The dangers of carbon fibre?


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
This weekend saw yet another array of piss poor attempts by the "best drivers in the World" to get one car in front of another without making contact on a very large piece of tarmac specifically dedicated solely for the 24 of them to drive around on (all in the same direction as well!) . The nett result of one attempt by Jean-Eric Vergne on Heikki Kovaleinen was that the race track was littered with bits of car, made worse as Vergne then proceed to spread debris round the entire circuit as he drove back to the pits with a pieces of tyre cord flailing around, damaging more of the car. Out came the safety car, cocking up the race strategy of most and very likely causing the retirement of two potential winners

This raise a number of questions for me:

Firstly, could the marshalls have stopped Vergne from driving back given that his car was pretty obviously terminal and, apart from saving the young man a bit of a walk, what good did it serve?

Secondly, modern F1 cars are VERY safe as they fall to pieces at the slightest touch, dissipating the energy of the accident and allowing everyone to walk away feeling great (apart from the team owners bank balance). But this leaves the track littered with fine shards of very sharp pieces which can puncture tyres, radiators, perhaps even visors (?).

I can understand that impact zones and the monocoque should be carbon fibre as it is strong, light and offers the drivers the best possible protection but do the suspensions arms, wings, in fact every other appendage on the car, need to be made from it as well? Even the steering wheel? Surely an aluminium wing would offer the same aerodynamic effect but wouldn't dissolve into a thousand pieces when tapping the rear tyre of another car? Wouldn't metal suspension units be less likely to fall to pieces when the cars bounce off of one another as the drivers attempt to drive round a corner?

I may be very wrong but I don't recall there being as much debris left on the tracks in the days before CF. Perhaps it's time for a re-appraisal?
Aren't the wings made of carbon fibre because they dissolve thus dissipating the energy of the accident?
I think the suspension bits should be steel--on the rare occasions that they break, the number of shards is minimal. Wings should be fibreglass--it is light and strong, and when it breaks, disintegration is rare so the number of fragments is reduced from CF. I am also of th opinion that the abomination that are the current front wings should be reduced in span by 50%, thereby making contact far less likely.
mjo - suspensions used to be made of metal, why not again? I'm not suggesting CF shouldn't be used simply that there are places where it's appropriate and places where it's not.

Josh - the crumple zones can be CF why do the wings need to crumble as well? I can't see how the wings falling to bits as one car plows into the back of another really limits the effect of the impact that much.
It was more of a question really :). I'm not very technical but I thought that was why they were CF.
When I worked on composites fibreglass the fibres were always strewn all over the place, and held together with resins (atalac mostly). Whereas Carbon Fibre the threads are woven together like a straw basket, and made strong with laminating epoxy resins. Fibreglass would hold no better than Carbon fibre at anything.

Personally I would like to see Kevlar or Carbon-Kevlar used, maybe Tegris as it is strong and eco-friendly.
I don't think Aluminium has anything like the stiffness when compared to CF to enable cars to have the same wing loads as they do these days. (actually, that may be a good thing?). I think to avoid the controversy of "wing flex" the Aluminium version would have to be much thicker as well.

You are right though FB, shards of carbon fibre all over the track, especially on a street circuit where a high speed tyre failure could result in a driver wearing a wall as a hat, is not a good thing.

As for Vergne, It would have been a brave (or foolhardy) marshal to jump out in front of him and flag him down. The only real option the stewards have is the black and orange flag but that isn't much use because it tells the driver that his car is broken in some way and should report to his pit which is not the point you are trying to make. I guess we have to blame Gilles Villeneuve for starting the trend of trying to drag a knackered car back to the pits.
Re: Vergne and his shredding - methinks :thinking: an instruction from Charlie Whiting to the team to radio their man to pull off the track would surely be possible accompanied by the good ol' black and orange flag waving at the marshals posts.
I don't see a problem myself. I'd rather get a small shard of carbon fibre in the lid than a large lump of metal. That happened to someone recently, didn't it?
Also, go into a bicycle shop and ask to feel the weight difference between some high spec carbon parts and some high spec alloy parts. The difference in weight is immense, even in quite small components. The cars would be nowhere near as quick and would be like antiques I terms of technology.
The cars are underweight and ballast is required to reach the minimum weight.
So switching some parts from carbon fibre to another material wouldn't necessarily be a problem with regards to that.

Balance may be an issue though.
Also, the problem with aluminium alloys is that they tend to be quite brittle, and so in breaking can leave sharp edges, which are probably more likely to cause punctures if run over than CF.
They only did this to avoid burning whilst they were working on perfecting the hot blown diffuser. The only reason for the use of titanium was it's resilience to high temperatures.

I personally think teams would be mad to take such a backwards technological step.
And the ease and speed of manufacturing.

I think that until the advent of mimetics in large scale, the options are fairly limited. Maybe some sort of metal reinforcements? Along the lines of the wheel tethers. We know how successful they have been.
Forgetting the safety aspects for one second... From a competitive aspect I always thought it might be possible to use metal front wing endplates and pylons, yes you it wouldn't be as efficient as using carbon fibre but I thought the trade-off may be worth it because metal would take collisions much better and may mean that you wouldn't have to pit for a new nose. Or am I being stupid and metal wouldn't be any stronger?
Metal end-plates would transfer the force to another part of the wing. I have a metal plate and a load of screws in my right ankle and if I were to break my leg again it would be a lot worse but would be at a different part of the bone.
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