How Formula 1 car safety changed forever after Imola 1994

Front wing endplate change

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The long skirt-style endplate designs that had populated the grid in recent years were outlawed (left), as seen here on the Benetton B194.

Airbox cutout detail

Airbox cutout detail

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This was followed just a race later by holes needing to be cut into the airbox or engine cover to reduce airflow to the engine, reducing power.

Stepped bottom underside

Stepped bottom underside

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

By the time the German GP came around in July, teams had further design constraints to comply with. The most important of these, and something that still exists today, was the need to have a plank installed on the floor. This was done as a method of controlling the ride height, as the plank could not be worn by more than 1mm during the course of a race.

Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view

Benetton B194 1994 underside plank view

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Famously this led to the disqualification of Michael Schumacher’s Benetton at the Belgian GP. The German’s plank had been worn away at the front by more than the 1mm tolerance, resulting in him being stripped of his race victory.

Rear wing changes

Rear wing changes

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The rear wing dimensions were also constrained, with an exclusion zone created 150mm behind the rear axle line, effectively outlawing the practice of using pre-wings. The changes came in for criticism from all corners on the grid, as whilst the teams understood the need for change, in order to improve safety, they’d been rushed, and in some circumstances put unnecessary stress and strain on other components. The push for increased safety continued for 1995, as the governing body made even more rule changes, including an increase in load testing, further changes to the cockpit dimensions, a reduction in engine capacity (3.5 > 3.0 litre) and comprehensive changes that affected aerodynamics.

Side crash test detail

Side crash test detail

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The load and impact tests already undertaken had their speeds and loads increased, whilst a new side impact test was introduced.

underside plank view

underside plank view

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The introduction of the plank in 1994 had only gone so far as to limit the downforce created by the flat bottoms first introduced in 1983. As such, a step plane had been created, which lifted the outer portions of the floor by a further 25mm, reducing the potential yield of the floor.

Cockpit and chassis details

Cockpit and chassis details

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Dramatic changes were made to the cockpit, with its dimensions altered to reduce the chance of incursion by debris. The length of the monocoque was extended by a further 150mm in front of the axle line, improving the crush zone ahead of the driver’s feet, which now also had more space given the extension between the front axle line and the cockpit rim. The cockpit sides were drawn up higher (400>550mm) to better protect in the event of a side-on incident. The cockpit template was narrowed slightly (450>420mm) but extended forward and given a much larger radius.

Front view comparison 1994-1995

Front view comparison 1994-1995

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The car’s aerodynamics were impacted by changes to the front wing endplate height, a reduction in the overall height of the car and a lower rear wing. This view also shows how much of an implication raising the cockpit sides and impact structures had on the design of the sidepods.

Side view details

Side view details

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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The side view shows the impact on the dimensions of the car, with the wheelbase inevitably increasing to incorporate the safety structures. Meanwhile, you can see the dimensional implications on the front and rear wing endplates.

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