look at this decision once the dust has settled.

  2. I wonder if there’s a stipulation on the actual “helmet” used??
    Could we see personnel using those helmets that the Tour de France guys used to wear years ago – those black ribbed soft ones (err.. I hope I am describing them properly). That would be funny.
    Is there any chance that these rules will be withdrawn if there is enough public outcry? If not, and its a fait de compli, then we are wasting our breath (and touch typing) discussing it :'(
    I did like the close up shots of the cars during the pit stops – surely Bernie will see that this continues, otherwise it is affecting the broadcast of his product…

    • “Could we see personnel using those helmets that the Tour de France guys used to wear years ago – those black ribbed soft ones (err.. I hope I am describing them properly).” == ‘hairnet’ helmet…

  3. I disagree. For once I think FIA is doing the right thing. I don’t think it is necessary for a cameraman to risk his health or even life so I can see the pimples on Paul di Resta’s face during a pitstop. With teams employing two hundred eleventy people during pitstops the pitlane is too crowded in the first place already without cameramen standing around. The pitwall is another thing. They should have one person doing the head honcho and one for holding out the sign – more are not neccessary. The less people, the less chance of someone getting hit – it’s that simple.
    The 24hr races at Le Mans and the Nürburgring service a multitude of teams for an entire day without people being put in grave danger. They must be doing something right. Reduce pitcrew sizes and get everyone else the feck out of the pitlane and the problem is mainly solved.

    • I don’t agree with you that the FIA is doing the right thing – but only because I am so tired of nannying and knee-jerk regulations – which are very rarely ever rescinded…! – But I do totally agree there are just too many people in the pit-lane (both workers, and hangers-on) – and far too little discipline amongst many of them.

  4. Safety! Safety! Run for your life!
    What a joke, maybe they should first take a look at the equipment of the team that’s known to lose a tyre or two, before they cry “women and children first!”.

  5. Re. ” ….. So in 57 races since this incident we have had 1 more tyre ‘flying free’ incident where someone has been injured. During that time there have been 12,236 tyres changed in race conditions during 3059 pit stops. … ”

    I think that the risk is much less than you calculate.

    The reason is that to calculate risk you should not start with the dangerous event in 2010 and count from there until last weekend, but instead you should start from as early as data is available.

    I do agree however with the suggestion (possibly in an earlier discussion on this blog) by someone else that there should be more unmanned remotely operated cameras placed around the pit and the circuit.

    • Sorry PK – are you saying the risk in the pit lane is even smaller ie less dangerous?

      Anyway, to give some context.. It just doesn’t happen very often. Before 2010 I don’t remember the last time – hence why I selected that period because we have 2 events over a defined timescale.

      The kind of study you mention is for someone with all the data to hand – and more than a couple of hours to write it up.

      What I can tell you is the last F1 death from a tyre making a break for freedom was in 2001 in Australia – and not in the pit lane, it was following a crash on track – Villeneuve if I remember.

      So in fact – the risk of death by a tyre in an F1 pit lane is infinitesimal small – and definitely less risky than life is for the average person wandering the streets of Britain.

      • Yes, I am saying the risk is possibly much much smaller/lower than you calculated.

        In other words, doing the calculation in the way you did, you overestimated the danger.

        • I agree. That was deliberate, I couldn’t be bothered fighting statistical arguments all day.

          As I said in a previous comment, we have no pit lane deaths due to unsecured tyres to my memory in modern times.

  6. The ironic thing of all is that this guy was looking away. Had he seen the tyre moving towards him, he’d have moved away and none of this would happen. It’s a bit like going to Europe and looking the wrong way when trying to cross the road. Could they not just tell them to always look around them? Do not film away from the action?

    Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the incident on video so I may be completely harsh and wrong here.

    • Yes, the guy was looking away. A number of other people jumped out of the way, before finally the wheel hit something on the ground (possibly a camera belonging to another cameraman who jumped out of the way) and got deflected upwards to hit Paul Allen.

      The video which shows this clearly was shot by a fan, but has now been taken down by Youtube following “a copyright claim” by FOM.

      • The tyre hit an air gun and bounced off it into the air, otherwise it would have just carried on rollong along: if they banned unattended air guns [the mechanics run out of the pit carrying them] then the accident will never happen again.

  7. How about “encouraging” the teams to actually attach the wheels properly? Disqualification from the race and a 2 race ban would be a decent incentive I think. Thats for both cars, not just the 1 which lost the wheel. The ban doubles each time for repeat offenders

    • …Kevin, I used to have a colleague like you….he was known as ‘the hanging judge’.

      His name suggests the penalties he offered were harsh, yet not only would he ‘ave em hung’ – but then he sentenced their dead bodies to be locked up forever and the key thrown away too 🙂

      Seriously, I feel a bit like you do. The drivers and teams are a shambles at present and should sort out their s^%t in a whole host of areas.

      I have no sympathy for their excuses for failing to fit a tyre and would definitely deduct a chunk of championship points – it then would just not happen.

      • Judge, your friend sounds like my sort of guy 🙂

        We are human so will make mistakes however we take more care when there are potentially more serious consciences. a 30k fine to an F1 team is nothing. Losing 3 races worth of points both in championship positions and terms of prize money is a far better incentive to take care

          • Ah well then – that changes everything.

            Court rules: The tyre is reprieved from being driven to destruction around the Nurburgring.

            1 days leave granted. Contact address, Garage 22, pit lane row, Nurburg.

  8. In your calculations on the pit-lane injury stats did you allow for all the team personnel involved in each stop and also count them for each stop?

    • It merely looks at the number of incidents of flying wheels hitting someone, regardless of the population of the area.

      It is based on a full racing stop being 1 risk incident.

  9. In something as complex and highly advanced as F1 can they not design sensors around the wheels that cut the engine if the car after being stationary goes to move without all tyres securely attached?

  10. I cannot see that the new FIA regs have “improved” safety in the pit lane, What they have done is knocked a few thousand off the multi-million pound, dollar, whatever currency that they may be hit with, if a person not directly involved with the action gets put in a wheelchair for life! (it’s probably cheaper to kill a third party) The disclaimers that people such as photographers doing a job required by their employer or as self employed sign, are not worth the paper they are written on, except that if accompanied by other positive actions such as banning people from potentially dangerous places, they may reduce the cost of a successful claim.

    • The ironic thing is that to go ‘trackside’ photographers have to take out £5M public liability insurance, so surely there must exist a mirror-image liability insurance for the photographers to claim from.

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