Telemetry has been in-use by various F1 teams in grand prix cars since the late 1980's. Modern micro-chip electronics crawled their way from the engine bay and fuel systems where they began, creating a webbing of sensors covering the cars entirely. Now, the FIA has announced they’d like to do some probing of their own in to the cars occupants.
In-ear accelerometers were introduced in 2014 and have already served useful in collecting data for post-accident analysis. Small sensors are placed in an insert molded to each Formula 1 driver’s ear canal. This location provides the most accurate representation of the forces that a driver’s head and brain endure during a race.
The recent push for more sensory coverage comes on following the FIA’s published findings from an accident that occurred in the opening race of the 2016 F1 season involving Fernando Alonso. The governing body has recently revealed their detailed analysis of the accident using the acceleromters previously deployed with the brand-new for this season high-speed driver cameras (400fps.)
Here is an external break down of what the FIA’s examination found.
Alonso’s accident came on lap 19 of 57 as he moved to pass Esteban Guiterirrez’s Red White & Black Haas. The McLaren was carrying more speed than the leading car and the pass probably looked to Alonso to be all but in the bag.
As Fernando Alonso moved to the outside Gutierrez moved over in to the path of the oncoming McLaren aiming for his own corner entry point. Seemingly oblivious to the Spaniard’s rapidly approaching presence, Gutierrez suddenly hit the brakes. In an instant - Alonso was in to the back of the Haas and out of control.
The impact sheared the right-front suspension from the McLaren, allowing the corresponding tire to freely whip about on its tether. Alonso is covering earth at about 190 mph during the impact.
The McLaren floated for a moment before the deceleration from the initial impact that pulled the severed wheel hub forward slowed both cars enough for Alonso’s floor to touch the track. Sans-tire, his car swiftly veered uncontrollably in to the outside wall.
The side-impact with the wall would be the most severe, registering 40 peak g of deceleration.
Gutierrez’s car slid feed away from the Mclaren as the his own shattered suspension and severely bent rim on the left rear collapsed his Haas in to a slide. Both cars careened out of control feet away from one another. In the above image Alonso’s visor and helmet are barely visible through a fog of disturbed Australian terrain mixed with fine English and Japanese debris. This image was captured moments after the McLaren had shattered against a Rolex ad. The impacted area exploded like a fine watch dropping on to concrete, spewing its expensive intricacies.
Some purists consider modern F1 as a “nerf” version of what the sport once was. This kind of accident can remind even the most cynical of race fans that cars are never impenetrable. Danger is as ever-present in F1 as it ever has been. Most of even today’s greatest safety features have a glaring flaw - they only work once. What happens when a car experiences more than one collision on already compromised structure?
The left side-pod, the electronic units and heat exchangers within it, the left floor structure, the front and rear left-side suspensions, as well as the rear wing are all instantly destroyed.
Fernando Alonso really was very lucky on this occasion. In a car twenty years or older his chances would have gone down even further, amd dramatically. The reason that the cars look so similar from certain perspectives is because they’re mandated to be that way. The wretched rule-book of conformity in this case may have saved Alonso’s life.
As the McLaren was continuing side-ways towards another barrier there was almost no impact-absorbing material between its occupant and the face of his imminent collision.
The McLaren skiffed in to a sand trap and dug in. The car proceeded to barrel-roll, snapping off the last bits of brittle craftsmanship between the driver and the dirt as it leaves mother earth.
The car launches in to the air, rotating 1.5 times over .9 seconds. Alonso’s body suffered an impact force of around 40 G as his MP4/31 hit the outside wall after initially striking the back of the Haas. Another 20G worth of energy was still available to slam in to the chassis and Alonso’s in-ear g sensor after the car came back down from its tumble.
I mean, look at his head! If this image wasn’t the primary pitch for halo, I don’t know what else could be. The car continued rotating before landing in to the already destroyed left-rear.
It hit hard enough to bounce.
It finally came to rest in the sandtrap, just a few feet from the barrier. After the 20g hit and the subsequent bounce - the chassis’s roll slowed as it continued the rest of the way over and on to its rear roll hoop. It came to rest on to what was left of the left-side engine cover. Alonso’s helmet was basically on the ground between the car and the wall, but he got out.
The crowd cheered as luckiest man alive climbed from his car.
We’ve all seen Gatorade promotions with athletes hooked up to sensors making graphs and flashing lights happen in the background. The basic idea of what the FIA wants to do is introduce a type of smart-suit, specifically of the flame-retardant form.
Biometrics will bring another aspect of expense to the sport as well. Some teams may not be ready to cope with this. The suits or sensors will not be the only expenditures, there is also the cost of the hardware required to log and decipher the data coming from the suit and maintenance on all of this equipment, on top of that.
If the FIA sees a new tie-in to the healthcare market as a further vertical, I’m sure they’ll just try to make the teams do it anyway.
Just one sensor and one camera provided a lot of information in this incident. More bio-metric data from sensors placed in more areas could could provide first-responders with the crucial information that they need in order to know certain actions must be taken in the event a driver is more substantially injured. The information provided in this new data really could save lives in F1.
Thankfully Alonso’s life was saved by his already in-place survival cell. He escaped this incident with only minor injuries. The FIA hopes to eliminate the type of head and helmet exposure exhibited here for 2017 with the institution of the Ferrari concept halo device as a requirement for all cars.
Bio-metrics could also help first-responders for on-track emergencies know when a driver needs immediate assistance exiting the slightly more constricted cockpits that are set to debut next season with halo.
Will this help convince those who feel halo is a rushed regulation change? Even with biometrics - will halo be enough?