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Alteryx Community Team
Alteryx Community Team

First and foremost, congratulations to the McLaren Formula 1 team for winning the 2021 Italian Grand Prix! What a moment for the drivers and the team to finish 1 and 2 which the team hadn’t done since 2012. What a day at Monza!




This week Formula 1 is in Italy at one of the fastest tracks on the calendar: the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. This track with its high speed straights and corners offers the perfect time to write about Formula 1 safety. If you watched the race, you saw why the safety regulations and safety technology saved Mercedes Lewis Hamilton from injury.


Like the pit stops mentioned in the previous blog post, safety has come a long way in the sport. In the 1950s when Formula 1 started, the drivers, race cars, and tracks were not as safe as today. As incidents started to happen more frequently, the sport wasn’t going to survive if it didn’t change how it managed driver and spectator safety.


With all these incidents, Formula 1 safety initiatives began to take top priority in the sport. I know we all love statistics, but I’m going to refrain from giving the number of Formula 1 incidents. However, I will say that the numbers in the beginning were quite high, and Formula 1 along with the FIA were concerned about the safety of the drivers and spectators. Once these initiatives started, driver and spectator incidents dropped dramatically. 


You may have noticed I mentioned the spectators here as well. Why the spectators? Well, back in the 1950s, fans could pretty much walk right up to the track. Most tracks didn’t have walls, guard rails or fencing; they had nothing to protect anyone. If a car hit the wall, the likelihood of a spectator being hit or killed by debris was very high.


The ramifications from these frequent incidents started a new era of safety in Formula 1 that continues today. 


Race Car Safety


Crashes today look very different from back in the 1950s. Back then the cars were basically blocks of metal doing 180 mph. If the car hit something, it wasn’t built to break apart or keep the driver safe. Today’s cars are built to basically disintegrate, except for the cockpit. There’s a couple of reasons for this design. First, if the car breaks apart, it can act more like an absorber of energy rather than acting like an energy producer. This helps lower the G-forces the driver takes on during impact.  Second, if the car breaks apart upon impact, the likelihood of the car continuing on its trajectory changes. The car will likely stop before continuing down the track and potentially injuring others. You can also make the argument that the car is then more easily repaired. It’s one reason why a car can be completely totaled during qualifying, but then show up at the race the next day brand new.


Unlike the cars of the past, the cockpit is the safest place in the car. The seats themselves are designed to keep the driver safe. Each seat is fitted to the driver so that the driver can fit into the cockpit comfortably and safely. When the driver gets into the car, they are surrounded by fireproof materials. This is especially important around their legs since their legs are not exposed to the open air. Getting into these cars is not like jumping in your car. It takes time to get the driver into the cockpit due to all the safety measures. Of course, there are now seatbelts in the car that are easily unhitched if a driver needs to exit the car quickly. Unlike in the past when drivers didn’t want seatbelts due to the fact that they’d rather be thrown from the car then burned to death.


On top of the structure of the car, the teams need to have certain parts be safe as well. The cars are fitted with Kevlar gas tanks and many other fireproof materials to keep the car safe. 


The last and newest major safety enhancement made by Formula 1 is the halo. This object is placed around the driver's head area and is attached to the car (see picture). The halo was introduced in 2018 to protect the drivers from debris and/or tyres from other cars. I’m still not sure how they really see around the pylon attached to the car, but the drivers don’t seem to mind.  As mentioned earlier the halo saved Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes from getting injured.




The Race Track


For race track safety, tracks put up barriers for the spectators and moved viewers away from the track. Fencing above the walls was eventually added to keep crash debris from hitting the spectators. 


The tracks really focused on the spectators in the beginning, but as the years went on, tracks didn’t change much in the way of safety for the drivers. The drivers were now slamming into rigid barriers in order to keep the cars within the confines of the track. The effect on the drivers was massive, and even with all the driver safety measures added into the cars, the walls of the track became a hazard.


In the 1960s, tracks began to add barriers to certain areas where accidents occurred frequently. While these barriers helped save the driver from impact, the cars could get tangled up in the barrier, making it hard for a driver to escape if a fire started. There are still race tracks with these types of barriers, but many have moved to more modern barriers that protect the driver and spectator without getting the car tangled.


One other track safety measure that is taken is the safety car. This was introduced in 1993 to allow medical and emergency staff to quickly get to an accident. When you watch the start of an F1 race, you’ll see the safety car behind the pack of race cars. The safety car will follow the racers around the first lap of the track since the majority of track incidents happen within the first lap as racers jockey for position. These cars are equipped with medical and safety equipment, and the cars themselves are typically pretty quick cars so that they can get to the accident quickly.


The Drivers


Surprisingly, driver safety advanced as slowly as safety for the race cars in the early years of Formula 1, but as safety technology progressed, so did what the drivers wear and how they train.


In the 1950s, most drivers wore a soft helmet. The helmet looked more like a baseball helmet than today's racing helmets. Drivers also wore goggles to keep the dust out of their eyes, but these in no way protected the driver from anything else. The drivers also wore bibs that were more for working on the car so they didn’t get their street clothes dirty than for safety.


