Why covered cockpits and wheels may be F1’s future

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2012F1 cars have had open cockpits and uncovered wheels for decades. It’s become the defining feature of F1 car design.

But could a desire to improve safety and the search for more efficient performance lead to the covering of cockpits and wheels?

Cockpit covers

The FIA has been investigating the possible introduction of cockpit covers in F1 and other single-seater championships since 2009.

That year saw the fatal accident of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees, who was killed when he was struck by a flying wheel. Six days later, Felipe Massa was seriously injured when he was hit by a spring which had fallen off Rubens Barrichello’s car.

Among the solutions being considered by the FIA are fully enclosed canopies and roll hoops mounted in front of the driver, each of which have different advantages and disadvantages.

Similar discussions have taken place in IndyCar following the death of Dan Wheldon in October last year.

Wheldon was killed when he was struck by a fence post after his car flew into the barriers at Las Vegas. Following the crash some IndyCar drivers such as Ryan Briscoe raised the possibility of IndyCar adopting cockpit covers.

In endurance racing the technical regulations allow for both open and closed-cockpit designs. Closed-cockpit solutions are the preferred design of the World Endurance Championship’s manufacturer teams Audi and Toyota.

Wheel guards

In an effort to improve safety, IndyCar took the hotly-debated step of enclosing the rear wheels on its new-for-2012 chassis. The result is something that looks like the offspring of an F1 car and a sports car (below).

The fairings are designed to prevent one of the greatest dangers of open-wheel racing: wheel-to-wheel contact at high speeds which propel a car into the air. Again, it’s not hard to see how this could have prevented or at least reduced the carnage of Las Vegas.

As noted here recently, F1 has seen single-car airborne crashes such as those of Riccardo Patrese in 1992, Christian Fittipaldi in 1993 and Mark Webber in 2010.

They haven’t been as prevalent in IndyCar, which has had a particular problem with ‘pack racing’ on ovals. But there is potential for an increase in this type of accident in F1.

The F1 field is getting closer in performance and innovations such as DRS, KERS and more variable tyre performance may increase the chance of a faster car hitting a slower one in this fashion.

Safety or performance?

As future regulations become increasingly concerned with improving efficiency in F1 car design, it’s not hard to see how this could lead to a reappraisal of the merits of closed cockpits and covered wheels on grounds of performance as well as safety.

But open cockpits and wheels have been a defining feature of F1 car design for decades. Would getting rid of them amount to a desecration of F1’s historic rules?

Not necessarily. Covered wheels and cockpits have been seen in F1 before and we’d probably still have them if they weren’t forbidden by the current rules*.

The dominant F1 car of 1954 and 1955 – the Mercedes W196 – was raced in both open- and closed-wheel form. The team preferred the latter at tracks where aerodynamic efficiency was especially important, such as Monza.

Mercedes’ success inspired other teams, including Ferrari and Maserati, to create ‘streamliner’ cars. The regulations were later changed to forbid this and impose the open-wheel look we have become familiar with.

Teams also experimented with cockpit canopies in the fifties and Jack Brabham ran one on his car during practice at Monza in 1967. These too were eventually banned.

Would today’s F1 cars have covered wheels and cockpits if the rules did not forbid it? When F1’s top designer Adrian Newey was asked to envisage an F1 car that ignored the rule book, his Red Bull X2010 sported both.

His creation also serves to illustrate that the aesthetic appeal of F1 cars needn’t be diminished by such a radical change in design:

Red Bull X2010

Could F1 one day see cars with wheel guards and enclosed cockpits? Would this be a change too far? Have your say in the comments.

*Technical regulations articles 3.8, 3.9, 3.10 and 3.11 define the limits on bodywork around the front and rear wheels. Technical regulations article 13.1.3 states “The driver must be able to enter and get out of the cockpit without it being necessary to open a door or remove any part of the car other than the steering wheel”.

