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21st Century

Nico Rosberg in the cockpit of the Mercedes during a pit stop at the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix. © Allianz Parc ferme at the 2009 Belgium Grand Prix. © Allianz Parc ferme at the 2010 German Grand Prix. © 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 The 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. © Allianz

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 millimetres thick. A 2.5 millimetre layer of Kevlar® fibre inside the cockpit walls is designed to resist penetration. The roll-over bar above the driver’s head is raised from 50 to 70 millimetres and must be able to withstand a lateral force of 2.4 tons.

2001
Blue flag: driver must allow a vehicle behind him to pass when the blue flag is shown for the third time, otherwise a ten-second stop-and-go penalty will be imposed. The marshals are better protected thanks to stricter safety standards. Headrests must be mounted in accordance with FIA standards. Cockpit walls at driver’s head level must rise to the rear at a slope of at least 16 degrees. The speed during lateral impact tests is increased from seven to ten metres per second.

2002
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. New lateral crash test for the rear of the cars - a force of 40kN is exerted for 30 seconds on a defined area and there may be no discernible deformation. The rear lights are increased in size to six by six centimetres.

2003
Numerous circuits undergo reconstruction prior to the season so as to improve safety even further. Silverstone: Stowe corner’s run-off area is changed to asphalt. Nurburgring: chicane before the final corner is revised. Magny-Cours: pit exit lane is made safer, allowing cars to rejoin the circuit at racing speed. Budapest: run-off zones and safety walls in the first corner are increased in size. Suzuka: given larger run-off zones and new emergency access routes. The HANS system, which was first introduced in 2001, becomes mandatory for all drivers.

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

2005
Protective padding on the inside of the cockpit is thickened from 75 to 100 millimetres. Wheel tethers must be able to withstand a minimum load of 6 tons. To avoid sharp carbon fibre splinters on the track after accidents, all front wings, barge boards and small aerodynamic body parts must be given an additional outer coating of Kevlar®, or a similar material.

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

2007
If the safety car is deployed, the pit lane is closed and only opened again when the entire field has formed up in position behind the safety car. Cars are fitted with LEDs that transmit the flag signals from marshals to drivers in the cockpit. After a year’s break for reconstruction work to improve track safety, Spa returns to the calendar. 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.

2009
The FIA forms the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund, with a management committee comprising Michael Schumacher as Chairman, Max Mosley, Nick Craw, Jean Todt and Norbert Haug - within five years the fund will be utilized for a safety programme for young drivers, a training programme for officials and a programme for circuit safety. The process of appointing race stewards is changed and the stewards are provided with an improved video analysis system. All decisions after incidents will be published online by the FIA, with video evidence provided alongside rulings when required.

2010
Experienced former Formula One drivers are recruited to assist stewards in decision making relating to race incidents. A permanent panel of three FIA stewards to attend every Grand Prix, joined by an additional local steward at each race.

2011
To reduce the speed of Formula One cars and to facilitate overtaking, the double diffusers used since 2009 and the F-ducts developed in 2010 are prohibited. This leads to a significant reduction in downforce. The FIA prescribes minimum dimensions for the roll-over bars in order to preclude the development of extremely slim components. The wheels of the Formula One cars have to be fastened to the uprights by two tethers in future to prevent stray tyres on the track after an accident. The outside mirrors may only be attached to the sides of the cockpit in a strictly prescribed area in order to improve the drivers’ rear view visbility. In recent history the mirrors had been mounted on the outside, to the sidepods, for aerodynamic reasons, which made it difficult for the drivers to look into the mirrors. Finally, the new helmets feature an additional safety improvement, the addition of a Zylon strip across the top of the visor. This is intended to reinforce the weakest point of the otherwise tough racing helmets. The polycarbonate visor is more vulnerable than the overall shell, but the addition of the Zylon strip now doubles its impact performance.