F1's governing body isn't just looking to make drivers safer now—it's also hoping to better understand the causes and effects of crashes for future research.
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There is nothing even remotely safe about driving 220 miles per hour, and Formula 1 racers don’t sign up for their job because it’s easy. Formula 1 (F1), while so exhilarating that it manages to give viewers a vicarious rush, is established as one of the most dangerous sports that exists, and requires as much courage as talent. But the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA, for short) is not standing pat in attempts to make F1 as safe as possible, and a few ongoing developments are set to make F1 safer than it’s ever been before.
The notable developments being brought to the world of F1 are “more cockpit cameras and [gathered] biometric data from drivers ... to provide a better understanding of accidents and improve safety.” Earpieces that F1 drivers wear while racing will “now also incorporate tiny accelerometers, wired through to the car’s electronic control unit, that measure the forces the head is subjected to in any impact.” The general goals of the changes that the FIA is bringing to F1 are centered around not just the safety of racers, but also the overall understanding of racing crashes—what leads up to them, what does the most damage to a driver during a crash, etc.
For instance, the new cockpit cameras that were installed in Fernando Alonso’s vehicle showed that, during Alonso’s crash at the Australian Grand Prix, his head twice made contact with the inside of his headrest. Information like this is vital to those attempting to diagnose a racer following a crash, and can be key in figuring out new ways to prevent particular damage in future crashes.
The FIA is not the first sports-governing body to make strides in preserving the safety of its athletes to the best of its abilities. Adam Silver has been swift in punishing those who seem to be intentionally fouling in the NBA, while the NBA has teamed up with GE to make basketball as dangerous as walking your dog in the park. Meanwhile, Roger Goodell and the NFL are looking to minimize the rising number of deaths linked to football through new and safer helmets, apps that help players better understand concussion symptoms, and more. Put everything together, and associations around the world are doing everything in their power to keep athletes as happy and healthy as possible while preserving the entertainment that sports provide.
Safety is not necessarily to be expected in the world of F1—physical activity of any kind can have a negative impact on the body, and routinely subjecting the body to 5 g’s of acceleration is ... well, risky. But F1 is popular and exciting, and to see the FIA do its due diligence in using technology to make those 5 g’s a lot less harmful is a win for tech in the sports world.