The FIA has revealed it is looking into a new way to improve safety at a time when one or more of the wheels become detached from a car. The automatic deflation solution should prevent wheels from bouncing onto other cars or into the crowd.
Even if the FIA has pushed hard to improve safety in the last two decades, motorsport cannot reach a level where total safety can be granted. FIA now wants to take another important step in their fight for raising that standard.
Since Ayrton Senna’s death, Formula One was spared of fatal driver accidents. In 2009 however, F2 driver Henry Surtees’ head was hit by a wheel, leading to him immediate death. That incident proved the continued hazard of loose wheels, even though the wheels are now linked to the chassis with retaining tethers. After a huge crash or when a wheel is not secured properly, both drivers and marshals are under serious threat.
The FIA has entrusted the American Oscar Nelson Group to work together with the FIA’s Institute for Safety on a system which releases the air out of the tyre when this flies off the car. This then should slow the tyre down when it first touches the ground.
The system itself is pretty complex and requires complete reliability. An unplanned deflation with a wheel still being attached could otherwise create a potentially dangerous accident.
The system is designed to use sensors around the car, feeding data to the ECU. A software model will there analyse whether all wheels are attached to the car. Overall this should also mean a very small weight penalty for cars, as current sensors and ECU can be used whereas only a few velves are needed to allow air to escape from the tyres when needed.
The project still finds itself in a very early phase of development and it is to be evaluated how much energy goes lost with the deflated tyre. Development work would only continue if the advantages will eventually outweigh the costs.