Formula One's governing body, the FIA, has revealed new details about Fernando Alonso’s heavy crash at the Australian Grand Prix, with the McLaren-Honda star walking away from “three high-G decelerations”.
The Spaniard was hunting down Esteban Gutierrez on the run to Turn 3 in Melbourne when he clipped the rear of the Mexican’s Haas VF-16 at high-speed, which catapulted Alonso into the wall and then a series of scary rolls in the gravel trap.
Alonso emerged from the accident seemingly unhurt, though the double world champion had to miss the following race in Bahrain after it was revealed that he had suffered fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
In a bid to further improve driver’s protection, the FIA called for the implementation of new safety measurement systems ahead of the current campaign.
According to Article 21.2 of the 2016 F1 sporting regulations, “each driver must wear in-ear accelerometers which have been manufactured by the FIA designated supplier to a specification determined by the FIA”, while “each car must be fitted with an FIA accident data” as well as a high-speed camera pointing at the driver’s head.
In the latest issue of AUTO magazine, the ruling body provides a thorough analysis of what Alonso went through during his Albert Park shunt. The report says that his MP4-31 was “travelling at 313kph as he began his overtaking manoeuvre and had slowed marginally to 305kph at the point of impact.”
The accident is then divided into three main phases, each of which resulting in a high-g impact for the driver:
- When the car made contact with the wall (peak lateral deceleration of 45G)
- When it became airborne for 0.9s after hitting the gravel and rotated 540 degrees (lateral deceleration of 46G)
- When it landed on the ground (a peak longitudinal acceleration of 20G)
The high-speed camera pointing at Alonso’s head “showed that [his] helmet made contact with the left inside face of the headrest twice during the impact, corresponding with two peaks seen on the ear accelerometer data.”
In its report of the accident, the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety reached the following conclusion: “From an initial 305kph impact, the car of Alonso was able to manage three high-G decelerations and an airborne phase without major injury to the driver, primarily due to a range of safety systems on the car performing well for their designed purpose.”
In its relentless pursuit of safety improvements, the FIA is already looking at ways to secure more insight into what a driver experiences during a crash with a focus on biometrics (“heart rate, body heat and sweat levels”) next on the agenda.
“I hope that we will be able to put something on a driver before the end of the season, at least in a test,” said Global Institute’s General Manager Research Laurent Mekies.
“Biometric data will help us to assess the driver’s conditions before, at the time of the crash and after the crash, as far as the rescue operations are concerned.
“You could imagine a million things tomorrow – you could imagine us trying to estimate the loads on the actual upper body of the drivers through the safety belts, for instance.
“It is something that will never stop as much as safety research will never stop and we will continue to push the boundaries to gain a deeper understanding.”