The FIA’s latest efforts to improve safety have seen motorsport’s governing body develop software that makes it possible to simulate accidents at individual corners.
Last year, Formula 1 witnessed one of its most horrific accidents in recent times when Romain Grosjean crashed on the opening lap of the Sakhir Grand Prix.
His Haas speared into the Armco barrier at Turn 3, split in two and burst into flames.
The Frenchman miraculously climbed from the burning wreckage having suffered only burns to his hands and a torn tendon.
Grosjean’s accident destroyed that section of Armco barrier, with track officials using concrete blocks to rebuild it ahead of the restart.
One week later, that was replaced by a new Armco barrier as well as two rows of tyres for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
There has been debate over whether Armco barriers were the correct safety structure to use, while others have questioned the angle of the barrier.
The FIA has revealed it uses software to help determine the right course of action.
The FIA’s Auto magazine explains that “the FIA’s circuit simulation software uses a virtual car model to predict the speed and trajectory should a loss of control occur at any point on the track, thus determining the optimum design and choice of barrier for all corners and run-off areas.
‘This software enables circuit designers to understand the angle at which any impact may occur at each corner, ensuring they select the best type of barrier to manage the energy during an accident and minimise the forces transmitted to the driver.”
A huge impact for last year's Monza winner on Sunday
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 6, 2020
That software played a role in Charles Leclerc walking away from his high-speed accident at Monza’s Parabolica corner.
The Ferrari driver went shooting off the circuit at 210km/h, his crash into the barrier recorded at 32G.
“But the fact he walked away unscathed was no accident,” read the Auto magazine report.
“Using video analysis, the impact angle was determined to be 27 degrees. The type and placement of the barrier was pre-determined by the FIA using simulation software, to ensure the energy of an impact at this angle could be successfully managed to prevent injury to the driver.”
Car sensors are also helpful in determining what can be done to improve safety.
— Peter Leung (@BaronVonClutch) September 13, 2020
“The use of real-world accident cases is at the heart of all the FIA’s work in accident prevention and injury mitigation, from using instrumentation to collect data from the cars and drivers, to analysing that data and using it to develop solutions.
“Take, for instance, Racing Point driver Lance Stroll’s accident during last year’s Tuscan Grand Prix. He suffered a puncture at the high-speed right-hander of Turn 9 at the Mugello Circuit and collided head-on with the barrier.
“While only one camera caught the accident, the FIA was able to piece together exactly what happened to the car and driver using an array of on-car sensors and data logging systems.
“Post-race analysis using information from the onboard Accident Data Recorder (ADR) showed Stroll lost control at 270km/h and impacted the barrier at 97km/h. The ADR data also showed a peak car deceleration of 19G, with the impact angle into the barrier determined to be 48 degrees.
“Using this data can help researchers understand how the passive safety structures of the car and the driver’s safety equipment are performing, enabling them to more fully understand the limits concerning the driver’s tolerance to injury.”