Formula One has made some dramatic changes for the 2014 season, which are all well documented in the motorsport media, with some creating a fair bit of criticism. I thought we'd take a look at some of the elements that have a bearing on the provision of rescue and medical services. These may change during the year and more may come to light. Feel free to add to this post in the comments section below.

First up, the engine isn't an engine anymore. It's a powertrain or power unit. See this Racecar Engineering article for an explanation (Includes a neat three and a half minute video).

2014 F1 explained: The power unit

The cars are much quieter. They no longer blow out your ears nor vibrate through your chest as they scream past. It's a more hollow, open sound and there are other sounds that now come through, like the barge board hitting the tarmac surface in corners and the woosh of air through the aerodynamic structures.

Whereas previously you heard the cars scream up to you in advance of their arrival, now they can be on top of you before the sound really registers. So keep your eyes peeled if you are going on to the track or moving along pit lane.

With the design restrictions impacting upon aerodynamics, fly-by-wire braking resulting in an inconsistent brake pedal feel, a possibility of it being more difficult getting heat into the tyres and increased engine torque, the cars are a lot more twitchy, especially into and out of corners. Accidents will happen!

2014 F1 explained: What is brake by wire?

The lower nose cone height has resulted in much aesthetic commentary. The intent is to reduce the chance of the nose of the car injuring the driver of the car it is striking. However, almost immediately there is an increased risk of the impacting car submarining underneath the car it has struck and either launching that car into the air with the risk of a vertebral injury for that driver, or, having the struck car sliding up the nose and striking the head of the driver; as was almost the case with the turn 1 collision between Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa in Melbourne.

The ERS, Energy Recovery System, won't hurt you ... probably

The engineers assure us that the ERS system is securely contained and the risk of harm to rescuers following a crash is negligible. But the FIA tell us to wear the protective linesman gloves anyway, just to be safe.

There is a row of bright LED lights located on the primary roll hoop just below the main engine air intake and just above and behind the driver's helmet. These are the ERS status "advisory" indicators. The colour scheme is not entirely self-explanatory, so here we go ...

  • Green = ERS operational and contained. Car is safe to handle.
  • Orange = The V6 direct fuel injection engine is disabled, but the MGU (motor generator unit - supplies electrical power to the driveshaft) is still operational, though contained. The danger here is not one of electrocution, rather that the electric drive is still live and so the car can still drive off and run you over if you are in the way. Furthermore, the car will run silently on its electrics, so you cannot rely on hearing the engine note as a warning. If you are the first to arrive at the car and the driver is not going to continue, then press the small red button on the nose structure just in front of the cockpit to neutralise the ERS. The location of this little red button is a bit variable. It may be just in front of the blue G-force threshold indicator light, or to one side of it.
  • Red = ERS potentially damaged. Should still be contained but wearing the protective gloves is probably safer and mandated by the FIA
  • No light = Treat as potentially hazardous

The blue G-force threshold indicator light still pulses slowly in default mode. If an impact causes a force greater than 15G the light with flash rapidly. Generally, this shouldn't matter too much to on track rescuers as the general rule is that where a collision occurs and the car cannot be driven off under its own power, or there is a roll over or ejection, the driver requires a formal medical assessment at the medical centre or hospital. The FIA officials however, will often want to know the status of the light, though they usually get this data directly from each car on their screen.

The ring pull for the in-car fire suppression system (E) is located on both sides of the primary roll hoop structure, behind the driver's head. Pulling it will flood the cockpit and powertrain bay with foam or powder and cut the circuit to the powertrain.

A little unexpectedly, there were a few other things to learn, but no in Formula 1. The new Porsche GT3 cars were introduced andthese were interesting because it seems that the redesign brief included taking account of rescue concerns. The rollcage structure of the GT3s has been modified so that the side elements between the A and B pillars down by the driver's legs bow outwards into the internal cavity of the door. This provides greater access for rescue personel to the driver and makes it less likely that the bars can be bent in towards the driver in a high impact collision. On the downside, the bowing of the bar tends to make a spine board slip into a set position that may not be optimal for sliding a driver out.


The second neat design element is a small roof hatch that is kept in place by 4 small cam bolts. A quarter turn at each corner lets you pop the panel in or out providing better access to the driver's head and neck. The hatch is not large enought to extricate the driver through but you can get the helmet and FHR off and slide in a c-spine collar and KED. This is coupled with a driver seat that is on rails which can be slid backwards or forwards to position the driver underneath the hatch. It's the kind of thinking you'd expect at Volvo!


So there you go. There are a few things to watch out for on the cars this year. If you find any more, please note them in the comments section below.

Stay safe