Carlos Sainz Jnr’s heavy crash on Friday at the Miami International Autodrome chicane prompted calls from drivers for impact-absorbing TecPro barriers to be added at the corner.Sebastian Vettel was among those who raised concerns at the time. “It will always damage the car when you go off,” said the Aston Martin driver. “But the question is, where you’re landing, whether there’s concrete or TecPro.
“I don’t know what can be done overnight when I think when we come back, it’s important to look at all the places and see whether you can improve.”
The run-off remained unchanged and the following day Esteban Ocon suffered a 51G impact at the same stretch of concrete barrier. The force involved was comparable to Max Verstappen’s crash at Silverstone’s considerably quicker Copse corner last year.
Like Sainz, Ocon was declared fit to race, though he said afterwards he was only at “50% physically” due to the hard hit he sustained.
The two heavy crashes prompted further calls for TecPro barriers to be used. The deformable structures which are widely used across F1 tracks were developed in collaboration with the FIA Institute.
However Jochen Braunwarth, the director of motorsport at barrier makers Geobrugg, told RaceFans pre-race simulations of likely crashes at that point on the circuit had led to the conclusion that a concrete barrier was the most suitable solution, due to the angles of impact predicted.
“Usually the areas where you have a very shallow impact angle the idea is, as with a guardrail or a concrete block barrier on a highway, to bounce off and then slide along.
“As soon as that impact angle is reaching a certain angle, you need to put a TecPro barrier, you need to put something. And this simulation, which was done at the FIA, was suggesting that the impact angle there is a very shallow angle which didn’t make it necessary for the FIA to put in any TecPro,” Braunwarth explained.
As primarily mesh manufacturers, Geobrugg advise on the use of their FIA grade one-homologated barriers but do not make the final decisions on placing them. However, Braunwarth added that the lack of incidents at turn 14 during the grand prix supported the findings of the simulations.
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“I think accidents are always happening and are always freak; during the event itself or during Porsche during [W Series] there was no issue in that corner itself. Every time a driver is making a mistake, does that mean you have to change the design and the driver is never at fault?”
The circuit operators had another factor to bear in mind when designing barrier placement around the chicane. “There were three areas of the circuit which had to be opened every night,” Braunwarth pointed out. “Every time you cross the turnpike area and you cross that area in turn 14.
“It was necessary to open every evening and close every morning to allow cars to drive on that access road.” A TecPro barrier would have been more time-consuming to reposition between crossings.
However GPDA director Alex Wurz remained uncertain the correct type of barrier was chosen. “Strictly speaking we didn’t have an injury, so maybe you can say it [TecPro] is not necessary,” he told Reuters, “but we want to say that if we had it, it would improve the situation. No research in the world can tell me it would have been a downside to put [TecPro down].”
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer was also concerned by the extent of damage done in Ocon’s crash. “The chassis itself is cracked,” he said. “It’s a lot to crack a chassis.
“It had to be a huge spike in force there. When something doesn’t move, that’s what happens. You slow down very quickly, you get a massive spike of force in the chassis and it breaks.”
He also called for the barrier to be changed ahead of next year’s race. “Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. I think if we look back the FIA too should have a review and my personal opinion is had we had a TecPro barrier there, it would have been safer.
“The FIA’s job isn’t to protect cars, but protecting cars and drivers are highly correlated. If the car is damaged, the driver can get damaged, too.”
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2022 Miami Grand Prix
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28 comments on “Why TecPro barriers weren’t used at Miami chicane where Sainz and Ocon crashed”
18th May 2022, 12:56
What a ridiculous quote. I guess we should just have concrete barriers everywhere then, and if a driver gets injured or killed well it’s their own fault.
18th May 2022, 13:28
Yeah, that jumped out at me also, it’s a very clumsy comment. I guess he means ‘motorsport will never be 100%, drivers should be pushed et al’ but it comes across as negligent of driver safety. 50g and a cracked chassis is one heck of a whack. I’m sure he’d be saying something different if Ocon, or any of the Porsche or W Series drivers were hurt.
I don’t really get the moving the TecPro to open up the turnpike each evening would be time consuming. They can’t be that heavy, there’s plenty of staff / marshals, forklifts around that it couldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to shove it to one side. The track isn’t being used so there must be space for it. Moving the tyre wall on the outside of Blanchimont I get would take time, but 50m of TecPro, I’d come and do it for a Paddock Club pass and a Kinder egg.
18th May 2022, 14:07
Nice try, but Kinder eggs are illegal in the free country that is the USA…
18th May 2022, 16:10
@olpeculier Alright, half a Kinder egg and a pass. But i’m not going any lower! And I get to keep the toy, I can use my half of the egg to sup champagne from whilst chatting to other dignitaries.
