Formula One will see further improvements in safety as of 2014 as the FIA has developed improved side impact crash structures in a joint effort with current F1 teams Mercedes, Marussia, McLaren and Red Bull Racing.
At the basis of the improved crash structures is the extremely violent crash from Robert Kubica at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
In an interview with FIA magazine Auto, FIA Institute research consultant Andy Mellor, who led the project, said: "We went back to basics to examine what a side impact structure really needs to do in different types of accident. We used Robert Kubica's crash as a specific reference point since that was a major impact at an acute angle.”
"There were three teams that ultimately submitted impact devices that were subjected to a physical test and ours was deemed to be the best of the bunch so we pursued that device further," revealed Paul Monaghan, Red Bull's head of car engineering.
The side impact structures currently are carbon fibre tubes at each side of monocoque. They are housed in the sidepods, both above the air inlet as below them. While these structures are extremely effective in side impacts, a crash like Kubica's showed that the structures can become detached from the monocoque when the impact angle is not entirely sideways.
The new design features carbon fibres that are precisely layered to make sure the tubes do not break but rather progressively crush while decelerating the car. During testing, it is understood the structures were able to absorb almost 40kJ of energy in both normal and oblique impacts, a significant improvement over the current designs.
"The tube has a common specification but how teams put it into their cars is entirely their business," Monaghan told Auto. "The static tests that will be undertaken on the monocoque will determine the strength of the mounts and make sure that they are sufficient to support the tube. After that, it's down to the teams as to how they integrate it and how they design their car around it."
"One of the driving forces was to spare teams extra expense in the testing process," he said. "Assuming everybody has a monocoque which is strong enough and passes the static tests, then they've saved money as they're not doing an impact test. It should b we a cheaper solution."
The teams agreed to introduce the system next season at a Technical Working Group meeting in May.