Fernando Alonso’s recent retirement in Spain was caused by his own tear off that left his hand while driving during Sunday’s Grand Prix. The tear off flew around the carefully engineered bodywork of the MP4-30 and inserted itself into one area of the car that provides cooling to the left rear brake.
Within 2 laps, the rear brake system on the car had overheated, causing the fluid to boil and a loss of stopping power. While most of the braking is done by the front tires in a car, Fernando’s subsequent pit stop showed the effect the loss of rear brakes had:
The incident highlights several key concepts in F1, and underscores the ability of a seemingly insignificant part to lead to a retirement. In 2013, Kimi Raikkonen had his front left brake duct blocked by a discarded tear off, ending his race at Spa that year for Lotus.
Depending on the circuit and race conditions, track debris and trash can interfere with an F1 car’s operation, so keeping used tear offs away from other cars is part of the solution, which means removing them in the pits only and discarding them with a team member, or finding a means to store used tear offs on board safely through the remainder of a Grand Prix.
In the latter case, this is a discrete, relevant, solvable problem, and could provide an opportunity for Formula 1 teams and visor/tear off manufacturers to crowdsource the solution while creating a meaningful engagement with young engineers. If students, fans, or F1 in Schools race teams were to design a solution to best handle the problem, creatively and effectively, everyone could benefit.
Criteria could include cost, weight, ease of use, etc, while offering young engineers and the public the opportunity to learn about what a driver can do to maneuver inside the car, and how design solutions are implemented within teams. Knowing the F1 community, there’s bound to be more than one inspired solution, so why not give it a try?