Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
Topic

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

How F1 car safety changed forever after Imola 1994 tragedies

The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix marked not only one of Formula 1’s darkest weekends, but proved to be a turning point in car safety that would change the sport forever.

How F1 car safety changed forever after Imola 1994 tragedies
Listen to this article

Imola was just the third round of the championship, and there had already been numerous high profile accidents in testing and racing before the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna prompted a radical overhaul in the approach to driver protection.

Williams FW14B active suspension
Benetton B193B 1993 rear-wheel steering schematic overview

Heading in to the 1994 season there had been a big rule change, which had not only set about reducing costs and handing back control to the drivers. It had also attempted to reign in teams in their adventurous use of electronic control systems.

Williams had ruled the roost in the previous few seasons, with its active suspension a considerable factor in its title winning seasons. However, other electronic aids, such as ABS and traction control had started to become more commonplace too, whilst solutions like rear wheel steer and CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) had been tested but not raced.

Read Also:

All of these were to be banned for ‘94 and would have a serious impact on the behaviour of the cars, both from an aerodynamic and mechanical point of view.

The reaction to the events at Imola from the sport's governing body was swift though, as by the Spanish GP, just two races later, the teams were forced to change the design of their front wing endplates and the length of the diffuser, as a way of reducing downforce and slowing the cars.


Click on the arrows in the images below to reveal 10 further changes that resulted in improved driver safety...

Front wing endplate change
Front wing endplate change
1/10
The long skirt-style endplate designs that had populated the grid in recent years were outlawed (left), as seen here on the Benetton B194.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Airbox cutout detail
Airbox cutout detail
2/10
This was followed just a race later by holes needing to be cut into the airbox or engine cover to reduce airflow to the engine, reducing power.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Stepped bottom underside
Stepped bottom underside
3/10
By the time the German GP came around in July, teams had further design constraints to comply with. The most important of these, and something that still exists today, was the need to have a plank installed on the floor. This was done as a method of controlling the ride height, as the plank could not be worn by more than 1mm during the course of a race.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view
Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view
4/10
Famously this led to the disqualification of Michael Schumacher's Benetton at the Belgian GP. The German's plank had been worn away at the front by more than the 1mm tolerance, resulting in him being stripped of his race victory.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Rear wing changes
Rear wing changes
5/10
The rear wing dimensions were also constrained, with an exclusion zone created 150mm behind the rear axle line, effectively outlawing the practice of using pre-wings. The changes came in for criticism from all corners on the grid, as whilst the teams understood the need for change, in order to improve safety, they'd been rushed, and in some circumstances put unnecessary stress and strain on other components. The push for increased safety continued for 1995, as the governing body made even more rule changes, including an increase in load testing, further changes to the cockpit dimensions, a reduction in engine capacity (3.5 > 3.0 litre) and comprehensive changes that affected aerodynamics.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Side crash test detail
Side crash test detail
6/10
The load and impact tests already undertaken had their speeds and loads increased, whilst a new side impact test was introduced.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

underside plank view
underside plank view
7/10
The introduction of the plank in 1994 had only gone so far as to limit the downforce created by the flat bottoms first introduced in 1983. As such, a step plane had been created, which lifted the outer portions of the floor by a further 25mm, reducing the potential yield of the floor.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Cockpit and chassis details
Cockpit and chassis details
8/10
Dramatic changes were made to the cockpit, with its dimensions altered to reduce the chance of incursion by debris. The length of the monocoque was extended by a further 150mm in front of the axle line, improving the crush zone ahead of the driver's feet, which now also had more space given the extension between the front axle line and the cockpit rim. The cockpit sides were drawn up higher (400>550mm) to better protect in the event of a side-on incident. The cockpit template was narrowed slightly (450>420mm) but extended forward and given a much larger radius.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Front view comparison 1994-1995
Front view comparison 1994-1995
9/10
The car's aerodynamics were impacted by changes to the front wing endplate height, a reduction in the overall height of the car and a lower rear wing. This view also shows how much of an implication raising the cockpit sides and impact structures had on the design of the sidepods.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Side view details
Side view details
10/10
The side view shows the impact on the dimensions of the car, with the wheelbase inevitably increasing to incorporate the safety structures. Meanwhile, you can see the dimensional implications on the front and rear wing endplates.

