A year on from the death of Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees – who died in a freak accident at a race in Brands Hatch when struck on the head by a flying wheel that had come off a competitor’s car – the FIA has announced that the number of wheel tethers used in Formula 1 will double from next year.
This move is in a bid to reduce the risk of wheels detaching in the event of a heavy accident, with the 2010 season already featuring several accidents where wheels have detached from their cars.
This includes Vitantonio Liuzzi’s heavy accident in qualifying for the German Grand Prix last weekend. A wheel tether on his Force India failed when he hit the pit wall on the Saturday, with his left-front wheel bouncing across the main straight and narrowly avoiding collecting Timo Glock, who was right behind.
Sébastien Buemi had a more spectacular accident in practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, with the tethers for both front wheels failing when his front suspension collapsed under braking and both front wheels flew off the car.
While fortunately neither accident has resulted in injury, improvements to the current technical regulations can always be sought, as McLaren’s engineering director Paddy Lowe says.
“Wheel tethers are a great concern to us. We had the tragic incident last year with Henry Surtees, and we see wheels coming off F1 cars rather more often than we’d like, and than the rules intended, when tethers were introduced. They are working but they’re not reliable enough.”
Lowe confirmed that the Technical working Group had agreed to commit to improved measures for 2011.
“One of our tasks is to constantly address safety and we have agreed to do something for next year – it has been published in the rules,” he added. “We will introduce a second tether on every corner [of the car].
“Rather than try to make each tether 100 per cent reliable, what we found is that when they don’t work they have been cut for some reason due to the nature of the accident. What we’re thinking is if there are two on each corner, run independently, then it drastically improves the probability that one or both will survive.”
[Original image via Formula1.com]