FIA tests ‘front roll hoop’ to evaluate F1 safety improvement

2012 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The FIA has tested a front-mounted roll hoop in an effort to improve safety in single-seater racing cars.

The video above shows a test of a roll hoop mounted in front of a driver’s helmet to protect them from objects striking the front of the car.

A trial was commissioned in response to the accidents including that which claimed the life of Henry Surtees in Formula Two in 2009, and Felipe Massa’s injuries in the Hungarian Grand Prix the same year.

In the test, a wheel and tyre assembly weighing 20kg was fired at the roll hoop, supplied by Lotus, to test how well it could protect the driver from such debris.

FIA institute technical adviser Andy Mellor told the FIA’s IQ magazine: “The roll-hoop basically did a very good job. It was able to keep a wheel away from the 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.”

Mellor added: “At this stage it’s almost pure research, which we need if we’re to understand what the loads are in such impacts. We’re not at all looking at final solutions as such.”

The Formula One Working Group will consider the outcomes of the test. Maintaining good visibility would be an obvious problem with such a solution.

The FIA previously tested jet fighter-style canopy for the same purpose.

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74 comments on “FIA tests ‘front roll hoop’ to evaluate F1 safety improvement”

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  1. Ummm…won’t this massively impair the drivers vision, which must be a huge safety risk in it’s own right??

    1. Ummm…. Didn’t make it to the final sentence of the article?

      “Maintaining good visibility would be an obvious problem with such a solution.”

      My, aren’t they clever folk, they’ve already thought of that.

    2. Oh dear. and you thought the current generation of F1 cars were fugly, just wait till they implement this. I’m hoping for a better more asthetic solution.

      1. Because we all know looks are more important than safety…

        1. Errr, yes, they are. Otherwise F1 would not exist…

    3. Or they could just simply allow jet canopy style protection for the drivers as option.It would look awesome,and i bet it would be safer than this abomination.Drivers can barely see as it,this is the last thing they need.Looks like it’s being made by the ACME corporation,for one of Wile E. Coyote’s attempts on the roadrunners life.

      1. I agree that jet canopy would be safer, but a lot of people want to be able to see the driver’s helmet. I guess that’s why they’re testing this “front roll hoop” solution.

        1. Paint a portion of the jet canopy – complete with branding etc., like a helmet is at the moment.

          1. I’m not sure it’s only about the colors or the driver identification. The color of a roll-hoop camera could serve this purpose just as well. But I think that seeing how the driver reacts is a bigger factor. We can see whether or not he’s looking in his mirrors or observing an opponent, we can see his hands when he gestures towards the crowd and other drivers, etc.

          2. The drivers could have air con for places such as Bahrain, Malaysia……

        2. From earlier tests they did with those fighter canopies it opens up a whole load of new problems @kimster381, not just the aspect mentioned by @maroonjack.

          First of all, jet-fighter canopies are flexible enough, but that also means there’s a risk of objects hitting them getting launched up in the air and into the grandstands.
          And it would impair a driver’s exit out of the cockpit in case of fire, currently its timed to be possible within only a couple of seconds, with a canopy that would be reliant on some sort of escape latch (you could certainly not eject out of an F1 car, or eject the canopy away on track).

          Surely the aspect of being “open wheel, open cockpit” is important, but its not the most important thing. I think its great they test what options there are and what effects do they have before agreeing on a solution.

          1. Yes,there are things to consider but let’s address your concerns.
            First of all in a case of freak accident it seem better to me that the object deflect’s from canope then the drivers head.Let’s take Felipe Massa case as example.I doubt that the roll hoop would be that effective.Even further,roll hoop is effective against object only in certain angles.
            Secund.Impairing driver exit is something that could be said about the seat belt to.Seat belt can get stuck to.
            Third.I’m sure that technically it’s not that hard to develop a safe release mechanism for the canopy.If F1 has something,it’s smart engineers.
            To make the long story short,roll hoops are stoopid,ineffective,and ugly.Nuff said.

      2. Jet canopy can be a problem if after impact, it gets stuck.
        Worst case scenario : driver unconscious, canopy stuck and car in fire…

        So, the canopy could be more dangerous than this front roll hoop.

