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​What are the Technical/Social Implications of Introducing Head Protection Into Open Wheeled Formulas?

August 17, 2016
Paul Richard Hailes

What are the technical/social implications of introducing head protection into open wheeled formulas?
Are the FIA’s preferred concepts for the 2017 season the most applicable solutions? 

Paul Richard Hailes, FdSc.

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the qualification of
BSc (Hons) in Motorsport Engineering
in collaboration with 
The University of Bath

May 2016


This report examines the potential for a suitable solution for head protection in open wheeled, open cockpit formulas within Motorsport. This will take into consideration the technical/social implications of each of the systems through the use of primary research techniques; an online questionnaire, industry expert interviews and Computational Fluid Dynamics testing backed by extensive secondary research. The need for both a head protection system and project have become apparent through recent high profile incidents with no accompanying analytical or conclusive papers regarding the current proposals.

The project’s detailed analysis of; head protection testing and proposal progression, technical implications including; materials, driver extrication, driver cooling, visual obstruction/image distortion, contamination build up, aerodynamics, implementation into lower tier accompanied with the driver and fan opinions providing a comprehensive study.

Upon conclusion it’s clear that the Motorsport industry are evenly split between those for and against the implementation of such a system. Although a social issue, each of the technical implications can be tackled with current technologies whereby the collation of these considerations can envisage that Red Bull’s Aeroscreen proposal will be utilized within the 2017 Formula 1 season. 


I would like to take this opportunity within this section of the Research Project to thank those without whose assistance the finished article would not be to the quality that it is.

Firstly I would like to thank Marina Lyubarsky of the Motorsport Safety Foundation. You and the foundation have supported myself and the project throughout the year. This support has ultimately provided the building blocks of the project where the access to the results of the Motorsport Safety Foundation’s questionnaire has provided a vast and representative population of the Motorsport industry.

Secondly, thank you to Nicolas Perrin for providing a fully specified 2016 Formula 1 car in which this project revolved around. The computer aided design model was the basis for the entire aerodynamic analysis of the Project and has provided a great insight into the resultant aerodynamics of each of the head protection proposals. Additionally I would like to say thank you for taking time out of your schedule as one of the industry experts for the primary research interview.

I would like to say thank you to the Motorsport Safety Device expert who will remain anonymous throughout this project for taking the time out of your busy schedule to provide me with the in depth analysis and responses provided as part of the industry expert primary research interview.

Lastly I would like to thank Nicholas Llewellyn-Jones and the Wiltshire 3D Enterprise Centre at Chippenham for your efforts and support throughout the aerodynamic analysis. Additionally a thank you for providing the access to the centres facilities which ultimately made the aerodynamic analysis possible. 


1   Abstract
2   Acknowledgements
3   Contents
     3.1  Table of figures
     3.2  Table of tables
     3.3  Table of graphs

4   Aims and purpose of the study
5   Review of literature
     5.1  Injuries in professional motor car racing drivers at a racing circuit between 1996 and 2000 (Minoyama & Tsuchida – 2003)
     5.2  Formula One Accident Investigations Mellor (2000) and The Physiology and Pathology of Formula One Grand Prix Motor Racing Watkins (2006)
     5.3  Responses of Motor-Sport Athletes to V8 Supercar Racing in Hot Conditions Brearley & Finn (2007)

6   Method and research techniques
     6.1  Online questionnaire
     6.2  Industry expert interviews
     6.3  SolidWorks Flow Simulation

7   Statement of results
     7.1  Online questionnaire
     7.2  SolidWorks Flow Simulation

8   Discussion and analysis
     8.1  History of injuries
     8.2  Head protection testing/proposal progression
     8.3  Technical implications
     8.3.1  Materials
     8.3.2  Driver extrication
     8.3.3  Driver cooling
     8.3.4  Visual obstruction and image distortion
     8.3.5  Contamination build-up
     8.3.6  Aerodynamic performance
     8.4  Social implications
     8.4.1  Driver attitudes
     8.4.2  Fan attitudes

9   Conclusions and recommendations
     9.1  History of injuries
     9.2  Head protection proposal progression/testing
     9.3  Materials
     9.4  Driver extrication
     9.5  Driver cooling
     9.6  Visual obstruction and image distortion
     9.7  Contamination build-up
     9.8  Aerodynamics
     9.9  Driver and fan attitudes

10   Evaluation
11   Reference List
12   Bibliography
13   Appendices
     13.1  Appendix A – Multistage Cluster Sampling forum cohort
     13.2  Appendix B – Qualitative sampling calculation
     13.3  Appendix C – Nicholas Perrin interview
     13.4  Appendix D – Motorsport Safety Device Expert Interview
     13.5  Appendix E – Questionnaire
     13.5.1  Demographics and Motorsport involvement
     13.5.2  Driver logical jump questions
     13.5.3  Race team member and Official logical jump questions
     13.5.4  Main questioning
     13.6  Appendix F – Quantitative Motorsport Safety Foundation results
     13.7  Appendix G – SolidWorks Flow Simulation velocity cut-plots
     13.8  Appendix H – CFD results calculations
     13.9  Appendix I – Head related injuries accident overview
     13.10  Appendix J – Injury frequency summary graphs


Within the last seven years, head injuries have emerged as being increasingly dominate in Motorsport. Due to the number of high profile head related injuries and fatalities within this time, a debate has been sparked regarding whether a head protection system should be implemented into open wheeled, open cockpit competition vehicles, the purpose of which is to aid the closure of this ongoing debate. Below are the various aims and objectives used to measure the projects outcome:


  • To strive towards safer Motorsport by providing governing bodies such as the FIA and Indy Car with unbiased and evaluative analysis of the current head protection proposals.
  • Reinstate the declining mortality rate present during the latter part of the 20th century.
  • To share the projects conclusion with the Motorsport community through potential submission upon the MSF’s website.


