The FIA has revealed the new helmet standards as Formula 1 and other FIA-sanctioned championships continue in their quest to improve driver safety.
The new standard, FIA 8860-2018, comes off the back of over a decade of research from helmet manufacturers, and the change is far more than aesthetic. From 2019 onward, all drivers in F1 will be required to wear helmets that meet the required criteria.
“The current top-end helmets are already the safest in the world, but the new standard will take them to the next level,” said FIA safety director Laurent Mekies. “It is important for all of our safety research that we continually strive to improve, and this is why we are requiring all manufacturers to meet this tougher standard for our championships.”
Conversations surrounding safety in F1 usually all end in the same way, with someone questioning whether it would have saved the life of Jules Bianchi. As will be the case for the foreseeable future though, the answer to that question is no. It is pretty safe to say that we are a long way from finding something that can protect you from a high-speed direct impact with a tractor weighing multiple tons.
The accident that brought this all into focus was that of Felipe Massa in 2009. When a spring came loose from the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car and hit the then-Ferrari driver’s helmet square on, the helmet absorbed a large portion of the energy, but it did not prevent serious injury being caused.
The new designs will reportedly feature advanced ballistic protection, increased energy absorption and an extended area of protection for drivers, as can be seen with the smaller visor.
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The full specifications, as laid out by the FIA in a press release, are:
- Top of visor opening lowered by 10 mm to incorporate advanced ballistic protection that achieves unprecedented levels of safety during impact from debris.
- Extended areas of protection on sides to offer compatibility with latest single-seater headrests and closed car seat-side head protection systems, ensuring energy management is exactly where headrests are positioned.
- Helmet shell construction using advanced composite materials to ensure it is not only tough but also resistant to crushing and penetration.
- Test methods include variable crash speeds to account for different accidents and a range of weights to account for different mass headforms.
Under the new FIA 8860-2018 standard all helmets must withstand the following tests:
- Standard impact: Helmet impact at 9.5m/s. Peak deceleration on ‘driver’s head’ shall not exceed 275G.
- Low-velocity impact: Helmet impact at 6m/s. Peak deceleration shall not exceed 200G with a maximum average of 180g.
- Low lateral impact: Helmet impact at 8.5m/s. Peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Advanced Ballistic Protection: A 225g metal projectile fired at 250km/h. The peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Crush: A 10kg weight falling 5.1 meters onto helmet. Lateral and longitudinal tests. The transmitted force should not exceed 10 kN.
- Shell penetration: A 4kg impactor dropped onto helmet at 7.7 m/s.
- Visor penetration: Air rifle fires 1.2 g pellet at visor. Pellet must not penetrate the interior of the helmet.
- Visor coating: Transmitter test to ensure coloration and vision is not significantly changed or distorted.
- Retention system: Roll-off test and dynamic test to ensure strength of chin strap and its attachments.
- Chin guard linear impact: Impact test with full headform at 5.5m/s. The peak deceleration shall not exceed 275G.
- Chin guard crush: Hammer hits chin guard and measures ability to keep impact away from the head.
- FHR mechanical strength: Test to ensure high strength of attachment points for Frontal Head Restraints.
- Projection and surface friction: Test to ensure helmet surface uniformity and that friction is minimized. Shell surface also subjected to BARCOL hardness test for resistance to penetration.
- Flammability: Helmet exposed to 790 C° flame; it must self-extinguish once flame is removed.