Newey questions safety rationale of rules changes

2014 F1 season

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Jerez, 2014Adrian Newey is concerned that some of the rules changes introduced this year on safety grounds may have an adverse effect.

Speaking after the launch of the Red Bull RB10 Newey said he had doubts over FIA rules requiring designers to build cars with lower noses.

Part of the rationale behind the change was to reduce the possibility of cars being launched into the air after contact, as happened when Mark Webber hit heikki Kovalainen during the 2010 European Grand Prix. However Newey is concerned the lowering of the noses may introduce other risks:

“Personally I am concerned that the opposite may now happen, that cars submarine, effectively, so if you hit the back of the following car square-on you go underneath it and you end up with a rear crash structure in your face which is a much worse scenario.

“There have been accidents where you think ‘would a low nose possibly have made things much worse?’ There was an accident we had a few years ago where Schumacher spun at the first corner and somebody mounted him. They might have made that worse.

“I guess it’s like all these things – it might help in some scenarios, it hurts in others. It’s one which I must admit, personally, I’m not in favour of.”

However Mercedes’ executive director for technical Paddy Lowe believes the solution is the “best compromise” available.

“This is subject that’s very complicated which has been discussed by the TWG [Technical Working Group] over the year but mainly under the guidance of the FIA Institute who do a lot of research in this area. They’re the ones who’ve come up with the recommendation that the low nose is the best solution, the best compromise for the range of different types of accident or incident that a car can experience.

“There is no one perfect solution to every single type of impact. You need to consider all sorts of interactions around other cars, particularly looking at impact onto the rear tyres. We saw Mark Webber in Valencia where the launch is the real risk, and that’s a particular one where the low nose is very helpful.”

Newey also queried new restrictions on the positioning of batteries for the energy recovery system. Red Bull previously located the batteries in and around the gearbox bell housing. Newey said this was “a significant packaging advantage allowed us to carry the weight at the rear”.

“That unfortunately has been removed because the battery now has, by regulation, to be in front of the engine under the fuel tank.

“I think that’s a shame really. I’m not quite sure why putting the battery under the fuel tank is safer than putting it behind the engine.”

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47 comments on Newey questions safety rationale of rules changes

  1. andae23 (@andae23) said on 29th January 2014, 10:32

    I’m really sorry Newey, but seriously.. could you not have mentioned that a little bit earlier?

    • Albrecht said on 29th January 2014, 10:34

      @andae23

      It’s a common thing in engineering. You can’t really see the whole scope of things until you actually see what you have.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th January 2014, 12:35

        Unless he’s seen specific tests showing this outcome recently, that doesn’t make sense. Plenty of armchair experts (including me) have thought the same for months, so if he’s only doing the same as everybody else- which is speculating- then yes he could have mentioned it earlier. But as Mazdachris points out below, it may just be the first time he was asked a direct question about it.

    • timi (@timi) said on 29th January 2014, 10:41

      @andae23 The timing is very strange, borderline reckless if he genuinely believes there’s a safety issue, the regs regarding the nose/fw were finalised months ago…
      My bet is that he’s taken a fancy to some of the other designs out there. A few comments about safety, and no-one would question why Newey may have missed the trick (if it is slower than the competition).

    • aka_robyn said on 29th January 2014, 11:07

      I’m honestly not sure why everyone is automatically assuming this is the first time he’s ever mentioned it. Or do you just mean to the press?

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 29th January 2014, 11:12

      @andae23 maybe he saw the experiences at the crash test and confirmed his initial thoughts…

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th January 2014, 11:23

      Red Bull are complaining about the new regulations in any way they can right now. Maybe that’s indicative of them having a problem.

      Not to say the point isn’t valid, if poorly timed. I wondered the same myself.

  2. Garns (@) said on 29th January 2014, 10:38

    I read a similar article this morning but it said Newey was absent from the TWG meetings held to discuss the nose regulations, so if this is correct he cant really have too much to say now.

  3. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 29th January 2014, 10:59

    I remember discussing this a while back on this site and sharing Newey’s opinion with a few others. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/groups/f1/forum/topic/how-will-the-2014-cars-look/.
    Schumacher was very lucky that day not to receive a face full of a F1 car where as Webbers flip was very dangerous, like Michael he walked/drove away. There was talk of head protection coming to F1 cars, until then I don’t believe these noses and their protruding length can provide any safety gains. Can I also ask the question, regardless of their strength, who in their right minds decides batteries should go under fuel tanks? When are F1 cars getting mudguards by the way?

    • Tiomkin said on 29th January 2014, 11:38

      Right before they make clown shoes mandatory. F1 the only ‘sport’ where the rules change every year, for no reason.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th January 2014, 12:38

        Well there aren’t many sports that require technical regulations anything like motorsport. And F1 is one of the few motorsports with such an impressive rate of development.

        Changing the sporting regulations practically every year is ridiculous though.

        • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 29th January 2014, 14:36

          Changing the sporting regulations practically every year is ridiculous though.

          That’s the whole point, changing the regulations to prevent teams from winning too much. We’ve had that with Ferrari, now it’s the same with Red Bull.

  4. karter22 (@karter22) said on 29th January 2014, 11:40

    This getting ridiculous. Sort of like when they were whining about the tyres… if they change the noses mid-season because of this, RBR needs to get out. Every team has to deal whith this and I hear nobody else complaining.
    ALL does not have to go your way Adrian!

    • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 29th January 2014, 14:37

      He’s not ‘whining’ about anything. He’s just saying that he finds the noses ugly and questions if it’s really a safety improvement. Read the article.

      • W-K (@w-k) said on 29th January 2014, 21:44

        Then he should attend the meetings, and voice his opinions there not whine about after the event. It is almost the same as last years tyre fiasco.

      • karter22 (@karter22) said on 30th January 2014, 0:04

        @paeschli
        What makes you think I did not read it? This was the exact same way he started last season about the tyres… “questioning” the FIA decisions… In the end, they got their way… And now it´s whining about the noses and now he says they might “submarine”.. seriously… If it´s not the nose it´s the placing of the batteries… They have had plenty of time to take the battery placement into consideration. If that is not whining I don´t know what is. I guess you must be a RBR fan…

  5. franton said on 29th January 2014, 11:41

    Meh. The team losing the most “tricks” doing the most whinging … AGAIN.

    • kpcart said on 29th January 2014, 14:51

      the “most” whinging??? someone is jealous. the only AGAIN likely to happen is Redbull winning again, any whinging they they is played within the rules by the best engineers in the sport. its fair game.

      • franton said on 29th January 2014, 15:33

        Amazing how you can infer jealously from twelve words. It still stands to reason they have the most to lose from the new regs as they exploited them the best. So “whinging” because they’ve lost their competitive advantage? Yeah, i’d say that’s accurate.

        But of course don’t let the facts stand in the way of you attacking me personally …

  6. Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 29th January 2014, 11:55

    Get over it Adrian.

  7. Dimitris 1395 (@dimitris-1395) said on 29th January 2014, 12:00

    There is a couple of interesting statements, mostly about the batteries’ placement. But, the choice of timing saying that, it’s a bit dreary. Still, I’d like to see if those statements are true.

  8. Shomir (@shomir) said on 29th January 2014, 12:05

    i remember that incident with Schumacher and Liuzzi very well. That was such a close shave for Schumi.

  9. mateuss (@mateuss) said on 29th January 2014, 12:37

    I do not share Newey’s views. Obviously conclusions can not be made before we see some tests and simulations. There most certainly would have been some testing and/or simulations of front into rear crash situations.

    Also I think it is important to note how very little speed difference was needed to launch a car (Mark in Valencia, the FI in Abu Dhabi, Grosjean in Spa etc.) so the potential for it was always huge. Little speed difference is needed because only added energy required is to lift the front end, the absolute kinetic energy of the car will do the rest with air pressure changes transforming it into upward and rotational motion. Also take note that the car that would be behind would be already down on front downforce, and the rotational energy of the tyres on both cars also working in favor of the unwanted outcome. AND at little speed differences the tyres can transform more of that energy because they are in relatively constant contact for longer (plus the suspension is less likely to break off), as we know A=Fs, or the work done is equal to the time a force was acting on an object. The high nose pushing into the upper part of the rear tyre is similar effect. A disintegrating front nose only elongates the energy transfer as the nose and tyre stays in contact for longer. All this partially explains why open-wheelers are so prone to launching in the air, almost everything is stacked in favor of it.

    I even doubt that submarining is a likely outcome given that it would most certainly take a big speed difference to begin with. The energy required is to lift the weight of the car in front and to overcome the downforce of the car in front, note that in this case there is only the energy of the relative speed difference to work with, unlike in the first case where the car flies into the air due to the absolute kinetic energy of the car behind. I did some vague calculations and basically the energy requirements would only be met in a full speed to, as near as makes no difference, stationary car. And there are many factors working against the said outcome. If the front car is rotated back side up, it will push down even harder (if moving at speed). The disintegrating nose will absorb a lot of the energy and as the very front of it breaks off the effective tip of the nose becomes higher, (and the rear crash structure becomes effectively lower as well, when it brakes, but it requires more force), the new “mid-crash” geometry eliminates the possibility of submarining all together if by that time the front car has not gained enough upwards motion. Plus some of the same factors that help to launch the car is working against submarining in this case.

    The condition for both scenarios is the same, front to rear impact, which is exactly what they worked on and studied. If submarining would be a likely outcome they would have seen it in their simulations, tests or calculations. I would hypothesise that the possibility of a launch into the air scenario is still there(although lower) and enormously greater than that of submarining.

