Flashes from the past- F1 in the 1960s- part 2

By on Sunday, March 6, 2011

Now we move onto the second article of the series, this article stresses on safety features introduced into F1.
SAFETY:
One would assume that safety has always been given prime importance in Formula 1. That actually hasn’t been the case. F1 was a sport for the elite- for those who were not just fast but more importantly had a Do-or-Die attitude, fully aware of the risks and a probability of not coming out of a race in full health. It was only during the 1960s that safety began to be given some importance. As could be seen by the several deaths that continued in the next few decades, it was still not given complete importance until a certain disastrous weekend 3 decades later. Here some of the more important features introduced to improve safety in this decade will be discussed.
Roll-over Bars: As can be seen in comparative images below, the curved bar present at higher position than the driver is the Roll-over bar introduced so as to provide protection to the driver in case of a car turning turtle or as the name implies, if the car rolls over. This will take the impact and reduce chances of the drivers head or neck taking the brunt of the impact. This has been improved upon a lot and looks quite different in current day cars. Roll-over bars were introduced in 1961. By 1968, it was required for it to be at least 5cm above the driver’s head.

Flags: While the checkered flag has been used to signal the end of the race for a century at the least (perhaps sporadically in its initial stages), but the other various safety flags were introduced only around 1963. The safety car was introduced a decade later. With the help of these safety flags, the drivers running get to know the current track conditions: whether it is greasy, unsafe, etc... This has become quite an important aspect of safety in Formula 1 with penalties handed out for flag infringements.

On- driver safety aids: Fireproof suits and un-breakable full visor helmets were made mandatory in 1963, so as to reduce burn casualties /injuries and head/neck injuries respectively. Additional fireproof clothing was recommended later in the decade.

Cockpits: Starting 1963, the cockpits were restructured such that the drivers could exit more easily or be extracted more easily in an event of an accident. As can be seen from the image comparison, the cockpit was made more spacious with extra leg room so as to allow the driver or others to extract a driver out from the car in more hazardous circumstances.

Miscellaneous: A double fire extinguishing system was introduced in 1969 with activation possible both by the driver (when he is restricted by the safety belt), and from the outside. Interrupters for electronic systems were introduced in 1963.
Following Graham Hill’s crash in 1969, movable aerofoils were banned which were beginning to be seen in most cars.


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