        1. That’s a good point. But you can also easily use that same argument for seat belts.

          I prefer the jet canopy to this. The role hoop may not have helped prevent Massa’s accident. Jet canopies can be made clear and anti-reflection so everyone can still see the drivers. Electric tints can be used to block sunlight at evening races. Small holes can be drilled so drivers can hear the surroundings. And yes perhaps cool air can be circulated to help reduce driver’s fatigue.

        2. @arhn Let me get that straight.Driver is unconscious,canopy stuck,car on fire.Well let’s begin with the fact that the driver is unconscious.Canopy could be welded shut,not stuck.It wouldn’t make any difference,driver is unconscious to begin with,his not getting out by him self.To approach him marshals need to put out the fire anyway.So it makes no difference if it’s canopy or roll hoop,fire needs to be put out anyhow.Canopy could be mounted the same way as the head rest,never heard of a head rest getting suck before.If the driver is unconscious,then the canopy is already compromised and in pieces,nothing to get stuck really,me thinks.

  2. Looking at the slow motion footage, it would clear the driver’s head but I’m not sure it would miss the roll hoop? If it didn’t, could it bounce off and hit the driver’s head anyway?

    1. I was thinking the same. I would put the roll bar over the head which would protect the head and neck from bouncing wheels, not only from frontal impact. Young Henry Surtees died sadly from bouncing wheel.

      1. FlyingLobster27
        25th April 2012, 14:30

        Agreed, this wouldn’t have saved Surtees and, while it could have altered what happened to Massa, it may not have been for the best if the spring struck the inside of the hoop.
        Also, I side with the first comment; teams have had aero appendages (like BMW Sauber’s “twin towers”) banned for impairing vision less than a roll hoop would.

      2. Thinking the same thing about the bounce back. But putting a roll bar/cage/anything over the driver’s head would bring about the problem of extraction.

        The driver not only needs to be able to exit the car very quickly in case of fire (fireman Kovalainen as the best example), but there must also be a way to quickly and safely extract the driver in case of injury, which they can currently do but with a rollbar above the head that may prove more difficult.

    2. The rollover hoop could only really protect the driver from a rear impact from debris, and obviously there is the extraction problem if they chose to enclose the driver as previously stated.
      The fact is, racing can never be 100% safe, there will always be a risk and without that risk racing wouldn’t be exciting

    3. That was my thinking @rokb23

      1. Eject capsule would be the solution :). We are obviously very serious about our F1 passion when we think so deeply about this kind of problems. I’m in love in F1 but of course loosing a young human’s life is even more important than anything, so I guess a solution for this problem is a very tough call.

  3. Noooooo not roll hoops!!! That would be tragic for F1. And besides, was there any point in testing this anyway?

    1. While it might look ugly, a death in F1 and the hurried incorporation of roll-hoops afterwards would be even more tragic.

  4. I hope they don’t implement roll hoops in the future.

  5. Looks to me – judging by the angles of the hoop, the direction of launch and the angle of the wheel – that the test was arranged to give the best possible outcome.

    Presumably they’ll also be testing for oblique strikes and side strikes and upside down strikes… and to test with wheels at various angles, spinning wheels and wheels with various kinds of suspension arm attachments.

    1. @marlarkey They tested from more than one angle, as it says in the article.

      1. Yes it says frontal and from an angle but multiple angles would be ideal – the video on shows the frontal test so it would be nice to see multiple tests.

        Given relevant cases – Surtees, Massa, Senna, Perez, Weldon, etc – it would be good to see the tests simulating those conditions (eg bouncing wheels, spinning wheels, debris, upside down cars, fencing/walls/tyres, etc).

  6. This looks really weird – that “jet-fighter style canopy” was, in my opinion, far better and safer – as with this setup there is a potential of bouncing between the roll hoop behind the pilot and this hoop. The jet-fighter canpoy can be modified for better cooling performance without loosing the protection it gives as i guess that was a concern when those tests occured.

    Of course racing will never be 100% safe.

    1. +1.
      I would like to see something similar to Adrian Newey’s X2010 from GT5 with the jet-fighter style canopy, minus the closed wheels obviously.

      1. @brad-ferrari I too would love to see that, along with the X2010’s ground-effect aero :)

    2. Racing will be 100% safe in future @maldikons …drivers will use simulators back at the factory which will control their cars remotely..
      The tracks will be contained within tunnels of transparent, shatter-proof shielding..
      Podium celebrations will be broadcast to the track by teleconferance which will mitigate against the risk of slipping on spilt champagne off your podium step..
      Drivers will only meet each other or fans at organised press conferances.