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Ferrari image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, IndyCar images ?? Honda/LAT, X2010 images ?? Red Bull

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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192 comments on “Why covered cockpits and wheels may be F1’s future”

  1. I’m not sure about enclosed cockpits in F1. So little of the head is exposed these days that it might be unnecessary. But I don’t think it would be too bad.
    As for wheel guards, We don’t need to go any further than what Indycar has done this year. Most huge crashes are from cars hitting the back of a rear wheel or interlocking with a rear wheel, this can’t happen with this system.

    1. Yet Massa still got punched in the head with a spring? I fail to see how it will become an ‘unnescessay’ consideration when there is still a very small number of people having accidents this way. I think it should be addressed to the extent where it is no longer an issue. For the FIA to leave something up in the air is just like them shooting themselves in the foot, because when that issue comes into practice via a life threatening accident etc they will get roasted for it.

      The essences of F1 and what we notice it to be ‘nowadays’ is only the case because that’s what was decided years ago when cockpits and closed wheel techniques were banned. Now that we have the knowledge, experience and innovation in these areas we should be pushing them because now we simply know better.

      1. I really like the idea for the wheel covers to increase safety, im just not sold on the cockpit cover however.
        I firstly with a closed cockpit there is always risk of slower exit and entrance for the driver and marshalls. In the scenario where the car is on fire or upside down it would add extra crucial time to the exit procedure which can only be seen as a negative aspect of closed cockpits. It would also make a Marshall’s job far more difficult, so in the heat of the moment that could prove fatal.
        My second view on closed cockpits is an aesthetic reason. I know it is silly to rank this close to safety but with this you wouldn’t be able to see the driver work hard and helmet design would be pointless. The last human thing we can see as a spectator is the helmet and to remove that for me would just create a robotic image of F1 showing no human aspect. The mix of human and his machine is one of the things that makes open cockpit racing so sexy and exciting so i would hate to lose it. Therefore I believe aesthetics should be taken into consideration.

        1. I really disagree with you about the problem of it taking extra time to exit the car after crash, etc. That is analogous to the arguments manufacturers used to try and avoid seat belts in cars. I really believe Dan Wheldon might have survived if he’d had a closed cockpit. A bullet-proof cockpit could have deflected him off far enough that he wouldn’t have hit that fence post head on. I can’t imagine Allan McNish walking away from his crash last year if that cockpit had been open. And we DEFINITELY would not be arguing whether Massa was being affected in his driving by that terrible scene he suffered through.

          I can see some merit to your argument about seeing the drivers but cockpit cameras can still make us at home feel like they (drivers) are part of the action. Being at Le Mans, I never felt cheated by the drivers being in the closed cockpit cars vs. the open ones. But that is personal opinion for sure.

        2. I actually think that given the right technology, they would be able to get out in the minimum required speed (5 seconds is it?). Quick releases are nothing new, and they could even go down the route of very small explosive charges, much like a fighter jet ejection procedure. Obviously big enough not to propel the canopy away from the car, more just to disconnect all locks/hinges to the canopy can simply be pushed off with minimal effort from any angle.

          Plus, with canopy they wouldn’t need the same amount of aerodynamic cockpit covers (I forget the name), meaning they wouldn’t be as tightly squeezed in at the shoulders.

    2. I don’t think wheel covers would work in F1.
      The ovals that a lot of Indycar races are on have very little closing speeds, so if you hit the back, there would be little effect, but with higher closing speeds in F1 (remember Mark Webber in Valencia 2010), it’s likely a cover would break, hit the wheel and throw debris everywhere, and then the car behind could possibly hit the wheel anyway. They could also bend or break inwards and rub on the tyre, which could cause a puncture (a recent Nascar race had 2 cautions caused by a puncture on the same car, after the bodywork was bent and rubbed on the tyre.)
      Cockpit covers also are problematic – if a driver needs to get out of the car quickly, they’ll need to remove the cover somehow, but it couldn’t hinge upwards, sideways or forward in case the car rolls over. There’s also the problem of inside temperature, sunglare on the cover and the cover fogging up in cold weather (some closed cockpit cars use a ‘rag on a stick’, but this might be a bit low-tech for F1). A roll hoop would obscure vision too much. I think a better idea would be to do more to ensure parts of the car are better attached; stronger tethers on the wheels and perhaps tethers on the springs, or anything else which may come loose. (Perhaps the covers over the rear wheels may be useful!)

