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

2012 F1 season

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

  1. Robin Evers (@robin-evers) said on 25th April 2012, 19:32

    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…

  2. Fisha695 (@fisha695) said on 25th April 2012, 20:21

    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.

  3. Sempai (@sempai) said on 25th April 2012, 20:42

    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.

  4. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate) said on 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.

    • Todd (@braketurnaccelerate) said on 25th April 2012, 21:24


      • clay (@clay) said on 25th April 2012, 23:38

        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…

  5. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 25th April 2012, 21:32

    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.

  6. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 25th April 2012, 22:07

    Nice coincidence that this was published on Felipe Massa’s birthday. I’m pleased to see FIA have followed through their research after all the cries of “something must be done” back in 2009, and not too hastily.

    It does look like a roll hoop from the 80s though! The driver is probably focusing a long way down the track and hardly notices it, but surely the technology’s available to make it smaller and less obstructive.

    And if these structures can offer any sort of protection against the sort of accident Dan Wheldon suffered then it’s got to be worth investigating. If lairy manoeuvres like Rosberg’s are ruled ok and therefore encouraged, there’ll be more risk of F1 cars getting airborne.

  7. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 25th April 2012, 23:08

    I think FIA learned their approach from Bernie: first you introduce your outrageous idea (canopies) and then you propose something so ridiculous (front roll hoops) that makes your original idea not bad at all…

  8. Eggry (@eggry) said on 26th April 2012, 2:14

    Oh ****, they’re making fighter canopy looks better idea!!

  9. Scalextric (@scalextric) said on 26th April 2012, 2:59

    This version is just to measure the impact loads. A less intrusive, better engineered version would follow. Newey’s version would use some aero voodoo to massively increase downforce.

  10. nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 26th April 2012, 9:24

    To be honest I think the cars are safe enough as it is.. Yes what happened to Henry and massa was tragic and unfortunate but with out trying to give the wrong impression here.. They were freak accidents :/

    That’s the risk you take when going into open wheel (and cockpit) racing.. I’m sure every driver is fully aware of the risks before deciding to enter the sport.

    I’m all for safety in F1 and motorsport, but there’s only so much you can do before ruining it and removing the ‘dangers’ and excitement that Motorsport is. As someone mentioned it a comment above.. Before we know it’ll be remote controlled cars, and they’ll be introducing 30mph speed zone sectors :/

    • Mads (@mads) said on 26th April 2012, 14:06

      I actually don’t think they were freak accidents.
      Just in the past 2 years we have seen several cars drive on top of each other.
      When Liuzzi climbed Schumacher’s car in Abu Dhabi 2010. Had Liuzzi hit at a different angle he could have hit Schumacher right in the head.
      Another in Melbourne 2010 where a car drove right across the front of another. Had that been a little closer the driver below would have been decapitated.
      Again with the HRT and Lotus IRRC, in Monaco 2010 where the HRT parked on top of the Lotus.
      Those things do happen relatively often.
      The accidents that had led to a driver suffering from a head injury has been rare, but I don’t doubt that it is just a matter of time before a F1 is killed or seriously injured by a similar accident.
      Also with the recent record of drivers dying in other racing series, Dan Wheldon for one. That was on an oval, yes, but there is catch fences on F1 spec race tracks as well. It could happen, one day. And I don’t want to see that.
      If the drivers were protected wouldn’t make F1 worse.
      Did HANS make F1 worse?
      The high cockpit sidewalls?
      The seatbelt?
      Racing is dangerous yes, but why shouldn’t we make it less dangerous?
      Driving on the road is also dangerous, but should we ignore that as well because its the nature of objects going along at high speeds among others?
      F1 survived when Mercedes enclosed the wheels on the W196.
      F1 survived when they introduced crash helmets.
      F1 is surely going to survive with the introduction of some sort of front roll hoop, or canopy solution.
      It will make F1 different, sure, but isn’t that the point about this sport?
      But the drivers are NOT going to survive if they are hit in the head by a loose wheel or a piece of ballast dropped from another car with today’s safety.

      • nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 27th April 2012, 8:11

        You are right in what you’re saying yes.. As for cars driving on top of each other.. Isnt that why we now have the new ugly front ends..? As for helmets, hans and seatbelt and so on well that’s just basic needs and basically requirements in EVERY form of motor sport.

