The HANS device is a crucial safety system used in F1 to protect the driver from life-threatening injuries.
F1 cars are undoubtedly some of the most advanced machines on the planet, with cutting-edge technology and engineering that allow them to reach breakneck speeds on the track.
But despite all their impressive features, these high-performance vehicles are still prone to the devastating impact of crashes.
This is where the HANS device comes into play - a piece of safety equipment that offers a crucial layer of protection to drivers in the event of an accident.
So, what is the HANS device, how does it work, and is it used in other motorsport series? Let's find out.
What is the HANS device?
The HANS (Head and Neck Support) is a device that was introduced to minimise the effects of extreme G-forces and the risk of severe or even fatal head and neck injuries in crashes, such as basilar skull fractures.
It was invented by Dr. Robert Hubbard, a former professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State University, and his brother-in-law, former IMSA SportsCar Championship racer Jim Downing, in the early 1980s.
How does it work?
The HANS device is a lightweight carbon fibre collar that is custom-made for each driver to ensure a perfect fit.
Designed in the shape of a 'U', the curvature is positioned at the back of the neck with two adjacent arms resting on the top of the chest.
The collar, which is supported by the shoulders, is secured under the driver's safety belts and tethered to the helmet.
The tethers stabilise the driver's head and neck and keep them in place - much like a traditional seatbelt does for the body - to prevent violent head-snapping motion, while the collar itself distributes the force from the neck to the shoulders and chest.
This way, the HANS device minimises the impact on the head and neck, reducing the risk of fatal injuries caused by whiplash.
How was the HANS device introduced?
After the death of their friend and IMSA driver Patrick Jacquemart due to a basilar skull fracture while testing his race car at Mid-Ohio in 1981, both Hubbard and Downing thought of ways to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
So, they developed the HANS device concept, but after the majority of the racing safety companies refused to produce the product, they decided to form a company called Hubbard Downing Inc. to manufacture and sell it.
Following the tragic deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994, the FIA became interested in the product, and it was introduced to F1 in 2003 after extensive testing by Mercedes from 1996 to 1998.
The device has since been credited with saving many lives, including Robert Kubica during his massive crash at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
HANS device in motorsport
The HANS device was first adopted by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) in 1996, but it wasn't made mandatory until 2004, following the death of Darrell Russell, the 2003 Top Fuel Rookie of the Year.
In 2001, NASCAR also made the device compulsory after losing several drivers, including Adam Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., to basilar skull fractures. CART and ARCA followed suit and mandated the HANS device in the same year.
The World Rally Championship and Australian V8 Supercar Series followed in 2005, and now it is used in all major motorsport championships.
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