    3. Wheel to wheel collisions do still occur – covered or uncovered and cars still get launched into the air, carbon fibre cowlings/wings break very easily and offer almost zero protection in a wheel to wheel impact of any notable intensity. More bodywork can also be more dangerous once a car does get airborne as it acts like a sail – see le mans.


  2. The problem I see occurring here is the inevitable debate about what F1 ‘is’. And what it is varies too greatly between individuals. To me, F1 means the fastest cars in motorsport, the best drivers, and the highest level of competition and rivalry. It also means sitting in my living room on a Sunday with my family. As long as those elements are retained, I’m happy.

    If these changes would help to preserve that, all the better.

  3. When F1′s top designer Adrian Newey was asked to envisage an F1 car that ignored the rule book, his Red Bull X2010 sported both.

    His creation also serves to illustrate that the aesthetic appeal of F1 cars needn’t be diminished by such a radical change in design.

    Bit off topic, but I do wonder how compromised that design was to suit aestheic needs. The exposed front suspension, for instance, seems like just an afterthought when Adrian (or whoever actually designed it) realised that it should probably bear some resemblance to an F1 car. I always imagined a real ‘Formula X’ design would look more like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Bloodhound_1000mph_Land_speed_record_project_%281%29.jpg/570px-Bloodhound_1000mph_Land_speed_record_project_%281%29.jpg but with more turning vanes and a wider wheelbase. The Bloodhound SSC uses a Cosworth F1 V8 engine as one of its three powerplants, incidentally.

    Anything that move F1 closer to my futuristic WipEout ideal is good for me though. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about HUDs in F1 and I’m surprised we haven’t seen them yet when they could bring a lot of benefits to the sport and motoring in general (we’re already starting to see them included with some high-performance cars), a fixed screen to project onto would make this closer to reality.

    1. thatscienceguy
      22nd August 2012, 13:23

      As a further aside, the Cosworth V8 doesn’t provide any drive power, it is there to drive the fuel pump.

      I don’t see the designs being like Bloodhound at all. Firstly, Bloodhound doesn’t need to go around corners. The design of Bloodhound is solely about reducing drag, and that means as close to zero downforce as they can get. The body creates exactly as much downforce as needed to keep the car on the ground, no more. Downforce is drag, thats not what they want when all they need is it to go in a straight line.
      Bloodhound’s design would make a terrible race car. To make it into a good race car the design would be change so significantly that I’m sure it wouldn’t resemble Bloodhound at all.

      1. thatscienceguy
        22nd August 2012, 13:33

        As of 2014 the Le Mans regulations stipulate closed cockpits for LMP1.

    2. the bloodhound is designed to go fast in a straight line. which is almost the opposite of what F1 cars do (compromise top speed in favor of downforce to go round corners quicker – where the laptime is). So starting with a bloodhound to design the ultimate F1 machine makes no sense. and on the aesthetics front, its just a tube with a few engines in it.

      Newey’s design is functional and good looking. Why should those two things be in conflict?

    3. Wouldn’t work; one of the main reason an f1 car is as fast as it is is beauuse of areodynamics.
      Bloodhound is designed to primarily go fast in a straight line, not through corners, which is where laptime is gained.

    4. In addition to previous commenters: 13,5m long and about 6,5t weight? Really? That thing would barely fit through some of the more narrow chicanes at any speed, even less so at a racing speed.

      1. *facepalm*

        @thatscienceguy @vjanik @xjr15jaaag @stjuuv yes but I said a perfect race car would LOOK more like it, not that it was actually a viable race car. I do realise it is a rocket on wheels and, yes, I do know that F1 happens to involve corners.