        Given this accidents happened 10-20 years ago we would have most certainly seen a far worse outcome so that goes to show how safe these cars really are. I’m just saying theres only so much you can do before they may as well be remote controlled..

        It’s like the army being issued with ‘iron man’ styled suits, it’s never going to happen and will never be 100% safe..

        Power boat racing are canopied but we still see deaths :/

        It’s unfortunately just a risk you must be willing to take when entering the sport :/

      • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 28th April 2012, 8:27

        @mads – those problems were mostly in 2010/11 with high noses, that problem has been fixed (to an extent – it will be even more so when the turbos return) now with the step. Debris is the main problem, and I agree that it should be fixed; the only problem now is what with.
        Personally I think jet fighter cockpit as that could be reasonably easily adapted to F1 needs & requirements and also could result in an aerodynamic development too.

  11. Andy (@turbof1) said on 26th April 2012, 11:07

    If they really want to protect the head they should go the more elegant way and enclose the cockpit with a transparent shield; the ones like in with airjets or the Red Bull X1 prototype. Much safer too.

  12. mark (@markp) said on 26th April 2012, 13:36

    How abour a wrap around screen. Car would still be open topped and it would be a bit retro as would be a higher version of those on 60’s F1 cars.

  13. rdpunk (@) said on 26th April 2012, 14:08

    Unfortunatly F1 will never be 100% safe and credit for them trying to make it safe but this solution wouldn’t cut it. Accidents do happen and there is no way to stop it. This front role hoop seems logical yeah, something that will deflect a tyre, but a suspension? A bolt? A wheel nut? For me, this solution is only tailored for tyres and as I said, it’s a good idea it just doesn’t fit many criteria.

    On another note, the fighter jet style cockpit seemed the best solution for me. It solved the problem of flying debrie without hindering the drivers visability. I know therefor it wouldn’t be open cockpit and rain might be a problem but I’d rather if a solution was to come in it would be this than say the front role hoop or a big snow plow with a gap in it so the driver could see through, although would make fighting from the back of the grid easier.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 28th April 2012, 8:35

      @rdpunk – I don’t think that opening the cockpit would be too much of a problem, you could just have some fasteners as they do with the cockpit lining or a hinge of sorts or even a hammer to smash it in an emergency.
      As for the rain problem, what do they do on fighter jets when they encounter storms? I’m not sure, but if they gave it a water repellant coating I don’t think there’d be much of a problem (drivers still have to be able to see out of their visors when it’s raining)

  14. Giggsy11 (@giggsy11) said on 29th April 2012, 0:41

    What i dont understand about this test is that it hardly clears half the danger let alone all of it, a front roll hoop like this would one obscure a huge amount of the driver’s vision and plus smaller objects such as a string could still get through to the helmet. Whats the point putting this on if its not going to provide 99-100% safety and look completely hideous on the cars, im all for driver safety but isnt it obvious by now that they either have to pursue the ‘jet canopy’ styled design or keep it how it is. F1 safety has come a long way since even 20 years ago so the chance of something hitting a drivers head is getting increasingly slim the further technology advances anyway.

  15. Guy Pendlebury said on 29th April 2012, 4:33

    I know I am going to be the odd one out here, but I believe there SHOULD be danger involved – I’ve been watching F1 for a very long time and I have never seen any injuries that have come about by the driver’s head being hit by flying wheels, let alone a death.
    If there have been no injuries or deaths from this sort of impact, why spend millions developing this?
    Yes there have been marshalls (at Monza & Albert Park) that have died from wheels separating from the car – but as someone else has pointed out, this “hoop” or even a jet style canopy would magnify the risk of marshalls and spectators due to the wheel being launched skyward.
    Why not just leave the sport alone? – The drivers know the risks involved but still line up to race – if any of them are concerned then I’m sure there would be positions vacant at the local library for them.
    The great Stirling Moss once said “Danger is a very necessary ingredient [in grand prix racing]” and he is absolutely correct…
    I love the sport and it’s difficult to watch F1 slowly descending into a commercial, safety first everything else second “spectacle”… people tend to forget, at the end of the day, it’s a SPORT – not a show performed on broadway. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s dangerous.. That’s what F1 is all about.
    Its sad to think this forward roll hoop is even being talked about – what will be next? I hate to think.. I’m just glad I was around to witness and enjoy Formula One in all its (dangerous) glory.. aaah the memories.

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