Every year, F1 teams must subject their new chassis to crash tests for approval by the FIA. Let’s explore what these tests entail and the requirements for successfully passing them.
During the transition between seasons, teams are in a race to finalize the cars that will hit the track the following year. One crucial step is the safety verification of the chassis, subject to rigorous technical inspections. Let’s examine what the FIA-imposed crash tests for F1 cars involve and how they are conducted.
The technical regulation section addressing the safety of components is found under Article 13, defining safety structures and their approval. The regulation, in subsequent paragraphs, also specifies that if an inadequate level of safety is identified, the FIA can intervene and modify the regulations.
All tests listed in the following paragraphs can only be conducted in the presence of an FIA delegate overseeing the process. The testing facilities must also be approved by the Federation and equipped with properly calibrated instruments. Crash tests are divided into different areas of the car, from frontal tests to roll and side impact.
To assess frontal impact, teams must install an aluminum plate at the end of the chassis, at the nose anchoring point. This plate must be mounted vertically to replicate a proper force distribution similar to that achieved with the mounted nose. Inside the safety cell, a correctly harnessed mannequin weighing at least 75 kg, replicating the driver, must also be installed. Considering the driver, the total mass subjected to the test ranges from 900 kg to 925 kg, with a impact velocity of 15 m/s (54 km/h).
After the crash test, the survival cell is considered approved when no damage is observed to the chassis, seatbelts, and all connected accessories. The maximum chest deceleration must be no more than 3 m/s during the impact. From 2024, the acceleration limit the cell can withstand is further increased to 52 G from 30 m/s.
Roll structure crash tests
Roll structure tests have become even more stringent after Zhou’s incident at Silverstone in 2022. These checks focus on the upper part of the survival cell and involve rigorous tests on the Roll bar mounted above the driver’s head.
These structures undergo significantly rigid load tests, 10 tonnes in the first test and 14 in the second, both repeated on the same structure. In addition to these, lateral and longitudinal tests are required, respectively, 6 tonnes and 7 tonnes towards the rear. To approve the roll bar, this structure must have undergone a deformation of less than 25 mm along the load axis.
Side impact tests
To verify the compliance of the structure in a side impact, a model of the final chassis is used, where intrusion cones are installed. These structures, through their design, determine the success or failure of the test. These cones are made of carbon fiber and adopt a twill biaxial structure to distribute impact forces effectively. The manufacturing of these components is extremely controlled; any imperfections lead to rejection. The connection between the chassis and these cones is achieved through mechanical means and bonding and undergoes various checks.
The first involves a longitudinal load of approximately 9.4 tonnes towards the rear of the car and over 10 tonnes in compression. The latter also serves to verify that there are no penetrations inside the chassis. Connections must be able to withstand 120% of the test forces (almost 17 tonnes), and their deformation must be simulated as elastic.