        My point was that it is sleeker, with internal suspension. I know that trying to turn the Bloodhound around a gentle corner at even moderate speed would be quite stupid, but why would you design the X2010 with exposed, turbelence inducing suspension arms if you had free reign over the limitations? I’m also not sure about the need for traditional F1 style wings, if you could properly utilise ground effects – surely smaller partial wings would be better?

        The radical Indycar proposal that emerged a few years back is a better example of what I was thinking of: http://lotpro.com/blogphotos/Bridgestone/tn_CS10%20Delta%20Wing%20IndyCar%20concept%203.JPG

        1. That’s the Nissan Deltawing, not an Indy Car.

          It raced in this years Le Mans. I even think F1 Fanatic had a whole article about it (I could be wrong about the article bit)

          Also, I think it’s a pretty safe bet, that with no rules holding him back Newey isn’t going to add something that compromises performance.

          1. I think that design, or one like it was considered for the current crop of indy cars. i remember it somewhere


            note Izod stickers on the stand

    5. I am not sure about exactly why @graham228221, but I imagine the front suspension is made to optimize airflow (less parts obstructing it).

      The front wing makes for a faster flow to the under-bottom, but leaves an almost direct flow towards the air inlets and on towards the diffuser and rear bodywork (notice how the front wheel pods are placed further out than on an F1 car to allow for his clean air flow), with the airfoils behind the rear wheel pods helping point it exactly where he wanted it to go.

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ‘against’ making things safer for the drivers. But health and safety is just going into overkill if it makes changes such as these. You’d think after the likes of Robert Kubica’s crash in Canada 2007 and Mark Webber’s in Valencia 2010 that they would sit back and say to themselves; ‘You know what, I think they’re safe now!’

    Motor racing is an inherantly dangerous activity, you can’t make it 100% safe. There will always be something that comes along after new safety tech has been applied that highlights a new unforeseen risk area to the driver. And these rare situations arise so infrequently that it just isn’t practical to try and protect against them ALL!

    Closed cockpits also make me fear for those who may get stuck in them during fires! F1 cars do not have doors and windows to escape from like with conventional non formula race cars. If that roof is unbreakable and sealled and has a faulty release system, or got stuck due to something relating the the crash itself… then the driver will be trapped! And a tech that was meant to help protect someone will have killed them!

    1. @nick-uk

      Closed cockpits also make me fear for those who may get stuck in them during fires!

      Graham Rahal made an interesting point on that on Twitter following the Las Vegas crash:

      For everyone asking about fire. Closed cockpit may be better. When we get burnt it’s from the flames flowing over the sides…


      1. For everyone asking about fire. Closed cockpit may be better

        So if the car is on fire the driver is going to stay inside and hope it doesn’t escalate further? I can’t believe this would go down well with most drivers. Natural instinct is to get away from the place where the fuel is as quick as possible.

        In my opinion, a type of front visor/roll-hoop that ended before the front of the cockpit would help shield from debris and allow the driver to escape from a flaming car.

        1. The point is that the cockpit would prevent fuel from entering the cabin. While it’s no longer allowed, in the days of refuelling there were some really nasty examples of cars being doused in fuel and the driver being engulfed in a fireball when it hit the hot exhausts. Of course the reaction of the driver is always going to be to exit a flaming vehicle as fast as possible. That wouldn’t change. However I think you’d struggle to find an example of an F1 car bursting into flames while upside down from the past 30 years.

          1. Pedro Diniz, but I forget the location. Hungary, maybe.

          2. If you mean the 1996 Agentine GP, his car burst into flames while it was driving along because of a problem in the fuelling system. He stopped the car and jumped out, as you would expect, exactly as he would have done if he had a closed cockpit. The question was whether a car has burst into flames while upside down – creating the scenario suggested by some of a driver being trapped in the car by virtue of it being upside down. I can’t remember it happening in the time I’ve been watching F1, although I’m prepared to be corrected.

          3. Certainly no car has caught fire after a crash (upside down or not) since Gerhard Berger’s accident in the 1989 San Marino GP. After that accident (Berger hit the wall at Tamburello, which damaged the fuel tank) the design of the fuel tanks were changed to a deformable, puncture-proof bag rather than a solid tank.