      That’s the F1 of the future..

      1. @mw – if that ever happened (which it won’t) no-one would watch formula 1..

  7. The video show obvious benefits. What about revisting the clear perspex type of rollover hoop? Even if in three seperate plains vision wouldn’t be distorted as one might expect from a rounded tapered shape. Then again you might as well address an entire covering of the cockpit area for maximum protection. It would look cooler than hell too.

  8. I’m always surprised by the closed mindedness and resistance when it comes to safety innovations, or at the very least, the exploration of them.

    Yes, it has been a long time since an F1 driver was killed, but in other open wheeled classes, like with Surtees, it still happens. Remember when Senna & Ratzenberger were killed the general feeling was that F1 had advanced so far that it was unlikely to see a death again. People got complacent.

    Let’s look at this from another perspective. What current safety regulation do you believe makes F1 today worse off? I can’t think of one and I guarantee you that when many of the new regulations were suggested someone said, “You can’t make racing 100% safe. What are they doing to our wonderful sport? What are they trying to accomplish? This will be tragic for the sport!”

  9. They were talking about a closed cockpit solution as well weren’t they? Maybe this would form a part of that ?

  10. Is this worth reporting, you wouldn’t need to test ‘that if you place a barrier in front of an object it will deflect something’. If they test a useable solution and it has some merit then that would be news. .. I would fix one of the latest super soft tyres in the same place, at least it might serve some purpose there.

    1. @jpowell Given the seriousness of the accidents in 2009 and the strength of feeling over the initial solution that was being investigated (canopies) I think yes, this is absolutely a subject worth covering.

      1. My view is that the fault is with issuing a statement and a video showing a construction any of us could come up with ,but woudn’t because it is unuseable. I am all for safety and would applaud a breakthrough development and will be delighted when you report it.

        1. I disagree with “any of us could come up with”. I’m certainly not in a place to answer questions about what material the hoop should be made from, the design of the struts, what strength/cross section it would need to be, how high it needs to be to deflect a wheel away, what types of strikes it would protect against (eg angles, energies, etc).

          The video shown is only a fairly rudimentary test but I assume that the engineers are not dumb enough to do only do one test – I assume they have/are testing a whole range of scenarios, constructions, materials, etc to do a proper engineering analysis.

          1. Why show a video of an unuseable item fixed to an immovable surface in a position far to much foward of the drivers head to be even vaguely credible. This does not come close to realty and seems an insult to the intelligence . I worry that if this display is considered to be worth the obvious total waste of time and money that they might even consider my original idea worth a test.

          2. @jpowell because those of us who understand research will see that they are following a scientific process by eliminating variables. The best method, initially, is always to test one thing at a time. Start by testing the simplest, most ideal, case and then move on.

  11. Slightly off topic but sort of about roll hoops. When F1 goes to turbos in 2014 will the airbox be removed with just a roll hoop in its place as per turbo F1 cars from the 80s?

  12. It’s excellent that FIA are looking at this, but I hope they’ve also got the budget to look at all sorts of other things regarding safety that haven’t just been highlighted by accidents. I like to see a calm and thought-out approach rather than a knee-jerk botch-job. IMO, F1 is at a point where if the worst happens we won’t feel the need to scramble about afterwards as if there’s an emergency problem, but I’d feel much better still if the FIA were employing professionals to back that opinion up.
    The pinnacle of motorsport safety is not necessarily a 100% safety record, but to be in the position where if a driver gets hurt, we can genuinely put it down to very bad luck and not feel that there’s anything worth changing given the low risk. Until we get to that point, the FIA are right to keep the research going and introduce calm improvements over time; kinda like a development program for safety, rather than performance.

  13. what a joke a bad one

  14. I think the problem remains that the two solutions that we know the FIA have been looking into (or at least the two I know) are this and jet-style canopies, but both pose issues.

    The roll-hoop is far more displeasing to the eye than the step-noses we are seeing this year in F1, and as many have stated, it would impair the driver’s view and that potentially creates more problems. It also doesn’t solve the problem of smaller parts, like the spring that hit Massa, because it’s small enough to get through the large area between the poles.

