Formula One drivers blink at the same ‘safe’ places during their routes

F-1 drivers skip 60 feet at each blink.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The researchers mounted eye-trackers on the helmets of the drivers.jpg
The researchers mounted eye-trackers on the helmets of the drivers.


Blinking comes so naturally and quickly that you never even notice it. However, for a Formula One race car driver traveling up to 354 kilometers per hour, each blink translates to 60 feet (almost 20 meters) of lost vision.

Since humans blink up to 30 times every minute, it can be estimated that a driver could lose as much as 595 meters worth of visual information per minute due to blinking.

Perhaps that’s why the drivers seem to all blink at the same parts of their course during each lap. They could be picking the least dangerous part to lose sight of.

This is according to a report by Science News published on Friday.

The finding was made by cognitive neuroscientist Ryota Nishizono and colleagues. Nishizono, of NTT Communication Science Laboratories in Atsugi, Japan, was previously a professional racing cyclist so he has some experience evaluating the relationship between speed and blinking.

He noticed that there was a significant void in literature on blinking behavior in active humans despite the fact that under extreme conditions like motor racing or cycling, “a slight mistake could lead to life-threatening danger,” Nishizono said.

304 laps studied

To remedy this lack of data, he partnered with a Japanese Formula car racing team and mounted eye trackers on the helmets of three drivers and had them drive three Formula circuits for a total of 304 laps.

The researchers found that drivers tended not to blink while changing speed or direction but did blink while on relatively “safer” straightaways.

Jonathan Matthis, a neuroscientist at Northeastern University in Boston who studies human movement and was not involved in the research, told Science News the study provides some crucial insights into human behavior.

“We think of blinking as this nothing behavior,” he said, “but it’s not just wiping the eyes. Blinking is a part of our visual system.”

The study is published in the journal iScience.

Study abstract:

How do humans blink while driving a vehicle? Although gaze control patterns have been previously reported in relation to successful steering, eyeblinks that disrupt vision are believed to be randomly distributed during driving or are ignored. Herein, we demonstrate that eyeblink timing shows reproducible patterns during real formula car racing driving and is related to car control. We studied three top-level racing drivers. Their eyeblinks and driving behavior were acquired during practice sessions. The results revealed that the drivers blinked at surprisingly similar positions on the courses. We identified three factors underlying the eyeblink patterns: the driver’s individual blink count, lap pace associated with how strictly they followed their pattern on each lap, and car acceleration associated with when/where to blink at a moment. These findings suggest that the eyeblink pattern reflected cognitive states during in-the-wild driving and experts appear to change such cognitive states continuously and dynamically.

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