Thursday June 21st, 2001
The Head and Neck Support System (HANS) which is expected to be introduced in Formula One in a near future is far from being ready, according to world champion Michael Schumacher.
"It's still a bit far away," said Schumacher today. "We made quite a big effort to get it adapted to my body. You can't take one HANS system and give it to the 22 drivers, it will not fit. Even though we have adapted it to me, as it is quite a solid piece and you move around in the car, and you're not in 100 per cent the same position. It's still not there yet."
HANS has been given mixed approvals by Formula One drivers, who have tested the device, but it has become popular in the American CART championship. However, Schumacher believes it would only be useful for frontal impacts and would not have made any difference to Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld, both being forced to rest after crashing at the Canadian Grand Prix complaining of neck problems.
"I saw some of the accidents (in Canada)," Schumacher added. "Heinz-Harald went backwards into the wall, Nick went sideways into the wall, I don't think the HANS system would have made a huge difference.
"It's more for frontal impact, very like what I had in Silverstone, where the HANS device can support you. I don't think it would have done anything in these kind of accidents, actually."
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, who had a big crash in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that resulted in the death of a marshal when a wheel flew off his car, agreed with Schumacher in separate comments to reporters later.
"I don't see how I could drive with it, personally," the Canadian 1997 champion said. "It's highly uncomfortable. It's one thing to drive with it on ovals where there's very little movement...but on the road course there's a lot of steering movement and when you go sideways you have to react very quickly with your arms.
"The other thing is that you are not held in the car that well any more because the belt is away from your body. There's negatives that come with it, I don't think that it's been fully tested yet. It would be a lot better if it were put on the Formula 3000s first so all the problems could be tuned out."
Villeneuve also pointed to the dangers of drivers suddenly forced to switch at the last moment, either during qualifying or before a race, to cars set up for a teammate.
"Imagine driving with someone else's HANS device. It fits wrongly on your neck and maybe touches the back of your collarbone or something. You could actually break your neck in a rear impact if it's not designed for you."
Brake lights were also tested at Silverstone last week. At present cars have only a rear red warning light which flashes in the pit lane and in wet conditions. Villeneuve disagreed with Schumacher on the lights.
"I don't think brake lights are good because then someone can just put his foot a little bit on the brake and turn the light on just before braking to get someone else to react," he said. "So it can actually be a lot more dangerous.
"I don't think it's actually that good unless instead of brake pedals it's based on G-force, that would be better."