A substantial part of Formula 1's fascination lies in the sport's ability to manage risk. True, drivers rely on gut feel and the sensitivity of their posteriors to push their projectiles to the absolute limit with utmost confidence, but data analysis - the art of dissecting car performance in digital form - plays a major role in guiding them to their personal limits.
Back at base, physics, chemistry and computer science combine to calculate the strength of materials, enabling engineers to manage the risk of component failure; research into rubber, polymers and composites enables Pirelli to reduce the risk - last year to absolute zero - of tyre failure, and various failsafe systems, ranging from bag tanks to deformable structures ensure the safety of F1's energy installations, whether fuel or electric - the latter including, of course, KERS.
F1's obsession with safety and security does not stop there, either: drivers are kitted out with triple-layer fireproof overalls, with full suits of underwear tailored from the same materials providing additional protection in the event of mishap; certified helmets are mandated, their visors bulletproof; and all participants are required to pass stringent medical tests. Even the grades of CONFORS, the deformable material specified for cockpit surrounds, vary according to ambient temperature to ensure maximum absorption, thereby minimising risk.
Patented HANS devices protect head and neck, energy-absorbent barriers line those parts of (Grade 1 licenced, regularly inspected) circuits their gravel traps can't reach, speeds in pitlanes are restricted to F1's equivalent of walking pace, and quadruple tethers restrain errant wheels on each corner of the car.
Noses have this year been lowered to the staggered point of ugliness to restrict aviation tendencies, and staff forced to work to curfew to minimise risks through shoddy (i.e. dangerous) workmanship. Said crews are required to wear fireproof kit during races - despite refuelling currently being banned - while pitlane and track access is tightly controlled during competition - a point taken so seriously that it is included in the Concorde Agreement's schedules.
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South African-born Dieter trained as industrial engineer before holding down a variety of senior motor industry marketing and manufacturing positions. At the age of 40 he decided to follow his passion, and became the first and only South African journalist to cover Formula 1 regularly. Dieter joined AtlasF1 at the beginning of 2004 – a year prior to its merger with Autosport – and his regular column offers an intriguing analysis of F1’s politicking and commercial chicanery. Although now also proudly Belgian, he gives his domicile as "Wherever F1 duplicity lurks".@RacingLines More features by Dieter Rencken