Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

FIA investigating how wheel came off Giovinazzi’s car in crash

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi says he was concerned to see a wheel break free from Antonio Giovinazzi’s car in his crash at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Formula 1 cars are required to have tethers securing wheels to the chassis to prevent them coming loose in crashes. Giovinazzi’s rear-left wheel came off his car when he crashed at the exit of Fagnes. George Russell was unable to avoid the wheel as it bounced onto the circuit and also crashed out.

Masi said the failure of the tether “is a concern” and the FIA is looking into it.

“Why it came detached I’m not 100% sure,” he said. “But immediately, once the car came back to the drop-off area, our technical team’s already started their investigation, taken a number of photos and we’ve got all the available footage. So the FIA technical department together with the safety department will investigate why.”

Masi said “it’s too early to draw any conclusions” why wheel might have come off.

“With an incident like that I think you need to look at all the available data and process it and let the appropriate people have a really good look into the whole thing, the incident itself and what happened.”

The FIA will also consider whether the run-off area needs to be extended in the area of the circuit where Gasly crashed.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and have a look and see what the lay of the land in is down there and see,” said Masi on Sunday evening. “But we’ll have a look at it overall and see what can be done, if anything needs to be improved, what can be improved.”

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30 comments on “FIA investigating how wheel came off Giovinazzi’s car in crash”

  1. Yeah, exactly as it should be. Tethers are there to keep the wheels attached, so it makes huge sense to study why that did not work this time. And off course that also means having a look at how the runoff there looks.

    1. if the ancherage points was broken i could understand why it failed.

      1. That is what I think is most likely too @macleod. They did already reinforce that too over time, but I can imagine it is hard to predict all forces in all possible cases.

    2. @bascb Reading Martin Brundle’s column on the Sky website, it implies that the tether will need to fail at a certain point since if the wheel gets caught in the trackside at high speed then more deceleration force will be sent through the survival cell and possibly cause big injuries. If that is true then there is a balance to be struck.

      However independent of that there should be no way that a spectator should be put in danger which could have happened here. There is an implied “hierarchy of safety” where the spectators are at the top and drivers are at the bottom so they have to bear the brunt of any incident. As “safe” as F1 is, if you decide to jump in a car that does 200mph+ you need to accept that there is a chance that you may not get out whilst you could never ask a spectator to take this risk.

      1. Good point with the tether having to give at a certain point @chimaera2003, I hadn’t thought about that but it makes sense.

        I don’t think there would have been any spectators at risk (the catch fencing has improved a great deal since the 1990s). But a wheel bouncing around is always dangerous for drivers and for marshalls as well.

        1. There are a lot of places around spa without fencing.

  2. Been happening an awful lot recently. Ssooner or later it’s going to kill someone

    1. Indeed, just remember the Frentzen-Coulthard incident at Monza back in 2000 when a marshal succumbed to injuries sustained by a wheel exiting the track after a crash. The drivers are safer now, and wheels shouldn’t be able to pass the halo, but smaller pieces can.

      The aeroscreen deployed by IndyCar should be seriously considered by F1, I feel. It looks cleaner, it didn’t take me long to get used to the new IndyCar appearance.

      1. Wasnt there a death of Marshall at 2001 Australian GP due to lose wheel?

        1. Chaitanya, whilst that was the case, the solution there would have been better circuit safety.

          The main problem was defective catch fencing that meant a hole that had been created for photographers was large enough to allow a wheel through, so the fix there was simply reducing the size of the hole so wheels couldn’t pass through it.

          Furthermore, I believe that marshal was only there because a group of spectators had trespassed into an area where they were not meant to be – the marshal was in the process of directing them back to a safer area when he was struck by that wheel.

        2. Henry Surtees (son of John) was also killed in an incident at Brands Hatch at an F2 race in 2009 where a wheel had come off in an unrelated accident. He looked dead before he’d even hit the wall..

      2. @chrischrill as I’ve noted before, it is a case of balancing the potential benefits and disadvantages of the different systems that are available for use.

        With the Aeroscreen, whilst the frame itself is, I believe, rated for a similar point load impact, the screen itself has a lower impact resistance (being mainly designed for lighter and smaller pieces of debris) – so it depends on what exactly you are trying to protect the driver against. In the case of stopping a wheel, the Aeroscreen and the Halo arguably aren’t really going to be that different in terms of protection – the wheel itself would be too small to pass through the gaps in the Halo device, and in both cases it’s mainly going to be the metal frame that would be taking the brunt of the impact force.

        The Aeroscreen does come with other compromises – ventilation of the cockpit has been problematic, and in particular there have been concerns about high temperatures when running at lower speed (e.g. behind a safety car). The screens also result in adverse handling issues in crosswinds, since the screens present a much larger surface area to obstruct airflow.