18th May 2022, 14:14
If a 50g impact and a cracked chassis is “negligent of driver safety”, what does that mean for all the fast corners on tracks?
A while ago people were happy, when a driver survived a crash without injuries. In Miami we had two drivers crash at that corner and survive without injuries, but people are in uproar. It seems 50g impacts are not acceptable to some parts of the public anymore. But where does that leave us?
Looking at Verstappen’s crash at Silverstone, one immediate measure could be to install chicanes at all fast corners, so that 50g impacts are physically not possible anymore. This goes for very many other fast corners on many tracks. But that is not really a viable solution, because as Verstappen’s crash in Baku showed, a car can hit the wall on a straight just as easily. So the FIA would need to do crash tests with an F1 car and see what the maximum speed it can hit a wall is, without exceeding 50g. That would then be the speed limit the FIA has to impose in the rules. Then we can leave the circuits unchanged.
Changing circuits is always very unpopular with the fans, so the FIA will score big points with the speed limit: leaving the circuits unchanged and at the the time not being “negligent of driver safety” by stopping 50g impacts.
18th May 2022, 14:15
I think you’re misunderstanding his point – what he’s trying to say is it’s not always necessarily feasible to factor every single type of freak accident when it comes to track and barrier design. If so, you’d need double the site size, and you’d place the barriers 100m away from any corner or straight. Financially, that’s not feasible, and i’m not so sure the spectators would be best pleased!
18th May 2022, 15:17
@ecwdanselby We have over 100 years of data to look back on, there is no such thing as a “freak accident” !!
18th May 2022, 16:11
@ecwdanselby I partially agree with @johnrkh here. Yes we do have 100 years of data, albeit until a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t have any at Miami. We now do have data at Miami, and I think it’s fair to conclude that there is a moderate liklihood of crashing at that corner. Had it happened once, they I’d probably agree with you and say it was a freak accident, but with it happening twice in two days, I think it’s probably a sign of a hazard zone on the track. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to criticise the lack of TechPro this year, as I don’t think it particularly stands out as a dangerous corner on the maps or simulations. However, I personally feel installing TechPro barriers there should, with the data and knowledge we now have, be a priority for next year’s race.
18th May 2022, 16:14
Or as you have people have put below, a SAFER barrier would probably be a good fit here.
18th May 2022, 17:29
Two drivers had an accident in the exact same spot, and this guy just shook it off. I understand that they might not have predicted it, but saying this afterwards is… I can’t even find the words, because it’s not only not accepting that this could have been proactively avoided, but also suggests that they won’t react to the issue. This is a known danger point at this point, drivers making a mistake there is a clear possibility, so just make it safer if they do!
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
18th May 2022, 15:40
Sounds like pre-94 Tambourello talk!
18th May 2022, 13:19
Otmar Szafnauer should talk to the person who put his car in the barrier – his driver.
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
18th May 2022, 15:42
By that logic, why do we ever have run off? Concrete is fine to line every circuit now, as the drivers have been told not to crash. Tick, case closed.
18th May 2022, 16:15
Otmar’s (silly, as per usual) point apparently is that race tracks should be designed to keep harm away from cars, even when the drivers find themselves temporarily over-matched in their talent.
That was never the case, nor should it ever be, because cars are replaceable, while humans, generally, are not.
18th May 2022, 13:46
Sounds as if the database behind the loss of control and subsequent impact angle/energy needs better calibration. Is it purely geometric or based on real data, like the FIA/ANS Accident Database. Did they allow for the effect of the massive kerbs? 2, what were considered very low risk events, indicates this was not a suitable & sufficient Risk Assessment.
Perhaps another source rather than highway accidents for selection of barrier, like a race circuit, global and American, but with real chicanes.
Hazel Southwell (@hazelsouthwell)
18th May 2022, 13:53
Of course I don’t know what the FIA specifically used to simulate it but Geobrugg’s testing is real-world and circuit based; they can only give the FIA their data as advice and then consult on the way barriers are implemented, however.
The barriers are FIA-homologated so presumably that’s where they get the data, as well as prior installations, which there have been a lot of – basically every street circuit or circuit with a limited-space requirement like the Zandvoort banking uses these barriers.
18th May 2022, 14:13
Let’s be objective here, the impacts of both cars happened, as predicted, at a very shallow angle, resulting in them slowly coming to a halt as they scraped along the concrete barrier.
If you wanted to reduce the initial deceleration, a SAFER barrier style contiguous guard rail in front the of concrete barriers may be the best option as there is always the chance of a car catching on one of the Tecpro segments and inducing a rotary momentum into the car and driver as a result.
18th May 2022, 14:16
18th May 2022, 15:25
Yeah, I think that certainly should be looked at as an option @proesterchen – this is pretty much exactly what a SAFER barrier was made for, right. It also takes less room (which was also mentioned as a reason for not putting a TecPro barrier there since it might mean even further narrowing the track).
