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F1 to introduce new side impact system

NEWS STORY
24/06/2013

In a further move to improve safety, the FIA is to introduce a new side impact system next season.

The decision to introduce a new system, which will afford drivers even greater protection in terms of impact at oblique angles, follows Robert Kubica's crash in Montreal in 2007 and saw collaboration between the FIA Institute, McLaren, Mercedes, Marussia and Red Bull.

Speaking to Auto, the FIA's own magazine, FIA Institute research consultant Andy Mellor, who led the project, said: "We went back to basics to examine what a side impact structure really needs to do in different types of accident. We used Robert Kubica's crash as a specific reference point since that was a major impact at an acute angle.”

"There were three teams that ultimately submitted impact devices that were subjected to a physical test and ours was deemed to be the best of the bunch so we pursued that device further," revealed Paul Monaghan, Red Bull's head of car engineering.

At present, side impact protection comes courtesy of crushable tubes which are attached to the chassis. However, as witnessed in Kubica's crash, these can become detached if the impact is at an oblique angle.

The new system is an evolution of this but uses carbon fibre, which, courtesy of specialised internal and external geometry and a precise layup configuration, means the tubes do not break on impact but progressively crush decelerating the car in a far more controlled manner.

During testing, it is understood the structures were able to absorb almost 40kJ of energy in both normal and oblique impacts, a significant improvement over the current designs.

"The tube has a common specification but how teams put it into their cars is entirely their business," Monaghan told Auto. "The static tests that will be undertaken on the monocoque will determine the strength of the mounts and make sure that they are sufficient to support the tube. After that, it's down to the teams as to how they integrate it and how they design their car around it."

He also revealed that the new system will most likely save the teams money in terms of crash tests.

"One of the driving forces was to spare teams extra expense in the testing process," he said. "Assuming everybody has a monocoque which is strong enough and passes the static tests, then they've saved money as they're not doing an impact test. It should b we a cheaper solution."

The teams agreed to introduce the system next season at a Technical Working Group meeting in May.

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