        The Aeroscreen is also noticeably heavier than the Halo, being about 20.5kg versus the 9kg that the Halo weighs in at, and the drivers in IndyCar have commented that this has adversely impacted the handling, since the centre of mass is further forwards and the centre of gravity is also raised. Now, the centre of mass issue is mitigated by the mandated weight distribution in F1, but the adverse effects of the raised centre of gravity would be harder to overcome.

        It therefore raises the question of whether one set of benefits is worth trading off against the disadvantages that come with the system, because no one system is perfect and it is ultimately about what you are prepared to compromise on.

        1. The ventilation issue i think gets overlooked when people talk about the Aeroscreen. I saw in the Indy 500 (can’t remember who) needing to get out of the car in a hurry and they really struggled to get the ventilation line off and it was a trackside marshall that needed to detach it before egress was possible.

          I am not saying that the Asroscreen needs to be binned as there have been other incidents where it was clearly advantageous but there is no penalty-free solution and as you say you need to decide what to compromise on.

        2. Where are you getting 20kg for the aeroscreen from? The Indycar site says it’s about 7kg…

          1. @tristan Combined added weight to the chassi? not just the screen itself? (as in combined added weight for the support structure needed etc)

          2. @tristan also a simple google for “aeroscreen weight” gives a 60 pounds answer ie 27kg.

          3. @skipgamer the official data from the IndyCar series itself is that the ballistic screen itself is intended to weigh 17.3 pounds (about 7.8kg), whilst the metal frame to which the ballistic screen is fixed to is a further 27.8 pounds (12.6kg).

            If you are looking at just the screen, then yes, the weight of that individual component is just under 8kg – but then you are making a false comparison by only looking at the weight of an individual component that makes up only part of the overall device.

            The Aeroscreen is designed to act as a composite structure, where the frame and the ballistic screen have specific functions – in fact, because the ballistic screen is attached to the metal frame, not the chassis, it is currently impossible to fit the ballistic screen to a car without using the metal frame as well. You thus have to consider the combined weight of the entire system because that is how the Aeroscreen is designed to function.

  3. The front tires currently run 2 of the standard tethers and this tire still got loose. The tires are garbage and are way too heavy. The current front tires are almost 3x heavier than the 2010 Bridgestone fronts. Heavier/wider tires require heavier wheel, hubs, brakes, suspension arms and suspension components. The main reason the current cars are heavy is because of the tires, not the PUs.

  4. When did Gasly crash?

    1. Gasly… Gio… who cares? One of those foreign drivers with funny names. 😅

    2. the bad grammar and weird goofs in the articles on this site is really starting to irk me aas it has gotten much worse latly.

  5. I have a hunch that after extensive study they will find out that the rear-wheel tethers are not securely enough anchored to the rear of the car…

  6. There is an energy threshold to which wheel tethers are meant to be rated (and has been since 1999; I believe it’s been increased at least twice in the intervening decades). Given the range of teams that have had issues with this in recent years, I’m expecting the 2021 or 2022 regulations to include an increase in that threshold.

    1. Either that, or they will find they need to change / reinforce the attatchment points to the chassis and/or the wheel mount @alianora-la-canta

  7. I’ve felt earlier that crashing into softer barriers is probably worse for wheel tethers.

    Good thing that loose wheel was just rolling on the track and not flying high in the air.

    1. True, but after being hit by Russell it might have been sent flying @bleu.
      Think you’re right about the softer barriers. The thing is that Halo helps the drivers, but a wheel towards a marshall (as alluded to above) or god forbid, a grandstand, means this should be the next real safety priority for F1.

  8. The FIA will also consider whether the run-off area needs to be extended in the area of the circuit where [Antonio Giovinazzi] crashed.

    I’m pleased they are investigating that as well. It didn’t look safe when Antonio’s car was deflected off the barrier and across the track. I think that should worry a lot of people in F1 and the FIA.

    1. I think that is happening for 2022 as part of the Grade C FIM modifications @drycrust. Same as the extension at the top of Raidillon… but I might be wrong on that, someone else might know more.

  9. I argued afters Senna’s accident in 94 that maybe his death could have been avoided if the struts would have been steel to allow them to crumple up and not snap off like carbon fibre.

    Seems the argument is still just as relevant.

    1. John, I am fairly certain that the wishbones on the FW16 were made of steel, with only a thin outer skin of carbon fibre used to make an aerodynamic faring.

      That was a deliberate design decision because, at the time, it was not clear if the stewards would allow Williams to use a wing shaped faring for the wishbones – so the wishbone was designed with the traditional steel tubular section and just a thin outer faring so that, if the stewards at any race objected to it, Williams could then remove the faring and have a compliant wishbone with only a few minutes work.

      I am prepared to be corrected, but it would suggest that the very accident you have cited was in fact caused by the thing you are arguing for.

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