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F1: Titanium skid blocks important for safety, says FIA

Jul 15, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

Lewis Hamilton AP

Along with standing restarts and other changes, the 2015 Formula One season is set to also feature cars fitted with titanium skid blocks.

But the FIA insists that, contrary to some criticism, the titanium blocks aren’t just going to be there to jazz up the show with showers of sparks.

In recent comments, F1 race director Charlie Whiting said the new blocks are also there for safety reasons.

“The skids have formerly been made of a heavy metal, which has been very resistant to wear, and [the teams] put the skids around the points in the plank where thickness is measured,” Whiting said.

“This metal is extremely heavy and when pieces detach they can be extremely harmful. We saw two punctures in Spa previously because of bits of this metal that lay in a kerb and caused damage.

“In a worst case scenario, they could fly off and hit someone.”

Whiting went on to give other reasons behind the FIA’s decision to mandate the titanium blocks, including the titanium’s quicker wear rate than that of the metal being used on the current blocks.

“…The titanium wears some two to 2.5 times more quickly than the metal currently used,” he said. “Thus, cars will have to be run a little bit higher to manage wear and teams won’t be able to drag them on the ground quite as much as they have in the past.”

However, he did concede that the resulting sparks from the titanium “will look a little more spectacular” in the eyes of some.

During last month’s Austrian Grand Prix, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen were fitted with the titanium blocks in a practice session.

However, per our man on the ground Luke Smith, the blocks only appeared to work in providing sparks along the main straight at Red Bull Ring – and not anywhere else on the circuit.

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