Revised roll hoop test expected after Zhou’s Silverstone crash

Guanyu Zhou

The FIA looks set to increase lateral strength testing on roll hoops for next season following Guanyu Zhou’s terrifying crash at the start of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.

The Chinese driver’s Alfa Romeo Sauber was turned upside down after wheel-to-wheel contact with George Russell, skating down the track inverted before catapulting over the tyre barrier.

The car was ultimately arrested by a catch fence and came to rest between that and the Armco barrier, trapping Zhou in the car.

While common wisdom credits the halo with the fact he emerged unscathed, there are concerns over how easily the roll over structure failed.

Images of the car showed the crash box above Zhou’s head had collapsed, leaving the halo to take the brunt of the forces thereafter.

Work is now ongoing to understand both the precise nature of the forces at play in Zhou’s crash, and how that knowledge can be built into strengthening the roll hoop for 2023.

“The analysis is still ongoing, we’re working since the first day with the FIA to try to reconstruct the accident and assess as best we can,” said Alfa Romeo Sauber’s technical director, Jan Monchaux.

“It’s not an easy task. The force involved, the internal investigation are not completely finished, so I won’t disclose anything.

“The FIA has asked all the teams to provide feedback, imposing several load cases on the respective roll hoops to understand potentially where some, in event, where there’s room for improvement, in effect.”

One of the complicating factors in Zhou’s crash was the fact the car skated upside down for so long, placing shearing load on the roll hoop.

“Without going too far into details, a load case that are being imposed by the rules, so you have some vectors where you need to apply a force on the front and on the rear of your roll hoop,” explained Monchaux.

“Potentially [this is] not the most adequate for the find of accident we had where, effectively, you have the car sliding, so subject to forces that are quite flat-ish, if you want, and not so much a vertical impact.”

That, according to McLaren’s executive technical director James Key, will likely result in changes to the way the roll hoops are tested going forward.

“That was a pretty scary situation with a unique set of conditions, and anything like that will always draw fresh conclusions from a safety point of view,” he said.

“That’s exactly what the teams and FIA are discussing further for next year, so I suspect we’ll get some form of additional lateral loading test or something like this.”

It is expected that recommendations for additional tests for next season will be forthcoming in the next week or so, prior to Formula 1’s summer shut down.

The final race before the mandatory two-week break for teams is this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, opening practice for which commences at 22:00 AEST on Friday.

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