18th May 2022, 14:09
Accidents are great for promos, concrete barriers are cheap and there are plenty of drivers waiting to enter F1.
18th May 2022, 14:48
Using models is fine for a lot of things that are too complicated to understand otherwise but if the models don’t reflect the real world that they are trying to represent they are not worth the computing power that generated them.
We have seen in recent times a number of incidents where the barriers chosen have not been the correct decision. The tyre barrier at Spa that punted Hubert back onto the track and into Correa’s way, causing the near 90-degree impact that took Hubert’s life and destroyed Correa’s legs. The Armco barrier in Bahrain that Grosjean crashed through at a nearly 90-degree angle and nearly took his life. And now this impact for Ocon and Sainz Jr, which they were lucky to escape from. It seems the FIA learned nothing from these incidents where their modeled predictions didn’t account for any of these very serious accidents. Racing is dangerous and will always be dangerous. But whatever model they are using to predict crashes seems woefully inadequate based on these incidents and is making the sport more dangerous than it needs to be. Until they can get their model to reflect the real world better, the best thing to do would be to ensure every part of the track barrier is capable of absorbing most of the energy of a crash at the top speed capable of the cars traveling through that section of the track. It shouldn’t matter if they predict a crash will happen at a certain percentage or at what angle the crash may happen. We’ve seen accidents happen all over tracks because drivers are racing each other, tyres explode, drivers push too hard, etc.
GT Racer (@gt-racer)
18th May 2022, 21:10
Hubert’s car didn’t end up back on the track after the initial impact with the tire wall. It hit the tire wall and did bounce back away from it but the car was still well within the runoff. In that instance the barrier did exactly what it was meant to as they aren’t meant to grab/stop a car and in most cases a car been bounced off is a good thing as that is dissipating energy. A car hitting a wall of any kind and been stopped instantly is often what does the most damage.
The biggest factor in the Hubert accident that did the damage to both Hubert & Corea was that Corea hit some debris from another car, Damaged his front wing and also ended up running in the runoff which is where the impact between the 2 cars was made.
And the thing that started that accident is the barrier on the left side which has now been moved as it was a car hitting that and throwing debris onto the track which led to Hubert running off to avoid it and the damage to Corea’s car that sent him into the runoff where he hit Hubert.
The reason that barrier was like that was partly because that was the exit of a marshal access road but also because of the way the short layout turns off to the right not too far before it.
It was also half way down a straight which is an area you normally don’t expect anyone to crash and many circuits around the world have similar barrier designs on straghts for varying reasons be it an access road, alternative layout or like at Silverstone something like a bridge causing the barrier to come out back towards the track at an angle (Think the one Kimi hit in 2014).
18th May 2022, 21:21
Ok. He may not have been punted onto the track itself, but the FIA report notes he was “ejected and continued to travel in the racing direction while rotating, such that the left-hand side of the chassis was facing oncoming cars in the run-off area of turn four.”
They made changes to the tyre barrier subsequently, increasing the layers of the tyre barrier from 2 layers to 4 layers, which would be able to absorb more of the energy from the crash without causing the tyres to send the energy to the concrete barrier behind them and then rebound back, causing the car to rebound back out as well.
which is exactly my point when I said
It doesn’t matter if you don’t expect a crash to happen there. The point is, as we have seen, crashes can happen anywhere on the track and the track should be designed so that if there are barriers they can absorb whatever impact could be expected by a car travelling at the maximum speed along that section of the track.
18th May 2022, 14:49
Excellent work Hazel! I think you’re the only person that bothered to get the other side of this story. This is the sort of balanced journalism we need more of.
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
18th May 2022, 15:45
To me, sounds like man admits mistake. Then doubles down that it’s not really his fault.
18th May 2022, 17:36
Yet they are using that chicane in Barcelona due to high speeds…
GT Racer (@gt-racer)
18th May 2022, 21:24
@f1mre It wasn’t so much the speed but more the way the barrier on the exit of the final corner comes back towards the track because of the grandstand.
It was felt as cars got faster the consequences of a car running wide and having an accident like the one Montermini had there in 1994 would result in more severe consequences. Especially given how the car would likely be thrown back onto the track where in a race a car behind would have little chance to avoid it.
Thats the sort of thing they tend to look at. It’s not just the potential impact speed but also where a car may end up after an impact and how easy it may be for cars close behind to avoid getting involved should a car end up been thrown back towards the track.
Additionally another factor that led to the chicane was them looking at helping overtaking as it was hoped cars would be able to follow closer onto the straight than with the 2 corners as they were. Not sure that really ever worked though.
18th May 2022, 19:10
… because the budget went to the fake marina
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