    The jet-style canopies look like the better option in terms of overall safety of flying objects. However, it still has issues, as it would cause problems if the car caught on fire, and restricted the driver from exiting the vehicle as quickly as possible. It also means that wet weather driving would no longer be a part of racing, because the driver’s visibility would be severely impaired, and I doubt that F1 is about to implement window-wipers.

    I think that the solution is still out there, and it’s good to see that the FIA are taking steps in the right direction, and hopefully the solution can be found soon that will support the best of both worlds.

  15. Apologies for this joke, but we need force fields. Result of too many hours watching Star Trek.

    1. From the other end oif the Holywood spectrum. Ben Hur chariot wheel spikes too!!!

      Does anyone think the timing of this release is fascinating?

  16. With a front roll hoop like that, a driver getting hit at the angle Surtees was would still be dead. But you really have to consider, this test is just to get some data. Data about loads and loads related to angle of the used tubes.

    All in all, I favor a compromise between jet-canopy and hoop. Something like a helmet cage around the cockpit – you would have kind of a-pillars, but it would still be open. For sure it would have to be very light so it could easily be removed by the driver. There was a picture of that kind of frame in an issue of Racecar Engineering about 2 years ago…

  17. As I said for the new Indycar and it’ll work for F1 & every other form of Openwheel racing too. Sprint/Midget cars that we have here in the USA/Canada (they have ’em in Australia too, not sure about UK/Europe) have the perfect driver protection roll structure.

    First is a good close-up image of one. Second image shows the wire screen “Rock Guard” that the first one doesn’t have. Third image shows driver exiting through the top of the cage.

    Something like that could easily (and I think stylishly) be adapted to work in F1.

    1. Or maybe something along the lines of a Top Fuel Dragster style cockpit.

      Here is a video showing a shot of the rollbar setup

      The car in that video doesn’t have the windscreen installed currently but here are pictures of that.

      1. A cage like that wouldn’t work on a formula 1 car, there would be no means of exit. I think the jet fighter canopy would be the most credible solution, since it gives complete coverage or possibly a similar idea to the cage but obviously attached in a similar way to the cockpit lining so it can be removed

        1. They would exit from those two cage types the same way they exit from them in those racecars that already have them.

          A Canopy would provide nothing but more chances for something to go wrong and the driver to die. Be it the car upside down on fire (can’t open the canopy), or the latches stick and you burn/suffocate to death.

          As seen many times in F1 as well as other forms of openwheel racing those Cockpit surrounds don’t always release when they should. Such as shown in this video.

          Had that been a canopy that malfunctioned like the surround did then she would’nt be alive today.

  18. Whilst I am all in favour of safety “improvements”, let us not forget that motorsport is, by definition, a dangerous sport. There are risks to be cognisant of if you partake of such sports.

    Let us not turn the F1 cars into stock cars to appease those with the “Nanny State”, health and safety requirements.

    To be over protective, would be tantamount to issuing a maximum height of say ten feet to prevent sky divers from getting seriously injured.

  19. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    25th April 2012, 21:23

    I can imagine a fighter-style polycarbonate cockpit coming to F1 sooner rather than later. I imagine it would look very similar the the RBR X1 that Newey designed for Grant Turismo 5.

    1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
      25th April 2012, 21:24


      1. Not a bad idea imho. Look at the whole Deltawing Indycar concept, now going to Le mans with a 2 seat version. The whole idea was to replicate current Indy speeds with half or less horsepower through low drag. If F1 is serious about improving road cars etc. then a lower drag route would allow the aero guys to research stuff actually relevant to road cars, i.e. how to reduce drag. Newey’s X2010 in GT5 would reduce drag by enclosing the wheels and having the closed cockpit. The front wheels at least were ‘open’ from the main body of the car so you could tell striaght away it was a single seat race car, like a F1 car.

        That seems the most logical way forward for safer and more efficient racing, with a fighter style canopy and wheel covers, and I reckon the X2010 looked awesome – certainly better than step noses…

  20. I feel mean for criticising anything to do with safety but this just seems a bit unnecessary to me. I’m aware of the type of accident Massa had, and a bad one it was, but this would just look silly above all.

    What bothers me is where does it stop? I think travelling 200mph in a shell of a car is pretty much where 90% of the problem lies.

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