The 21st Century

Kazuki Nakajima on track for Williams during the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, Bahrain, April 2009. © Allianz Steering wheel on the Williams-Toyota FW29. © Allianz On-track action during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Sepang, Malaysia, April 2009. © Allianz Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07 crashes.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2007 Nico Rosberg on track for Williams. © Allianz

Following the technological advances made in the late Nineties, the safety aspect of Formula One racing continues to become more and more important in the new century, as the following examples show…

2000:
- Impact speed for the mandatory crash test is raised from 13 to 14 metres per second.
- The carbon fibre walls of the cockpit must be at least 3.5 mm thick.
- The 2.5 mm Kevlar layer inside the cockpit walls is designed to resist penetration.
- The rollover bar above the driver’s head is raised by 20 to 70 cm and must be able to withstand a lateral force of 2.4 tons.
- Steering wheel: in the event of an accident, the driver must be able to exit the vehicle within ten seconds and re-attach the steering wheel.
- Rear-view mirrors: the mirrors must measure at least 120 x 50 millimetres.
- Time penalty: the penalty is shown on all trackside clocks, as well as the exact time the decision to penalise was taken by race stewards. From this point on, the driver concerned has three laps in which to go to the pits to sit out the penalty.

2001:
- Blue flag: a driver must allow a vehicle behind him to pass when the blue flag is shown for the third time. Otherwise a 10-second stop-and-go penalty will be imposed.
- The marshals are protected better by stricter safety specifications.
- Headrests must be mounted in accordance with FIA standards.
- Cockpit walls at a driver’s head level must rise to the rear at a slope of at least 16 degrees.

2002:
- Two-way telemetry: for the first time, the FIA allows not only engine, brake and suspension data to be transmitted to the pits, but also permits teams to send data back to the cars to adjust these parameters. In extreme cases, the engines can be limited or even turned off by radio: under yellow flags, for example, when another car has stopped in a dangerous position on the circuit. If the race is interrupted, drivers may change cars. But this is only allowed if the driver in the lead has not completed more than two laps.
- Penalties: time penalties (stop-and-go) can be imposed on drivers who trigger a false start, cause an accident or collision, force another driver off the track, fail to heed a blue flag three times, or intentionally impede another driver trying to overtake. Time penalties are also incurred for exceeding the speed limit in the pit lane, and may be imposed for running over chicanes if this gives an advantage to the driver in terms of track position.
- Crash test: there is a new lateral test for the rear of the cars. A force of 40 kN is exerted for 30 seconds on a defined area of the carbon fibre wall. There may be no discernible deformation following this applied force.
- Rear lights are increased in size to 6 x 6 centimetres.
- Power steering: power steering has been permitted since January 1st 2002, but without electronic control.
- Drivers: each team may change their lead driver once and their second driver three times during the season. In case of extreme circumstances, such as illness or accident, drivers may be replaced more often.

2003:
Numerous circuits undergo reconstruction prior to the season so as to improve safety even further.
- Silverstone: the Stowe corner’s run-off zone is changed to asphalt.
- Nurburgring: the chicane before the final corner is revised.
- Magny-Cours: the pits’ new exit lane is made safer as the cars now enter the circuit at racing speed.
- Budapest: the run-off zones and safety walls in the first corner are increased in size.
- Suzuka: the winding circuit is given larger run-off zones and new emergency access routes.

2004:
- Monte Carlo is given a permanent pit lane with garages for all the teams.
- New standards: the new tracks in Bahrain and Shanghai set new standards in terms of safety.
- Helmets: the FIA lays down a new standard which sets out even higher requirements for the safety of helmets.

2005:
- Head support: the protecting cushions on the inside of the cockpit are thickened from 75 to 100 millimetres.
- Wheel tethers: the wheels are connected to the chassis with high-performance tethers. Each tether must be able to withstand a minimum load of six tons.
- The Istanbul Park Circuit, built for the Turkish Grand Prix, is one of the safest and most modern Formula One tracks.

2006:
- The impact speed for the rear crash test is increased from 12 to 15 metres per second.

2007:
- The test kilometres permitted between January 1 and December 31 are limited to 30,000 per team. In the process, a maximum of 300 sets of tyres may be used. If the safety car comes onto the track, the pit lane is closed and only opened again when the entire field has formed up in position behind the safety car. The cars are fitted with diodes that transmit the flag signals from the marshals to the drivers in the cockpits.
- Circuits: for the first time since 1977, the Japanese Grand Prix is held in Fuji again and not in Suzuka. After a year’s break for reconstruction work to improve track safety, Spa has returned to the calendar.
- For safety reasons the speed limit in the pit lane is reduced from 100 to 80 km/h.
- During a safety-car phase, any lapped cars positioned between the cars running on the lead lap may overtake them and the safety car, in order to take up position at the back of the field. This is designed to prevent the leading drivers from being separated or even hindered by trailing cars at the re-start.

2008:
- Traction control is no longer permitted, which hopefully results in more overtaking manoeuvres.
- At the same time electronic starting assistance will be forbidden.
- A gearbox has to last for four Grand Prix weekends with effect from the start of the 2008 world championship.

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