There’s good reason why cheap fix enthusiast Red Green wasn’t appointed as a Formula One safety expert on the multi-year run of The Red Green Show. Cheap fixes aren’t always the safest, which is why repairing a barrier hit by Romain Grosjean with duct tape is the worst idea I’ve seen during a grand prix yet.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen the barriers get more than their fair share of testing during the Russian Grand Prix weekend this year. However, when they’re intact and function as they should, they do a marvelous job of protecting drivers and those around the circuit from harm. Crashes such as Carlos Sainz Jr.’s massive shunt in practice have gone from life-threatening affairs to the cause of a few annoying aches.
During today’s F1 race, Romain Grosjean lost control of his Lotus and plowed sideways into the barriers at Sochi Autodrom’s turn 3.
A video of this incident has been removed after a copyright claim by Formula One.
When his car was approaching the barrier, Grosjean expected it to hurt. He explained to Autosport:
When I saw it coming I knew it was going to be a good hit.
I released the steering wheel, made my muscles strong, closed my eyes and waited for it to be over.
You know that those two, three or four tenths before hitting the wall are going to feel like 10 seconds and it’s going to hurt.
Grosjean told Autosport that he was thankful that modern safety technology was in place to save his bacon.
“I’m very thankful the helmet, HANS device, Tecpro barriers, crash structure of the car are so good,” Grosjean told Autosport. “I’m very happy the technology in Formula 1 is so good that after I have a big shock like that I can come here and talk about it.”
Like Sainz, Grosjean says he’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but that’s all. He was able to get up and walk away from that broad-side smack. Formula One mandates those pricey barriers for a reason: they work.
However, had someone had a high-speed off at the same location Grosjean did after Grosjean had taken out the Tecpro barriers there, they would have run into duct tape.
That’s right: Red Green’s favorite repair tool was used to patch a vital safety item around the Sochi Autodrom track.
Problem is, you can’t just patch up a barrier like this and expect it to work. All of the confetti that bursts forth on impact is there to help absorb the massive forces involved in Formula One crashes.
For example, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said that Sainz’s 93mph impact from practice was measured at 46G, per F1 journalist Adam Cooper. Of course, F1 cars are capable of even higher speeds on track that produce more insane forces in a shunt.
That’s why energy from a car-into-barrier crash needs to be transferred into snowing white fluff all over the side of the track. More direct hits subject the driver to more of those extreme forces, resulting in far more severe injuries or death.
So, I have an experiment for whoever made the call to use duct tape on a barrier. Find a frying pan and a pillow. I want you to hit yourself repeatedly on the head with the frying pan. You can use the pillow to cushion the blow, but only if you remove the fluffy part and patch the pillowcase up with duct tape.
If this sounds painful, then you probably shouldn’t be patching energy-absorbing barriers on an active race track with duct tape, either.
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