            There have been refuelling issues, like Jos Verstappen’s car catching fire in the 1994 German GP, but they tend to happen in the pit lane where there are a lot of fire extinguishers about (and also that one was caused by Benetton rather naughtily removing the fuel flow restrictor from the refuelling rig), so they can usually be dealt with fairly quickly. But there is very little danger in modern F1 of a crash causing a fuel spill, and hence a fire.

          4. To add to my previous comment, the car catching fire while upside down was what killed Roger Williamson at Zandvoort in 1973. I don’t know whether it’s happened since, and obviously we’ve moved on a lot since then.

        2. And it’s also worth noting that the last two deaths in F1 were both also from head wounds and would probably have been avoided had the cars had closed cockpits.

          1. Wouldn’t wheelguards also help at containing the tyres from bouncing all over the track?

          2. Indeed, although the canopy/cockpit concept does more than just stop bouncing wheels. It would have prevented Dan Wheldon’s death in IndyCar, prevented Felipe Massa’s severe injuries, Stopped Maria de Villota from losing an eye, and saved the life of Roland Ratzenburger. None of which were injured by bouncing tyres.

          3. Maria de Vilota’s accident was so bizarre that I don’t think that it is a good example for this. The lesson to be taken there is more precaution with obstacles like that, not protect people who collide with such strange obstacles. Prevention rather than protection here.

          4. @mazdachris yeah just saying it acts as an extra safety measure on top of the canopy. Both solutions, probably individually but certainly together, would have kept henry surtees alive (the canopy could have saved him anyhow). Anyhow though: the canopy would need to be strong enough to survive a direct impact from a projectile like that hit Massa. In massa’s case the spring did lost alot of it’s kynetic energie by first hitting the chassis, so you should take that accident and imagine how powerfull the impact would have been at full force. That would require a very strong but at the same time transparent and non-viewdistorting canopy.

          5. That is faulty logic. Senna may have survived had he had the benefits of the HANS device. Roland Ratzenberger died because he was silly not to come in to repair the damage to his front wing from the previous lap.

      2. That assumes that even in a huge crash the cockpit stays completely sealed so it doesn’t allow in fuel or smoke, and that the whole thing doesn’t go up and turn the cockpit into a nice sealed oven.

        1. Which would add the complication of how to enable the driver to actually breathe withing a hermetically sealed cockpit …

          1. lol, true. If cockpit is completely sealed that may increase the risk to driver from suffocating or else…

      3. @keithcollantine Even so, it would depend on how fast marshalls could get to the crash site and extinguish the flames. The cockpit temperature would be rising quickly if surrounded by flames. Personally, I wouldn’t want to sit inside a wait, hoping someone came to put the fire out, all the while slowly cooking to death!

        1. Le Mans prototypes are designed specifically so that the driver can exit the car while it’s upside down. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same with an F1 car. As far as I’m concerned this is a non issue, since the problem was addressed decades ago and Le Mans cars have been running fine without a single example of this happening.

          1. le mans cars have far wider cockpits, with doors. F1 would have to go through some massive changes to be apply such a cockpit.

          2. I agree, although I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t incorporate doors into the sidepods. It would give some challenges in terms of packaging but I’m sure it’s nothing that’d be beyond the abilities of F1’s designers.

            The cockpits of LMP cars are as wide as they are purely because the cars have to have a two-person cockpit with the driver offset to one side. Obviously in practice they never have two people in them, but they should in theory be able to take a second seat. The driver usually enters and exits via the door closest to him so I don’t see why you couldn’t have a narrower cockpit that wasn’t just as easy to get in and out of.

    2. I really can’t agree. I don’t think you can ever say that they are ‘safe enough’. Henry Surtees, Felipe Massa, Dan Wheldon, and Maria de Villota are all examples from the fast few years of drivers being seriously injured or killed because of their exposed heads. Two deaths and one near fatal injury don’t constitute ‘rare’ or ‘safe enough’ to me. Of course it would be impossible to pre-empt every single dangerous situation and take action against it, but when there is a glaringly obvious safety problem which is causing injuries on a fairly regular basis, I think that common sense suggests that it needs addressing. We haven’t seen a fatality in a long time in F1, but it’s clear that the danger remains.

