New F1 Car Speeds Could Cause Drivers to Lose Consciousness

It wouldn't be the first time that G-forces affected a racing series.

xxxx during day three of the final Formula One Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2015 in Montmelo, Spain.
Mark Thompson—2015 Getty Images

The 2017 Formula 1 car is wider and faster, with greasier aerodynamics and grippier tires. The goal in the reconfiguration was to increase lap times by as much as five seconds on some tracks and, presumably, to improve the racing product.

However, better racing may not be the net effect. While drivers have spent the off-season preparing for the higher g-loads, and talking heads have been predicting that the faster new formula will mean more open-throttle corners, less overtaking, and generally more boring races, Pirelli boss Paul Hembery voiced a much more grave concern: the G-loads could cause to drivers to black out.

The gripper new tires are going to generate 5Gs in some corners, including turn 3 at the Circuit de Catalunya, where teams are testing this week. "Maybe some clever doctors will tell us that we're getting close to blackout point," Hembery said. "But certainly when I was looking at Turn 3 it was quite impressive. I'm sure a normal human being wouldn't be able to [handle it]."

The g-loads are huge, but they aren't the only aggravating factor for the drivers. The mid-summer races ratchet up the temperatures inside the cockpits, and long stints at high speeds, in the heat, with those g-loads and speeds, could cascade to catastrophe. 

"It's one of those fun fair rides isn't it, where you arrive at 5G, make you feel a bit queasy. It depends what circuit you are at. I would think a stint at Silverstone for 30, 40 laps is going to be pretty exhausting for a driver."

Back in 2001, the CART series visited Texas Motor Speedway, and the cars, carrying as much as 220 mph into the 24-degree banking at turn 1, were causing drivers to black out on the back stretch. Officials canceled the race.