The 2014 Formula 1 season started with myriad changes ranging from engine noise reduction to double points in the last race at Abu Dhabi. After Marussia’s team driver, Jules Bianchi, was seriously injured at Suzuka, safety became a hot topic once again akin to the period after Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994.
So now that the action is about to get a thrilling start with Australian GP, what changes do you expect in the car and circuits you so much adore? Here is a summary of these changes though some may change in the course of the season:
1. Virtual safety car precautions
The accident involving Bianchi at Suzuka is largely blamed on the safety car timing. Well, the safety car is critical on every circuit to maintain track safe conditions by slowing down race cars in case of an event. To avoid accidents, the virtual safety car system (VSC) was pretested in the last races of the 2014 season to neutralize a race if there is an accident without having to call in the safety car.
2. Grid Clearance
The minutest object on a race track can cause a major catastrophe and this has been proved through Senna’s death, which records indicate could have been caused by a foreign object on the Imola track. In the 2015 season, a driver will be forced to start from the pit lane if any equipment is left on the track after the all-important 15-second signal.
3. Unsafe Releases
This is another risky situation on any F1 circuit and FIA has imposed an automatic 10-seconds stop-and-go penalty and more penalties for the relevant driver if a steward so deems fit.
4. Nose Design
If there is one part of F1 cars in 2014 that enthusiasts derided it has to be nose design. Out-of-this world designs like Lotus came up with were simply ugly. With such unsymmetrical designs, safety issues started arising prompting FIA to outlaw nose tusks and anteater designs which are unstable.
5. Skid Block Construction
This is to avoid any detachment at high speed which would put all the other drivers at risk. The proposal is to have lighter materials used and designed technically in a way that no amount of force can push the block to unlatch. Of course the upside of the titanium skid planks will be more sparks on the course, which adds to the thrill as witnessed when Rosberg and Raikkonen trialled them at the 2014 Austrian GP.
6. Cockpit Safety
This is where a driver’s life is saved or lost. For this reason, FIA has imposed stringent rules extending the Zylon anti-intrusion panels on both sides of the cockpit to the rim of the cockpit and in line with a driver’s head. This protects the driver from flying objects during a crash and also brutal impact at high speeds.
7. Pit-lane Procedures
To enhance more security in this highly accident prone section of the circuit, FIA has again re-issued rules on procedures allowed here. Personnel are only allowed immediately before the stop and must clear as quickly as possible once their work is complete.
Every personnel must wear protective fire resistant clothing with one assistant carrying a fire extinguisher present. Pit-lane speeds are still limited to 80km/h at all Grand Prix races except Monaco, Singapore and Australia where it stands at 60 km/h due to track configuration.
8. Helmet Changes Ban
This is the rule that has been mocked most because it clearly does not add any value to safety according to drivers including Vettel. FIA says that in order to easily distinguish drivers on the track, substantial changes to crash helmet design and use of special helmets in races such as Monaco GP are banned. What was the safety precaution here again?
Well, every F1 season starts with its galore of drama, but for 2015, the mood is somber considering Bianchi is still recovering. Nonetheless, you are now better assured of your favourite driver’s safety once they hit the track at Albert Part, Melbourne on March 15th.