    As for the batteries, well yes, there is potential for danger, no matter where you put them, as they are so big, there is hardly anywhere else where to put them anyway. And mounting it in the chassis in the middle of the car ensures that it is least likely to suffer mechanical damage in case of a crash,(which can lead to instant internal short circuit and fire), this is also exactly the same reason why the driver and the fuel tank in mounted in the “middle” of the car inside the chassis, because we do not want them to suffer mechanical damage.

    • Albrecht said on 29th January 2014, 13:41

      I must say it’s quite interesting to see you disagree with which is widely considered the best engineer in F1 at them moment.

      If submarining would be a likely outcome they would have seen it in their simulations, tests or calculations.

      Test, simulations and calculations of what exactly? Before this week no one even knew how exactly the new cars would look, besides a couple of fan-made sketches which, while they gave us a remote idea, were far form accurate. What exactly are they supposed to test or simulate, when they didn’t have the most basic of information, the actual geometry of the cars?

    • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 29th January 2014, 14:42

      @mateuss

      The energy required is to lift the weight of the car in front and to overcome the downforce of the car in front …

      If a car stalls on the grid and is hit by a car behind, it might create a real danger IMO. Just imagine a car on the front frow stalling, everyone can avoid it except one of the backmarkers. That’s a huge impact between a car at high speed and a stationary car.

      The danger of a car diving beneath another might be rare, but it would create a very very dangerous situation because the head of the driver is the less protected part of his body. I’d rather prefer cars being launched in the air tha seeing that.

      • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 29th January 2014, 15:13

        Yes, that scenario of a crash into a stalled car on the grid is very dangerous one. No matter how the dynamics of the crash played out it would be bad. And given the new complicated powertrains I think the drivers should be even more careful at the starts this year to avoid a stalled car.

        But even though that sort of crash would have the energy required I still doubt there is any realistic chance of a dive. Because what allows the potential for a dive is the geometry of the nose and of the rear crush structure. The nose is designed to disintegrate a fair amount even at much lower speeds, and that obviously would change the geometry of the situation making a dive impossible. Another thing I noticed, the crash structure is mounted over the floor some distance forward from the edge. The sharp noses would get caught in between the crash structure and the floor if the floor (the middle top part of the diffuser) would not break clean off.

        No, I can not imagine how could such a thing happen on flat F1 circuits. Thats not to say it could not, but I have not heard any reasons why it could.

        Also submarining does not guarantee contact with drivers head. Flying cars are equal if not bigger danger in that respect. Remember Grosjean at Spa almost taking off Alonso’s head? Or Coulthard in 2007 Australia with Wurz? Though the latter one would certainly not have been prevented with the new noses.

        If someone knows such a precedent of a car diving under un other one I would like to see it. I don’t recall ever seeing one.

  10. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 29th January 2014, 12:56

    I thought the batteries had to be where they are now because it keeps them inside the carbon fibre tub and therefore safe from getting ruptured and possibly causing a fire. Basically the exact same reason the fuel tank is in there.

  11. crr917 (@crr917) said on 29th January 2014, 12:58

    Newey complained about battery placement back when FIA decided to position it below the fuel cell. And rightly so. Red Bull is the only team that gets punished for no valid reason. It’s not safety or circumvention of existing rule. It’s just because they were the only team doing it differently. Anything that slows the winners goes these days, apparently. It’s sad to see how miserable the F1 boss has become at his own game.

    If lower nose was so safe why don’t FIA introduce it to GP2 and GP3? Maybe FIA just doesn’t care about drivers there?

    • If lower nose was so safe why don’t FIA introduce it to GP2 and GP3? Maybe FIA just doesn’t care about drivers there?
      GP2 and GP3 cars are less safer than F1 alright, but these series don’t have the money to have V6 engines or design changes so big as this year.

  12. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 29th January 2014, 13:22

    Getting the complaints in early ready for a whole load of politiking and emergency rule changes in July!?

  13. Ed Marques (@edmarques) said on 29th January 2014, 13:48

    Already?

  14. HoHum (@hohum) said on 29th January 2014, 14:46

    Personally, I think it is a fairly balanced comment and Newey has every right to go on the record, regarding the batteries I really really agree with him, not out of instinct, but taking into account the problems Boeing have had with FAA approved instalation, Boeing now have the batteries completely enclosed in a stainless steel box vented outside the aircraft, they have had another sigle battery cell fire while a plane was on the ground since installing the stainless steel boxes and the fire was put out befote it spread, previously the batteries were contained in carbon-fiber boxes which failed to contain the fires .

  15. ANDREW (@johnson102) said on 29th January 2014, 14:56

    I myself have pondered the new regulations. On one hand the lower nose may cause an upward projection of the following cars (hence will take out the car in front however cause less injury) however due to the phallic addition to the 2014 cars I worry about the piercing implications.
    I don’t want to see a driver touched by the member of another team…

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