Today, drivers are wearing helmets that are highly regulated by the FIA and have to pass very stringent tests. The helmets are also custom fitted to the driver’s head for best fit. Even the visor shields are regulated to handle high levels of heat to keep any fire away from the driver's face. The closed helmet was introduced in the 1960s and is now one of the most important pieces of safety equipment.



Drivers also wear fireproof underwear, T-shirts, shoes, gloves, and bibs that keep them safe. I would imagine that wearing all of that can be extremely warm at times, but this equipment is paramount to the drivers safety.




All of the driver’s safety equipment mentioned so far is related to keeping fire away from the driver, but one of the most important pieces of their equipment is the Head and Neck Support System (HANS). This piece of equipment helps the driver’s head and neck area from getting stretched during accidents or high G-force turns. You will see this device sitting on the driver’s shoulders and strapped to their helmet.




Along with all this equipment, the drivers also must keep themselves in shape specifically to handle the demands of driving the car as well as handling the G-forces experienced. Also, with Formula 1 having a focus on weight, the drivers also want to weigh as little as possible. These athletes are not in the gym lifting heavy weights; they focus on cardiovascular exercises, core exercises, and head and neck exercises. It is really important for these drivers to be at a peak level of conditioning since most drivers will lose around 10 pounds during a given race.


With all of the new safety equipment and safety procedures Formula 1 has implemented, racing is now a safer sport. It’s still dangerous, and at any moment someone can get hurt or even killed, but Formula 1 and the FIA continue to focus on safety so that the sport can continue to be as great as it is and as safe as possible.


Italian Grand Prix

Autodromo Nazionale Monza


Free Practice Recap

How to read: session#, best lap time, (time behind first place time) number of laps in session, best place finish in session. 

Lando Norris #4

FP11m22.103s (+1.177s) 27 laps 12th

FP2 1m24.665s (+1.419s) 27 laps 10th


Daniel Ricciardo #3

FP1  1m22.003s (+1.077s) 27 laps 9th

FP2 1m24.774s (+1.528s) 24 laps 12th


Qualifying Recap

How to Read: session#, fastest lap time, best place finish in session.

Lando Norris #4

Q1 1m20.196s (Softs) 3rd

Q2 1m20.059s (Softs) 3rd

Q3 1m19.989s (Softs) 4th


Daniel Ricciardo #3

Q1 1m21.292s (Softs) 8th

Q2 1m20.435s (Softs) 5th

Q3 1m19.995s (Softs) 5th


Sprint Recap

Lando Norris #4

Started 4th

Finished 4th

Fastest 1m24.554s on lap 9 (+1.052s, 6th)


Daniel Ricciardo #3

Started 5th

Finished 3rd

Fastest 1m24.291s on lap 17 (+0.789s, 5th)



Race Recap


I will say before I begin, that I’m writing this race recap with a giant smile on my face. What a day in Monza for the McLaren F1 team. Finishing 1 and 2 at the Italian Grand Prix and getting Daniel Ricciardo back on top; as he should be with a win. This was a complete team performance and one that everyone involved should be extremely proud of.


The McLaren’s have been looking really quick as of late. I had a feeling this was going to be a big weekend for them and was even more excited to see the Alteryx logo everywhere. Both cars looked strong in free practice, qualifying and obviously the sprint, which saw Daniel on the front row for the start of the race with Lando just behind.


As the race started, Daniel Ricciardo got an unbelievable jump on the rest of the field and took the lead. Lando Norris had a fight happening right off the bat, but was able to hold on to 3rd after losing it in the first turn. Many other crazy events happened with other teams as the laps ticked down, but both Daniel and Lando were able to stay in 1st and 3rd. McLaren stayed with their plan A strategy for both drivers as other teams mistakes were costly, but had no effect on the McLaren teammates. As the pit stops started to happen during this one pit stop race, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo had a good pit stop which kept him in first place for the rest of the contest. Lando had an eventful day and probably pulled off one of the most daring moves seen in quite some time, just barely squeezed by the Ferrari to take his place back. In the end the other teams just couldn’t hang with the McLaren’s. Many commentators wondered if this would have been the finish if some of the other competitors hadn’t knocked themselves out of the race. In my opinion, the way both Daniel and Lando were racing and how well McLaren had executed their plans, I don’t think anyone was going to take the day away from McLaren. When you’re fast you’re fast and McLaren was just that.


Congrats again to the team and look forward to Russia! 




Italian 2021 Podium


Drivers Championship Points


Constructor Championship Points


Daniel Ricciardo


Max Verstappen




Lando Norris


Lewis Hamilton


Red Bull


Valtteri Bottas


Valtteri Bottas




Full F1 results


Next Race: Russian Grand Prix

Date: Sunday, September 26

Track: Sochi Autodrom

Dan Menke
Community Analytics and Operations Manager

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.