Bianchi accident influences changes in 2016 F1 car design

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The design regulations for the 2016 Formula one cars have remained relatively stable, however one apparently small but significant alteration has presented a number of challenges for the teams. The cockpit surrounding the helmet has been raised some 20 mm to increase protection for the driver’s head.

This change is the result of a report produced by the FIA following the Jules Bianchi crash. The actual FIA document remains secret, though TJ13 understands the recommendations are based on analysis which suggested the type of compression Jules Bianchi’s head suffered could be mitigated by such modifications.

The loading test the new component is required to pass has been increased from 15 kN to 50 KN and this is applied at 90 degrees to the vertical. However, a side benefit of this improved design also enormously improves the vertical structural rigidity of the cockpit surrounding the driver’s head. Combined with the incremental 20 mm raise of the cockpit side, the effect of this regulation would ensure, were the driver’s head forced down at high speed, that it is now better protected from the full compression effect which Bianchi faced.

Prior to Bianchi’s accident, these kind of forces had not been considered and the roll structures of Formula One cars were the primary consideration to protect a driver’s head. Despite this renewed focus on design safety, interestingly the point at which the cockpit rises from broadly the height of the steering wheel to surround the drivers head hasn’t been brought forward. However, the FIA proposed closed cockpit introductions for 2017 would further improve this aspect of safety, though now all will handle the loads Bianchi faced as his car flew into a wedge shaped object pressing his head downwards.

The ‘halo’ closed cockpit solution the drivers prefer provides the least protection in this scenario due to its lack of energy absorption characteristics.

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The obvious benefits of the new 2016 regulation are explained by Paddy Lowe in a video released by Mercedes. “It is a very significant increase. It is five tonnes of load that the chassis has to take sideways. It is intended to significantly increase the protection for the drivers should major pieces of debris, including a whole car, arrive at this point.”

Lowe admits this redesign has been a ‘big job’ because, “it is a very significant load increase. It is a matter of how you do it with the minimum intrusion to weight or aerodynamic surface. As always, everything is possible – it is how you do it in the best way.”

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19 responses to “Bianchi accident influences changes in 2016 F1 car design

    • Because it’s not a sport. It’s a business and in business, most of the things are kept secret.

  1. Is it likely to be a standard unit to be used by all cars? Or will each team be able to adapt them to give increased aerodynamic benefit? From the pictures it would seem that there is a small loss of vision ahead, which the drivers will soon get used to. More worrying is the restrictive side view from the cockpit, which could make overtaking more dangerous, especially for the leading vehicle.

  2. I’m sure I read somewhere that Bianchi’s helmet was completely untouched, it was simply the sheer deceleration that did the damage. I could be wide of the mark but it’s just something I’m convinced I’ve seen.

    Whilst I’m unconvinced the extra dimensions in themselves will have much effect in an accident, I think the stronger loading they must take will improve the safety of the survival cell as a whole overall.

    As for the head protection as shown in the Mercedes imagine, well… that just looks pure dangerous to me, I guess they’d make it insanely strong and mounted to the chassis extremely well, but it’s whole shape just looks like it’s going to cause more of a problem that solve them.

    • He suffered head trauma and given the use of the HANS device, it’s unlikely the deceleration would’ve caused that to happen. Both Sainz and Grosjean’s accident in Sochi were pretty similar and I’d I saw at much greater speed, but which both walked away from.

      • Was it head trauma or brain trauma? Brain trauma can occur without any direct impact to the head – the sudden deceleration literally causes the brain to smash into the inside of the skull. I’m sure any doctors here will correct me if I’m wrong.

        The HANS device actually protects the neck, not the head, specifically from whiplash but also more severe trauma, in the event of sudden deceleration.

        In both Sainz’ and Grosjean’s accidents, even if at higher speed, they hit deformable crash structures designed to increase the time of deceleration and thus reduce the maximum force. Granted that Grosjean slid under the structure, but I think it still helped. Bianchi, on the other hand, hit a fairly immovable tractor, thus maximising the force.

        • It protects both, Head and Neck support device.

          Also aren’t head and brain trauma basically the same thing?

          • Brain trauma can be caused when you drink too much.

            Head trauma can be caused when you face plant because you’ve drunk too much.

    • The photo doesn’t show real helmet damage, but it’s not a high resolution photo either. However, given the noticeable damage just prior to the cockpit, and that the aft damage has reduced the car well below the HANS device, it’s hard to imagine that there was no helmet impact.

  3. If they do go ahead with the enclosed cockpit then it will be another regulation that the FIA can stuff up and give control to the Car builders to make a hash off the same as the present Appendix 4 now.

  4. Without going into the palaver of the rest of the article – i.e. just addressing the the first para, second sentence, I’m certain Charlie will sleep easier at night knowing that 20mm will protect him from his future brain farts.
    And the guts of the matter is still a snecret……..

  5. Wouldn’t it to be better to have all cars behind the pace car and all cars just past the stranded car before any recovery equipment is allowed onto the track and all cars stopped if the recovery equipment is still on the track the next time around.

  6. Simple solution … TURN UP THE RPM and make the fuel cell bigger to allow for it!
    Why is extra weight and aero a problem? Because the dikheds at the FIA have regulated the output of the engines in a bid to lessen F1’s carbon footprint. WHAT A JOKE!!!
    If they allowed for more fuel / RPM and power to be used, weight would not be a disadvantage. The power to weight ratio can be changed quite simply if the need for more weight is seen to be imperative for safety.
    As for aero … teams would find another solution for that in no time at all via CFD and wind tunnel testing. They always do!
    I’m damn sure that using an extra 15-20 kilo’s of fuel per race is a much better way to ensure the validity of the driver’s-safety than compromising on safety to ensure F1 is politically correct and seen to be ‘going green’.
    This whole green push is nothing but ludicrous if it is going to cause safety regulations to be written around saving fuel. Especially when a few extra kilos of fuel being burned is not going to cause the polar caps to melt tomorrow, as some anxiety ridden global warming evangelists continue to warn us of!

    Here’s a solution for how to lessen ALL of humanity’s carbon footprint, of which the absolute majority is caused by pathetic, disgusting, greedy, selfish, money driven HUMANS …
    GET CVC TO JOIN OTHER MAJOR CORPORATONS AND INVEST IN PLANTING MILLIONS OF TREES … IMMEDIATELY!!!
    GATHER AND SEND 5 BILLION SIGNATURES TO THE UNTED NATIONS DEMANDING THEM TO PUT AN IMMEDIATE BLAKET-BAN ON ALL COUNTRIES CUTTING DOWN LARGE HEALTHY TREES and OLD-GROWTH FORESTS FOR PROFIT!
    Forests are what have always kept this planet alive. They have filtered and cleaned the air after comet impacts, volcanic eruptions etc etc etc. Otherwise we wouldn’t exist!!!
    Trees are the only thing which can begin to reverse the incredible damage we have done to the atmosphere and environment by burning fossil fuels.
    THE ANSWER IS DEFINITELY NOT SIMPLY TURNING DOWN THE REVS ON A CAR!!!

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