      With regards to possible safety concerns over upturned cars, those concerns are fairly legitimate and that’s why I’d favour a Le Mans style cockpit with side entry rather than a canopy which lifts off. There aren’t any (to my memory) examples in the last 20 years where a driver in a closed cockpit Le Mans car has been put in danger by an inability to exit the car, and yet there are several examples of very nasty crashes where a closed cockpit has been the only thing between a driver and serious injury.

      F1 may have a tradition of open cockpits. It also used to have traditions of skinny tyres and the engine in the front. These things were moved away from when they became outdated. The open cockpit concept is definitely outdated and F1 needs to move with the times. The ACO has banned open cockpits for all new le mans prototypes, and once again F1 is left playing catch up.

      1. @mazdachris While I agree there have been numerous incidents. My view on it is that the risk goes with the territory. Nobody is forcing these drivers to sit in a cock pit and race. They do it because they want to, they consent to the risk like any other sports person; like in Rugby or American Football for example. So much has already been done to improve safety that it’s as safe as it ever has been. Making such radical changes to a sport that is iconic and ‘classic’ by nature is totally unecessary.

        1. I disagree that F1 is ‘classic’. It should be about performance and technology. Canopies and covered wheels improve safety but at the same time they improve performance and efficiency, making the cars themselves faster. That’s a two for one improvement right there. It could be argued that the rules in F1 are all there to improve safety. That’s why the speed is carefully governed. The only exception here are rules around open cockpits and exposed wheels which make the racing less safe. It seems odd to have these anachronistic elements when others, such as front engines and narrow tyres, disappeared years ago. F1 is constantly evolving, and this is the next natural step for the formula. Whether the drivers accept the risks or not is irrelevant. No life should be put in unnecessary danger in the interests of ‘tradition’

          1. The F1 cockpit is one of the safest places in the world. If one wants to improve safety and avoid injuries and deaths, they should put their focus elsewhere where they can make a greater impact. Thousands of people die on the roads every year in cars that should have been safer.

            More football players died during a football match than F1 drivers in the last 20 years. F1 is one of the safest sports today. A driver is safer while racing in a grand prix than if he was driving home on the M4. Most of us put ourselves in more danger every day than F1 drivers do at a GP weekend.

            I am not saying that safety is wrong or that the FIA should stop improving it. Im just saying that there is a law of diminishing returns and the priorities seem to be going too much in one direction.

          2. I’m not sure where I sit, but this is a terrible argument. Football is in no way comparable, not least due to the fact it’s professionally played by thousands rather than 20 people, and far more regularly. The driving on roads thing is clearly also pulled from nowhere.

            The worst thing about this argument is that you’re apparently saying F1 should instead try to make things that aren’t F1 safer. Or is it just that safety isn’t important when there are other things less safe in the world? Which is the equivalent of saying “our country has reasonable health care, but we needn’t bother improving it because other countries have worse health care.”

          3. More football players died during a football match than F1 drivers in the last 20 years.

            24 F1 drivers participated in 19 races last year, that’s 456 participations.

            How many participations were there in football?

    3. Close cockpits are fine in touring cars for instance; the drivers can leave the car in less than 8 seconds or so

  5. I think that closed wheels and cockpits will eventually happen in F1, and don’t really have significant objections to the idea.
    One thing I would like them to include in the regulations is a way of making the driver visible, be it in the form of “accessibility” regulations, of specifying cockpit dimensions.
    I want to be able to see on board shots from inside the cockpit that show the driver, so you can see them working the controls as well as the effect the g-forces are having on them.

    The cockpit like in the Red Bull X2010 won’t allow this, but it would be better aerodynamically compared to a Le Mans style cockpit, so regulations will be required to enforce it.

    1. I would imagine that would there ever be a closed cockpit, or roll-bar, that its likely it would be a single source safety part, to avoid teams wanting to be too clever for their own good and contain cost.

