Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Hungaroring, 2018

Renault warned FIA over marshals touching Hulkenberg’s car

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Renault raised concerns with the FIA after marshals were seen touching Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 car without using protective gloves when it stopped during practice in Hungary.

A short circuit in Hulkenberg’s energy store during the first practice session caused a complete electrical failure of his RS18. The team was therefore unable to tell if it posed a danger to anyone who touched it

Hulkenberg jumped clear of the car to avoid the risk of an electric shock. However the team then noticed some of the marshals who arrived at the scene were not wearing protective gloves, and alerted FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

“The marshals dived in straight away and started pushing the car,” said Renault’s technical director Nick Chester. “We got on the radio to Charlie and said ‘look, we don’t know what state the car’s in because everything died completely and we have got no data’.

“But the marshals were already pushing it around by then,” Chester added. “They lived, so it wasn’t live…”

Marshals are required to wear gloves rated to withstand charges of up to 1,000 volts when handling cars which have stopped on track, said Whiting.

“If a car stops, they don’t stop to see what it’s like then put their gloves on if necessary,” he explained. “They should wear them all the time, that’s our instruction. You can’t always be sure whether the systems are working correctly so as a precautionary measure they should always all be wearing them.”

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Chester described the lengths the team goes when making a car safe following an electrical failure.

“When the guys get the car back and put all their rubber gloves on we secure the area so other people can’t walk in, because other people don’t know what they might be touching.

“We make that area is secure and once we’ve got the floor off and got in there we can start metering things to see what’s live, what’s left in the energy store and then you know what you’re going to do from there.”

A damaged energy store has to be removed because discharging it would take too long, said Chester.

“Normally we’d take it out of the car carefully. It’s very hard to discharge, you’d need to put it through quite a bit of resistance to bleed the energy away. That would take a long time so we usually just make sure we’ve uncoupled it carefully and take it away.”

Despite initial fears the problem was more serious, Renault was able to repair Hulkenberg’s car to run during the second practice session.

“It’s quite a long job because when the energy store failed it also damaged some of the looms on the car, and then we had to check out the MGU-K, the MGU-H, meter them all, check they weren’t damaged. At one point we thought we were going to have to change them and then we wouldn’t have run [the rest of the day].

“The guys did a good job because there was a lot of work, it was engine off, check everything, gearbox change as well because when you lose the energy store you lose control of the gearbox and you can damage the gearbox, which we did, so we had to change the gearbox.”

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30 comments on “Renault warned FIA over marshals touching Hulkenberg’s car”

  1. I thought with these new hybrid cars it was mandatory for marshalls to use gloves while pushing cars.

    1. if you look at the marshall on the left of the picture, he has rubber gloves. He’s just not wearing them, and neither are any of the other marshalls pushing the car. I’m sure the FIA briefs all marshalls about this kind of potential issues, but there’s not much they can do if they choose to ignore those briefings.

      1. Yes – it is – that’s made clear in the article.

        1. That was a reply to Chaitanya – sorry

  2. “They lived, so it wasn’t live…”

    Nick Chester, master of deadpan delivery :-)

  3. I quite like when they describe a bit their procedure and how they handle some situation. I understand that they can’t provide as much details as we would like but I feel most teams don’t provide such inside view unfortunately. Was a nice read even if it doesn’t tell much, better than ‘the mechanics did a fantastic job’ for sole response.

    1. Well said @jeanrien, I too like bits like this where we get a clearer picture of how a team, but also the marshalls (are supposed to) handle these things, and what the consequences are; would love if the tv coverage did more of that more regularly too.

  4. As I think about this, the problem I see is a car that has stopped on the track could easily have sustained damage that affects the high voltage system which might result in some normally dead part of the car becoming live. The use of protective gloves probably seems overly cautious to some, but none of the marshalls appear to be carrying equipment to test for high voltage. Like it or not, a live wire looks exactly the same as a dead wire.

  5. With the rising number of EVs, hybrids and so on, it makes me wonder how long it will be before people won’t go near a crashed car at the roadside. I assume they have a lot more safety features built in for road usage – no idea how much. On the other hand, leaking petroleum (gasoline) is really nasty stuff too.

    1. EVs and Hybrids have all kinds of active discharge and safety measures for when things go wrong. It can still go wrong of course, but I don’t think it will be more dangerous than a gas tank. Battery combustion is a concern, although it is easy to see if it is happening.

