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F1's high-speed safety barrier


Last weekend's Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was the first Formula One race to see the introduction of a new High Speed Barrier developed by the FIA Institute and the FIA.

The system, which was installed at the end of the run-off areas at the circuit's second chicane and Parabolica corners, was designed for particular use at corners with high speed approaches and limited run-off areas.

Over six years in research and development, this special barrier is capable of absorbing the energy of a 200 kph impact whilst keeping the g-forces experienced by the driver to tolerable levels.

The FIA Institute developed the unique system, following a programme of testing in collaboration with German automotive safety group DEKRA.

The new barrier involves three separate layers, the first of which is made up of plastic blocks filled with polyethylene foam, a material which is known for its high energy absorption properties and vertical steel plates to resist penetration. The blocks were created by French company TecPro International. The TecPro blocks are plastic containers measuring 1.5m long, 1m high and 0.6m deep. Each end is formed into a half circle, enabling them to connect with each other like a giant puzzle.

A 1.2m gap then separates the TecPro elements from the second part of the barrier system, a four or six row tyre barrier where each stack of tyres is fitted with a 30cm diamater tube made from high density polyetheylene. The final part of the barrier system consists of a guardrail or specially designed concrete wall. The whole barrier system is just four metres deep.

The FIA were delighted with the installations at Monza and will be discussing the feasibility of similar installations at other tracks with the relevant circuit authorities.

The owners of circuits licensed for Formula One are required not to discuss safety measures with third parties (including drivers). This is to prevent self-appointed experts, with little or no understanding of the latest developments in circuit safety, causing confusion and undermining the significant safety benefits which are now being achieved.

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