  • Utilize a range of primary research techniques to provide both quantitative and qualitative research.
  • Analyse secondary research sources to ensure that current studies and conclusions are considered throughout.
  • Provide a detailed evaluation regarding the likelihood of the implementation of a head protection system. 


In spite of there being no directly related published work regarding the subject matter, various authors have produced papers regarding the relevant head protection technical implications. Below are the three papers that were found to be most influential towards the project.

5.1 Injuries in professional motor car racing drivers at a racing circuit between 1996 and 2000 (Minoyama & Tsuchida – 2003)

This paper provides an insight into the safety of Motorsport by highlighting the number of accidents, types and mechanisms of these injuries over a five year period.

This study was carried out over a long enough time period to assume that the accidents highlighted represent every Motorsport venue in the world. This paper is therefore key to the project as it provides unquestionable evidence that the mechanisms of injuries in high profile accidents that sparked this debate were nothing more than freak accidents, thus backing up the frequently made point, i.e. whether or not there is actually a need for a head protection system.

5.2 Formula One Accident Investigations Mellor (2000) and The Physiology and Pathology of Formula One Grand Prix Motor Racing Watkins (2006)

The discovery of these papers, follows on suitably from the study discussed previously. These studies contradict the Minoyama & Tsuchida (2003) study through the depiction and analysis of those supposed uncommon occurrences, external blunt impact head injuries.

These papers have been referenced considerably throughout the projects secondary research as they ultimately highlight the drivers’ tolerances to varying linear and rotational accelerations through the analysis of each of the chosen injuries. These papers have helped recent advancements in head protection safety through the understanding of the types of forces and categorization of injuries that a head protection system would need to overcome.

5.3 Responses of Motor-Sport Athletes to V8 Supercar Racing in Hot Conditions Brearley & Finn (2007)

This paper helps highlight a predicted and frequently referenced implication of introducing a head protection system, driver cooling. What is apparent is that this is not necessarily an issue subject to the implementation of a head protection system, yet is one that is already current within Motorsport.


Throughout the project various research methods were utilized. Emphasis on cross referencing of research methods was portrayed to allow source triangulation to occur, used “to see the same thing from different perspectives” Laws (2003, p. 281), resulting in more reliable and valid results.

6.1 Online questionnaire

A common method used to easily collate a considerable amount of information is an online questionnaire. Typeform, an online questionnaire tool, was chosen for this project due to a number of features necessary to present the questions in a desired manner, as listed below:

  • Qualifying questions
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Image inclusion
  • Dynamic experience

To ensure the data acquired was sufficient to represent the overall Motorsport population, the selection of a suitable cohort was crucial. The Multistage Cluster and Volunteer sampling methods formed the distribution techniques used for this questionnaire. The various clusters can be found in Appendix A. This online questioning was triangulated with responses provided by the US based Motorsport Safety Foundation (MSF) through the similarity of questioning, thus increasing the comparable cohort forming a representative population between the USA and UK.

The statistical analysis of the quantitative data gathered took form of; Bar charts to “display opinions on an issue using five bars labeled in order from Strongly Disagree up through Strongly Agree” and Pie charts to “show the percentage of individuals that fall into each group” Rumsey (2011, p. 16 & 92). Due to the fact qualitative data cannot be numerically represented, these responses were subjected to Systematic sampling where the calculations are found in Appendix B.

6.2 Industry expert interviews

The interviewing of industry also took place to provide some additional rich qualitative information. The two interviewees were targeted due to their varying involvements within Motorsport, thus offering different insights into the subject matter.

Upon discussion with one of the interviewees it was decided that the use of an email interview would be applicable to base around busy schedules and varying time zones. As the qualitative information here is on a smaller scale and is potentially far more valid than that gathered through the questionnaire, each of the responses will be analyzed in comparison with each other, ensuring source triangulation.

6.3 SolidWorks Flow Simulation

An additional form of primary research used is that of an experiment, used to provide original and desired empirical data through the tailoring of the experiment. This crucial research took place over 33 days at the Wiltshire 3D Enterprise Centre using Nicolas Perrin’s 2016 Formula 1 car.

SolidWorks’ Flow Simulation package was utilized for the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing. In order to provide reliable data, key variables were kept constant:

  • Pressure at 1bar
  • Temperature at 25°C
  • Air velocity at 50m/s as dictated by the 2016 Formula 1 regulations
  • Computational domain (defining of the testing boundary) at 33m3

Screenshots were taken of both the pressure and velocity change across the profiles. The drag and downforce were also measured. These results were categorized into bar charts to show how these factors changed with each of the proposals. 

To see the complete report, please click here.

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