      1. @eljueta @tribaltalker

        I am sure they should, but seeing the Rimac explode from The Grand Tour makes me wary of those “safety” systems

        1. @captainpie The Rimac is probably a prototype that they gave TGT. Safety functions are normally not yet implemented in those. Also they gave it to the wrong HAM, that’s the one that can’t drive.

    2. EVs have an automatic disconnect of the high voltage system in a big crash or I think if it detects serious problems with the battery. The battery itself would obviously be live but the rest of the car should be fine. There is also much more insulation around the electric components etc so there should not be a situation where the car becomes live. Obviously F1 cars don’t have all these systems as it adds weight and the people handling that cars are normally well trained.

      1. I meant road cars, yes

      2. I was a Marshal at the BGP, we were not advised to always wear gloves of this calibre, we had 2 pairs of rubber protective gloves between 10 of us, these were issued for the other races, no mention for F1. F1 makes enough money to issue EVERY Marshal, a pair of these safety gloves, I maneuvered LeClerc’s car , this has made me think, Charlie Whiting say’s we have been advised, but I can not find it in any of my briefings. F1 should supply every marshal, with the safety gloves, we give up our time free for 4 days, we stand there in rain, or sun, with no shade, they do not even ensure we have enough water. They should at least try and keep us safe. We do it because we love it, and I am talking days doing small club events as well. Without the orange army, there would be NO motorsport.

  6. The marshal in the middle was using (at least some type of) gloves, though.

    1. That appears to be regular cotton gloves meant to wick away sweat, and avoid minor nicks/cuts. At best, it offers no protection, at worst, any sweat held within it might offer a more conductive path.

      If any of these marshals are blasé about electrical safety, one unfortunate incident that sends one of them flying – or worse, fixes them in place as a conductor – will change that attitude in a hurry. It would be better not to learn from experience, but play it safe.

      1. @phylyp True. Good points.

  7. I have marshalled at 3 FIA events with hybrid cars on circuit (WECx1 and F1x2), the electrical safety gloves supplied by the organisers must be used at all times while the F1 cars are on circuit, the notes before the event, the marshal briefing at the beginning of the event and the team briefing on post every day of the event make this clear and very much reinforce the issues. They are horrendous to wear in warm or humid weather and pool very quickly with sweat inside, and offer virtually no grip at all in the rain.
    For each of the 3 events I have attended there were only enough sets of gloves for 2/3 of the marshals too, so not all marshals would carry them, but all marshals would know not to touch the car unless the hybrid ers lights were green, indicating safe to touch.

    1. @Tom Which two F1 races? No reason really for asking, just out of curiosity.

  8. @phylyp Normal gloves offer excellent protection, it just aint 100% guaranteed.

    1. Mick Nicholson
      2nd August 2018, 20:26

      In fact they are 0% guaranteed😖

      1. Yes but they protect you 99% of the time which is what matters if you are touching live voltage.

  9. Energy Store.

    Whatever you do F1, don’t call it a battery. Batteries are used by the commoners. Not befitting F1’s lofty charge to the top of hybrid languaging.

    1. top of hybrid languaging

      @jimmi-cynic – you misspelt “pinnacle” of languaging 😉

      1. @phylyp – thanks for the in-season update – I didn’t have the energy store to type more formidable words. ;-)

  10. Mick Nicholson
    2nd August 2018, 20:32

    It’s not exactly comfortable to wear rubber gloves for 2 hours at a stretch in 30C. If this is the safety policy then it needs rigorous enforcement. Is FIA doing checks ? It would be good to have a better policy, but I cannot think of one. The real solution is to insist on better engineering solutions, something that can then be transferable to other motorsports and road cars.

    1. I don’t think anyone is suggesting they wear them for 2 hours straight, just quickly put them on before you go deal with a wrecked car.

  11. Viktor Alaxay
    3rd August 2018, 12:51

    I think, the biggest problem is confusing the marshals with the technicians. If you see pictures about the event, you can see, that the helping staff was dressed in two different colors, marshals were in orange and the technicians were is red. I was one of the marshals in this case, and we used the ERS gloves the whole weekend and all that moments when only one Formula-1 car was on the scene. So, this is a fake news, which deteriorates the team’s image.

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