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Tear Off’s - the banana of Formula One

Written by Benjamin Crundwell, edited by Debargha Banerjee


In the popular racing championship Mario Kart, drivers have a few abnormal tricks up their sleeves, one of which being: the feared banana. When a driver receives a banana from an item box, they can throw it out the back of their car, causing the unlucky competitor who hits it to spin. 


In the past fans have practically begged the FIA to introduce a similar system to improve the racing in Formula One. While the FIA didn’t consider the idea, due to “copy-right implications”, the question has to be raised: are tear-offs the FIA’s subtle way of sneaking this brilliant idea into the pinnacle of motorsport?


Image Credits - IGN.com

As Formula One is an open cockpit sport, their visors get very dirty during the race. To prevent this their helmets have up to 5 thin films over their visor, which have been designed to have the outermost film ripped off with ease by the driver when it gets dirty. 


After ripping it off, the driver will throw it out of their cockpit, and it can often fly into an air inlet or a brake duct of the car behind. Inevitably, when this happens the car behind often suffers issues and ultimately ends up losing performance.


Other motorsports, such as NASCAR and WEC, also have tear offs, but without the “Mario Kart problem”, because it’s a full windscreen tear off that's taken off in the pitlane. In Melbourne both Perez and Ocon had their race compromised from a rogue tear off, and it now seems every week a driver has his race ruined in similar circumstances. 


Image Credits - Esteban Ocon on Instagram

In the past it's not been allowed for drivers to simply throw them out the back of their car, instead they placed them in a pocket inside the cockpit.


The International Sporting Code said that "any tear-offs attached to visors may not be thrown onto the track or the pit lane." However after drivers complained this was too difficult, it was changed to "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.". 


The point worth noting in this statement is that drivers should only throw their visors off when absolutely necessary, no driver follows this rule, and that may be the core of the problem F1 faces. The stewards are clamping down with harsher penalties this year, as 10 seconds has become the new baseline penalty, and most recently Fernando Alonso received 20 seconds for supposedly brake checking George Russell in the Australian GP.


As tear offs are becoming increasingly problematic, perhaps F1 should start penalising drivers for throwing their tear offs out the cockpit when it isn’t necessary. 


The solution to this problem shouldn’t be a difficult conclusion for the FIA to reach. It is an obvious burden to cars behind when drivers throw their tear offs behind them, additionally, while the effect is small, the damage to the environment from throwing the plastic strips onto the track.


The reasoning behind drivers not keeping them in the car with them is that it is difficult and distracting; drivers make many changes on their steering wheel every lap to manipulate settings such as brake biases and engine modes, so this should not be too much harder of a task.


It should be mandatory for cars to have a small pocket inside the cockpit where drivers can place their used tear offs, and any driver seen to breach this rule should be penalised. 


Considering the current Red Bull domination, perhaps F1 would benefit more from implementing a blue shell into the sport, instead of the infamous banana. 


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