Alfa Romeo collar likely to focus on Zhou F1 accident investigation

As part of the never-ending quest to improve safety, motorsport’s governing body is scrutinizing the details of each major accident to understand what factors worked as planned to help the driver, and where improvements could be made better.

One aspect of the Zhou incident that will likely be looked at particularly closely will be what happened to the C42 collar, with photos of the car in the aftermath showing it being cleaned.

Zhou’s still images and video footage indicate that the rolling collar did not survive the initial roll, and that it was the corona and other surrounding safety structures that prevented the driver’s head from hitting the ground afterward.

The accident between Zhou Guanyu and Alfa Romeo C42 at the start of the race

Photography: Mark Sutton / motorsports pictures

What the FIA ​​wants to understand better is what forces were at play and the size and number of impacts the rolling collar had during the breakdown sequence.

One factor that stands out is that Alfa Romeo It is unique in the F1 grid in 2022 in operating a blade-shaped roll structure (shown below) – and its concept has fallen out of favor and out over the years.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, in the garage

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, in the garage

Photography: Jerry Andre / motorsports pictures

Alfa Romeo returned to the bladed solution this year after not using one since 2019, the year after the corona was first introduced. One featured in its 2017 and 2018 competitions as well.

Before that, blade-shaped rolling structures were used by mercedes in 2010 and both Force India and Lotus Racing in 2011.

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Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, the full blade design used in this race, rather than the internal compromises

Mercedes W01 airbox comparison, the full blade design used in this race, rather than the internal compromises

photo from photography: Giorgio Beola

Force comparison side pods India VJM04

Force comparison side pods India VJM04

photo from photography: Giorgio Beola

The arrival of Mercedes’ solution in 2010 prompted action from the FIA, amid concerns that, due to how tight the chassis was, it could dig into the ground on a soft surface if the impact was in the wrong place.

As a result, all designs that followed had to have a much wider blade in order to comply with regulations.

In all conditions, the choice of blade roll structure was preferred over a conventional collar due to two factors: aerodynamic gain and weight. The latter is clearly an important factor for the teams that struggled to drop the bulk of their cars in 2022.

In the event of the latter accident, the FIA ​​would have access to g-load sensors, telemetry data and actual vehicle parts to fully understand what factors were at play, and whether the blade pattern structure worked differently from the way a more regular roll would the girth.

It is important to clarify that the design used by Alfa Romeo has passed the required crash tests imposed by the FIA.

Ring roll test

Ring roll test

photo from photography: Giorgio Beola

The requirements for the rolling core structure are to maintain loads equivalent to 60 kN horizontally, 70 kN longitudinal and 105 kN vertically. All teams are required to pass crash tests in this regard before their cars are allowed to run on the correct track.

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One problem with the Zhou incident is that it is a composite scenario with multiple and different effects.

The roll structure underwent a significant load in the vertical direction, as the car landed upside down. This was then followed by a continuous longitudinal load as it scraped along the track.

It could be said, therefore, that she did her job completely in the first place, with the nature of the accident then turning more to relying on aura.

One aspect that could be considered for improvement is the way in which the winding structures are attached to the hull, and this is an important element to determine its presence and use in a multi-impact collision.

Alfa Romeo C42 from Zhou Guanyu after crash

Alfa Romeo C42 from Zhou Guanyu after crash

Photography: Mark Sutton / motorsports pictures

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