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

 

shares
comments

Related video

Portuguese GP: Verstappen outpaces Mercedes duo in FP3
Previous article

Portuguese GP: Verstappen outpaces Mercedes duo in FP3

Next article

Portuguese GP qualifying as it happened

Portuguese GP qualifying as it happened
Load comments
How Vegas went from byword for F1 indifference to grand Liberty coup Prime

How Vegas went from byword for F1 indifference to grand Liberty coup

Holding a race in Las Vegas – party central, a city of dreams and decadence and, yes, more than a smattering of tackiness – has been on Liberty Media’s most-wanted list since it acquired Formula 1’s commercial rights. But, as LUKE SMITH explains, F1 has been here before and the relationship didn’t work out

Why de Vries' FP1 outing could add a new path to his current crossroads Prime

Why de Vries' FP1 outing could add a new path to his current crossroads

A Formula 2 and Formula E champion, Nyck de Vries is currently considering where his future in motorsport lies. Continuing in WEC and Formula E is possible and he's also courted glances Stateside after impressing in an IndyCar test. But ahead of his Formula 1 FP1 debut with Williams, he could have another option if he impresses...

Why Leclerc's crash shouldn't put off F1 drivers tasting history Prime

Why Leclerc's crash shouldn't put off F1 drivers tasting history

OPINION: For a demo run ahead of Monaco's Historique Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc was blessed with the opportunity to drive Niki Lauda's former Ferrari 312B3 - but a brake failure at Rascasse suggested Leclerc's Monaco hoodoo transcended contemporary F1. Although an awkward incident, Leclerc deserves credit for embracing F1's history.

Why the lack of "needle" between Red Bull and Ferrari is a mirage Prime

Why the lack of "needle" between Red Bull and Ferrari is a mirage

OPINION: The fight for the 2022 Formula 1 world titles between Red Bull and Ferrari so far features little of the public animosity that developed between the former and Mercedes last year. But that isn’t to say things are full on friendly or won’t get much worse very quickly…

Formula 1
May 17, 2022
The underdog F1 squad that thrust Senna into the limelight Prime

The underdog F1 squad that thrust Senna into the limelight

The Toleman TG184 was the car that could, according to legend, have given Ayrton Senna his first F1 win but for Alain Prost and Jacky Ickx at Monaco in 1984. That could be stretching the boundaries of the truth a little, but as STUART CODLING explains, the team's greatest legacy was in giving the Brazilian prodigy passed over by bigger outfits an opportunity

Formula 1
May 16, 2022
Why Aston Martin is unlikely to repeat Jaguar’s F1 mistakes Prime

Why Aston Martin is unlikely to repeat Jaguar’s F1 mistakes

Two famous manufacturer teams born out of humble midfield origins, splashing the cash while attempting to rise to the top of F1 in record time. There are clear parallels between Lawrence Stroll’s Aston Martin and the doomed Jaguar Racing project of 22 years ago, but Mark Gallagher believes struggling Aston can avoid a similar fate.

Formula 1
May 15, 2022
How rejuvenated Haas recovered its F1 mojo Prime

How rejuvenated Haas recovered its F1 mojo

US-owned but until recently Russian-backed, Haas seems to have reached a turning point in car performance after three gruesome seasons. And it needs to if it’s to attract fresh investment. Team boss Gunther Steiner tells Oleg Karpov how close Haas came to the abyss.

Formula 1
May 14, 2022
How F1 race leaders have now lost their comfort blanket Prime

How F1 race leaders have now lost their comfort blanket

As Formula 1 teams have settled down in understanding the new generation of cars and the way they need to maximise their performance, fresh lessons have emerged. Jonathan Noble investigates how they have brought with them an all-new kind of grand prix racing

Formula 1
May 12, 2022