Formula 1 cars are complex machines with various working parts. You may have noticed the bright LED lights on top of the cars. Sometimes they are different colors, but sometimes they’re turned off. These lights are on top of F1 cars for a very important reason.
The lights on top of F1 cars indicate whether the car is safe to touch or not. These lights refer to the ERS system on the car, which can be dangerous when live. A green light means the car is safe, amber means that the car may be live. Purple means that the car is live and should not be touched.
These lights are extremely important, especially if the car is stopped on the side of the track. Marshals and crew members always have to check this LED light before touching the car. They must also always wear rubber gloves. Below, we’ll discuss these lights on F1 cars and what they mean.
What Is The Purple Light On Top Of An F1 Car?
The purple light on top of an F1 car means that the car is live. This means that marshals and crew members cannot touch the car without proper protection as they could be electrocuted by the car. The purple light is usually easier to see when the car is in the pits during a night race.
This light indicates that the ERS system is still active, and an electric current is running through the car. This LED light can be found on top of the roll hoop on the car above the driver’s head. Marshals and crew members must always check this light before they touch the car.
This light does not always stay on, though. It’s programmed to switch off when the car reaches a certain speed. When the car is running out onto the track, no one will be touching it so there is no need to have it turned on. The light will only turn on when the car slows down again, and it can sometimes be seen during pitstops as well.
What Are The Two Lights In Front Of The Driver?
There are two lights in front of the driver on top of the survival cell. One of these lights is another ERS indication light which will also allow the driver to see the status of the hybrid system on their own car if they need to jump out of it for safety.
Next to the ERS light is a medical warning light, which has been put on all cars. This light will indicate to the marshals (and to the FIA) if the driver is in danger after a severe crash. This light is tied to a program that detects high-impact crashes.
If an impact reaches or surpasses a specific G-force threshold, it will begin to flash. The sensor will send a signal to race control, which will inform the medical car and the marshals that are out on track. If this light is flashing after a crash, the driver must have a medical check-up after being extracted from the car.
Why Is There An “N” Next To The Light On An F1 Car?
There is a large “N” next to the ERS and medical warning lights on an F1 car, which is actually a button that can be pressed by the marshals or the crew members. Pushing this button will immediately put the car into neutral and cut the engine.
In some cases, the engine stays running after a crash, and if the driver is unconscious with their foot pushing down on the throttle it can create a dangerous situation for everyone involved.
In other cases, there could be mechanical failures, such as a stuck throttle, that could put everyone at risk if the car is on the side of the track. A marshal or crew member can hit this button, which will act as an emergency stop for the car’s engine.
What Is The Green Light On Top Of An F1 Car?
The green light you see on top of the roll hoop of an F1 car indicates the car is safe to touch. This is the same ERS indicator that shows if the car is live and poses the risk of electrocuting someone who touches it. If the light is green, it means there is no risk of electrocution.
The green light will only be on if the car is safe, and it can only be seen when the car is stopped on the side of the track or in the garage. This is because the light switches off when the car reaches a certain speed, or the light turns amber or purple if the car is live.
What Does It Mean If An F1 Car Is Live?
If a Formula 1 car is live, it means the hybrid system is still active. The ERS on a Formula 1 car must be turned off before it’s safe for mechanics, marshals, or even the drivers to touch the outside of the car. If a car is live the ERS indicator LED light will be purple.
This shows that the car is not safe to touch and that anyone around the car needs to be cautious. An amber light also means the car may not be safe to touch. A live Formula 1 car is extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries.
Can You Get An Electric Shock From An F1 Car?
You can get an electric shock from a live F1 car. The ERS system could still have charge left in it once the car stops, which leaves an electrical current running through the car even when the engine is switched off. Wearing rubber gloves helps prevent this.
The problem is that carbon fiber, the lightweight and strong material the cars are made from, is conductive, and the electrical current can run through the entire car. This means that if anyone touches the car without rubber gloves, they can receive an electric shock.
Aside from carbon fiber being able to conduct electricity, Formula 1 cars have another problem. The only parts of the car that touch the ground are the tires. Since tires are made from rubber, it means that the electrical charge in the car is not grounded (as rubber is not conductive and blocks the electrical current from grounding).
The electrical current needs to be grounded for it to be safe. If a marshal or a mechanic touches the car while it’s live without rubber gloves, they will essentially become the grounding for the current, meaning the electricity will pass through them, causing injury or even death.
Why Do F1 Marshals And Mechanics Need To Wear Rubber Gloves?
F1 marshals and mechanics need to wear rubber gloves to protect them from electrocution when they are working with the cars. The ERS system can remain live on a stationary car, and touching the car without the right protective equipment could result in a crew member being electrically shocked.
KERS was introduced in 2009, which was an early hybrid system that had been trialed in Formula 1. The teams quickly discovered that the electrical current that runs through the cars was extremely dangerous to marshals and crew members.
Ever since then, it became a requirement for marshals and mechanics to wear rubber gloves when the light is purple because the gloves don’t conduct electrical current, which prevents them from being electrocuted. If the light is green, it means that the car is safe to touch, and we often see mechanics touching the car without rubber gloves when the car is safe.
Was Fernando Alonso Electrocuted By His Car?
During pre-season testing at Barcelona in 2015, there was still a lot of uncertainty about the new power units and the risks involved in using them when it came to the ERS systems. Despite being in place for a full season, many people were still cautious around them as the Formula 1 world was still learning.
However, during the third day of the test, Fernando Alonso had a big crash in his McLaren. It was a strange incident that occurred at turn three, but only at around 93 miles per hour. This is a fairly “slow” crash for a Formula 1 car, but the damage was quite extensive.
Despite this being a rather mild incident, Alonso was airlifted to the hospital where he stayed for three days. There were many rumors and conspiracy theories going around as to why exactly Alonso was missing for such a long time after such a relatively slow crash.
Neither the team nor Fernando Alonso offered an explanation as to why he was hospitalized for three days, leaving many to believe that something had gone horribly wrong with the ERS system and led to Alonso being electrocuted. To this day, we still don’t know the truth.
Why Do F1 Drivers Sometimes Jump Out Of Their Cars?
F1 drivers will sometimes jump out of their cars when exiting them because they need to get out of the car quickly. Sometimes this happens when the car was on fire, other times it’s because the car stops unexpectedly there is not enough time for the ERS system to properly switch off.
If the car stops unexpectedly, there is a risk of the car still being live when the driver needs to get out. There have also been cases where the MGU-K is faulty or has failed which can cause the car to remain live.
The driver can only stand on top of the car as their shoes have rubber soles that keep them protected. They need to jump away from the car in order to prevent touching it and being electrocuted by the ERS that might still be live.
When a car stops on the side of the circuit, a driver won’t immediately start getting out of the car unless there is an emergency. Drivers will always make sure that the ERS indicator is green, which means that it’s safe to touch the car. This allows them to get out of the car safely.
The lights on top of Formula 1 cars indicate the status of the hybrid ERS system. If the light is green, the car is safe to touch without protection. However, if the light is purple or amber, then the car is or may be live and can only be touched with rubber gloves to prevent electrocution.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.