  6. As mentioned in the article, the World Endurance championship allows both open and closed cockpits. I’ve been to Le Mans in 2009 and 2011, and to me it really didn’t matter whether you could see the pilot or not. I actually quite liked the closed cockpits at Le Mans, not to mention the spectacular Red Bull Gran Turismo. I’m actually more concerned about the 2014 engine regulations than about closed wheels and cockpits.

  7. For me Formula 1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport, and nothing should be compromised in terms of speed, safety and driving ability. If closed cockpits, closed wheels and ground effects are the solutions, then we should go ahead with them. Remember, these current F1 cars look nothing like the F1 cars of the 50’s, so anyone arguing about the aesthetic changes need to remember how far away we are from the original cars as it is

  8. I’m sorry, but to me open wheel, open cockpit cars are an essential part of the DNA of F1. Yes, I’ve read what Keith had to say about the Mercedes of almost seven decades ago, but that was before most of us (me included) were even born. If you want to race or watch closed wheel, closed cockpit racing, there are plenty of categories to choose from. Besides, as someone has already pointed out, closed cockpits bring their own safety issues. I might be open to persuasion if the current drivers were pushing for this change, but I’m yet to hear it.

    1. … but that was before most of us (me included) were even born

      Pointless! If they change the rule for next year and a friend of mine starts to follow F1 next year…

  9. Bring it on!! A grid full of those RB X style cars would be a sight to see. I would prefer a clear canopy so the driver can still be observed working the wheel, he/she will still have a helmet to cope with bright sunlight etc. I’d love to see a few renders of that Red Bull X car in different teams liveries, Mclaren and Ferrari especially.

  10. I think one thing to keep in mind when discussing this is that if F1 were to move towards closed cockpits, wheel covers and such, it would be a few years and we’d also see every important feeder category of single-seaters go in the same direction, with the explanation that the drivers should be educated about and prepared for what F1 would be like for them. So once they committed to this, I’d expect single-seater racing in general to change its appearance.

    That said, I’m seeing arguments that such solutions can help lessen the danger, which is why I think I’d be able to adjust to the cars appearance changing drastically like that quite quickly.

    Done with care, there could even be crossover potential between such a kind of F1 and WEC-type cars. The first thing I thought when the Red Bull car for Gran Tourismo was presented actually was that it reminded me of an LMP car, just without the bodywork covering the area between the splitter and above the front suspension.

  11. Alexander Jansson (@)
    22nd August 2012, 13:23

    A windshield high enough to cover the driver, a bit like on motoGP bikes… would be easy to design and the aestethics of the car would not suffer. Covered wheels, why not??

    1. MotoGP style windshields seem like a good solution. Both for protection and for aerodynamic efficiency, without sacrificing the visibility of the driver. But canopies made out of that material, or one with similar optical properties, would also work in basically the same way, and protect the driver from sideways impacts. I can see only one problem with entirely closed cockpits in F1, and that is refrigeration for the driver, which doesn’t seem a hard problem to solve.

      1. Bit late, but during the FIA experiments with “closed cockpit” solutions a canopy was tested.

        They discovered that with a canopy/windshield Tyres that come loose, large pieces of debris could get deflected with such force that marshals and fans safety could be put in more danger

  12. I don’t have anything against closed wheels as that is an easy and not so visually drastic change solution to a serious problem that is wheel-to-wheel accidents.
    However, I’m not too sure about proposed canopies – wouldn’t visibility be a problem? Drivers have layers of transparent films on their visors to deal with oil, insects and other factors that limit visibility – how will that be managed with enclosed cockpits? I’m not sure screen wipers would be effective enough and not to mention the dangers of racing in the wet.
    I have never followed endurance racing so I don’t know have this issues been addressed in Le Mans series?

