The number of wheel tethers used in Formula 1 will double next year in an effort to improve the sport's safety.
Pressure has mounted on the FIA to improve the effectiveness of wheel tethers – designed to stop wheels from detaching from the car in the event of an accident – following a spate of incidents during the F1 season so far.
A wheel tether on Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India failed when the Italian crashed heavily during qualifying for the German Grand Prix last weekend, his left front wheel narrowly missing Timo Glock as the Virgin car sped past.
During free practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in April, tethers on Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso failed when his front suspension collapsed, the Swiss driver incredibly losing both front wheels in the process.
Although neither incident resulted in injury, McLaren Engineering director Paddy Lowe says an improvement to the regulation was necessary – particularly after Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees lost his life at Brands Hatch last year when a stray wheel from a competitor's car struck his helmet at high-speed.
"Wheel tethers are a great concern to us," said Lowe during a McLaren teleconference. "We had the tragic incident last year with Henry Surtees, and we see wheels coming off F1 cars rather more often than we'd like, and than the rules intended, when tethers were introduced. They are working but they're not reliable enough."
He said the Technical Working Group had agreed to take action for 2011.
"One of our tasks is to constantly address safety and we have agreed to do something for next year – it has been published in the rules," said Lowe. "We will introduce a second tether on every corner.
"Rather than try to make each tether 100 percent reliable, what we found is that when they don't work they have been cut for some reason due to the nature of the accident. What we're thinking is if there are two on each corner, run independently, then it drastically improves the probability that one or both will survive."
Wheel tethers were made mandatory in 1999 after an enormous crash involving half the field at the start of the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix sent detached wheels flying. But there have long been concerns that the tethers do not work effectively in all accidents.