Ever wondered why F1 drivers have those transparent strips on their helmet visors? Dive into the world of tear-offs and discover their crucial role in on-track performance.
As spectators, we witness the breakneck speeds, skilful manoeuvres, and daring overtakes, but not many are aware of the crucial safety measures that protect the drivers on the track.
One such safety feature is the tear-off, which is a vital component of an F1 driver's helmet. So, what are tear-offs, how do they work, and why are they essential to driver safety? Let's find out.
Tear-offs in F1
An F1 tear-off is a thin, transparent film designed to protect a driver's helmet visor from debris, insects, and dirt during a race. These visors are composed of multiple layers of strips, which can be peeled off one by one during a race to maintain optimal visibility.
As drivers race at incredible speeds, small particles like rubber and gravel are often kicked up, posing a potential hazard. Tear-off visors prevent such debris from obstructing a driver's line of sight, enabling them to focus on the race without any distractions.
But these aren't just for debris. Rain, oil spills, and even fog can all be tackled with tear-offs.
How tear-offs are used during a race
Tear-offs are ingeniously designed, allowing drivers to remove the outermost dirty layer with a single hand motion in a fraction of a second, ensuring minimal time and effort are required to maintain clear vision while driving at high speeds.
Depending on the length of the race, drivers can be armed with up to five tear-offs, ready to be ripped off from either side, whichever suits their preference.
Can a tear-off strip cause damage during a race?
You probably first heard about the tear-offs during the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix, when a tear-off strip from Max Verstappen cost Charles Leclerc a potential podium finish.
As Leclerc was closing in on Verstappen, a strip from the Red Bull star got clogged in Leclerc’s right-front brake duct, causing smoke and forcing an early pit stop, eventually ending his podium hopes.
While it's impossible to distinguish between drivers' tear-offs, video footage of the opening lap revealed that the tear-off that ruined the Monegasque's race was Verstappen’s.
Tear-off regulations in F1
Although tear-offs are necessary for drivers' safety and vision during races, they can become dangerous if tossed onto the track.
That's why the International Sporting Code made it clear that "any tear-offs attached to visors may not be thrown onto the track or the pit lane."
However, after some debate, the regulation was modified, with the FIA stating:
"Considering the difficulty of keeping the tear-off in the cockpit and the potential safety issue due to the drivers getting distracted during the operation at high speed, the previous regulation has been modified to allow the drivers to throw the tear-off away only if it is necessary to do so.
"The number of tear-offs used during a grand prix should be limited to what is strictly necessary."
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