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might have an influence on the results.
In addition to that, all the tests are
held at about 50, 60 kilometers per
hour which are lower speed compared
to what we can see on-track. It has to
be said that a 50-km/h impact against a
solid barrier equals a 250/300-km/h
impact against a mobile barrier (the
type that we can usually find on a
racetrack). History told us that the
crash tests reflect the situations that
can be found on-track pretty well. In
crashes like Kovalainen's at Barcelona
in 2008 or Kubica's impact at Montreal
the crash structures worked perfectly
despite the impacts happened at speeds
over 200 km/h.
Will there be a day when the tests will
only be done using simulation?
F.G.: No, because although the
calculation systems are each day more
precise and reliable, crash-testing is key
to evaluate how the crash structure
behaves. The rules are so restrictive
that it just takes a little for a structure
to pass or miss the test. In addition to
that, in simulations the crash structure
is considered to be without defects, and
a real test is just needed to avoid
missing a test due to an error in the
production process.
Can you give us an example of how
safety progressed thanks to a crash test?
: Sid Watkins, the famous FIA
doctor, remembered how in the first
years of Formula One, one crash out of
ten resulted in death or permanent
injuries. Now that number is one on
300. Some examples are Kubica's crash
at Montreal, Firman with the Jordan in
Hungary and Wayne Boyd with the
Formula 3 at Macau. All of them didn't
leave them with permanent
consequences despite how scary they've
been. A lot of cars race each weekend
around the world, with a lot of crashes.
Fortunately, only a few of them have
grave consequences.
Several years ago a crash test was
made between the nose of a racecar
and the chassis of another. It came out
that the nosecones were so rigid (to
absorb the needed energy) that they
could have penetrated the side and hit
the driver. Following to that test, in
Formula One and in many other
championship, the use of 6-mm
ballistic anti-intrusion panels was
mandated for the sides of the chassis.
Our impression is that many drivers
today have been saved with that
innovation despite some scary crashes.
What about roadcars? Their crash tests
are more or less stringent?
It's a complex topic that would
deserved more time to be analyzed. I
won't speak about more or less
stringent parameters. There are
different problems to solve despite the
goals are the same for both kinds of
cars: the safety of the people inside the
car and the safety of who crash into it
from the outside.
The crash tests for roadcars are
completely different than in racecars.
For roadcars, the crash test is extremely
strict and is conducted with a complete
car, evaluating the accelerations in
different points of it, the impacts
between the occupants and the internal
components, the efficiency of the
passive safety equipment (air-bags,
pretensioners, etc…). For the racing
cars, only the crash structure and the
survival cells are tested, and less
parameters are evaluated (basically
only the accelerations and the force
peaks). Plus, the nature of the test itself
is different as in racecars it's only the
energy-absorbing structure that has to
crash, not the chassis, while in roadcars
the chassis can break if that brings no
danger for the occupants. If the
question is "is a racecar safer than a
road car?" the answer is: both of them
are designed to be as safe as possible in
their typical range of use.
What's the best reward for your job?
Of course it's successfully
predicting the car's behaviour, finding
a correspondence between what was
calculated and the real test is a great
satisfaction. However, nothing can
compare with the gratitude of a driver
who survives a crash. That happened
with Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack.
After an horrendous crash in Texas, he
said: I am convinced that it was thanks
to Dallara's innovation and safety
thinking that I lived to race another
Stefano Semeraro
“Sid Watkins, the famous FIA doctor, remembered how in the first years
of Formula One, one crash out of ten resulted in death or permanent
injuries. Now that number is one on 300”