    1. When Le Mans cars pit, usually there’s a member of the pit crew who quickly sprays a powerful cleaner on the windscreen and wipes it off. Some have also had full sized tear-off panels on the screens which can be removed if it gets particularly bad. I don’t think there’s any reason why something similar couldn’t be implemented for F1. For rain, there are plenty of water-repellant treatments which would allow the rain to bead off easily, especially on an aerodynamic canopy like the Red Bull X2010. In fact visibility might even be improved a little.

      1. @mazdachris Yes, I’d certainly like to see pit crews removing giant tear-offs or wiping the screen in less than 3 seconds…

  13. thatscienceguy
    22nd August 2012, 13:35

    Beginning 2014 the Le Mans regulations make closed cockpits compulsory for LMP1.

  14. if safety comes first, I think F-1 should only played in game console with very big screen!!!

  15. I don’t get too precious about the current aesthetics or history of the sport. From day one this sport has been innovating so to stifle any kind of development just seems the pure antithesis of Formula 1. We should be under no illusions that motorsport is inherently dangerous and people will get hurt. The sport should do as much as possible to limit that. Closed canopies would probably work, if it works for endurance racing then visibility surely isn’t an issue? The roll hoop seems like a daft idea. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making the cockpit safer you may as well close off the entire thing rather than try and find a solution that MIGHT deflect a bit of nasty debris but will most certainly hinder your vision or escape route.

  16. Gav (@foxtrotoscar21)
    22nd August 2012, 13:50

    On a side note, the images look a Red Bull sponsored Bat Mobile. Maybe times are tough for the caped crusader…!!

    1. Incidentally, it appears that Batman does prefer a closed cockpit on his F1 car:


  17. No, I just can’t accept this. In daily modern life we have already had to accept a huge amount of restrictions because of population. If we simply allowed everyone to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted our society and environment would grind to a halt under the pressure.

    I remember reading somewhere once that the reason there wasn’t much outcry about motor racing deaths in the 50s was because the world had only just emerged from the most destructive conflict in human history. It was said that there was a pervading sense that people should have the right to risk their safety and live their lives as they pleased.

    We may no longer be able to do as we please with no regard for the world but I believe we should still have the right to stick our neck out. If I can’t drive from one side of the country to the other without paying more in tolls than the value of fuel I’ve burned and if I can’t park my car on the street without incurring a days wages in fines then at least let me go to an event and have the thrill of highly skilled drivers performing amazing death defying feats of car control. Let me stand closer to the track. Yes I know it’s dangerous but I don’t care, it’s my risk to take. I’ll sign a waiver if you want.

    Health and safety has gone too far, if you remove the danger from life then you remove the excitement and drama. I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there. I want there to be some risk for them and for me. I don’t want to live in a world where people can’t get hurt because that’s just removing part of what it is to be human.

    Reading over this before I hit the post button… I do talk a load of rubbish don’t I :P

    1. @spawinte

      I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there

      How should danger be present without drivers dying and getting hurt? Unless you can invent a luck generator, but that would again remove the danger.
      I don’t think its fair that, because you need a thrill, that others should risk their lives for it. If you want adrenalin then you are free to go rock diving. That is not illegal. Yet.

      1. I was saying I wouldn’t want it to happen, I didn’t say it wouldn’t happen.

    2. Imagine for a second that in Spa next weekend, there’s a big accident. Lewis Hamilton locks wheels with Fernando Alonso while entering Eu Rouge, battling for position. Neither driver yields, and they end up tangling. Alonso spins off and has to stop with a punctured radiator, however for Hamilton the consequences are far worse. As his car spins off, the damaged wheel he locked with Alonso tucks underneath the body of the car, sending the car flipping. The car maintains a lot of momentum as it hits the barriers. At the point where the car hits the barrier, the car is upside down. it’s a freak accident which should have resulted in both drivers walking back to the pits with red faces, but this is far more serious.

      Hamilton’s wrecked car lies motionless on top of the barriers. As the safety crew rushes to his aid, a shocked silence descends over the worried crowds. The safety car is deployed. The car has to be turned back over by the crane before the medical staff can assess Hamilton’s condition. As the car is flipped back over, Hamilton’s head appears to flop to one side.

      The race is red flagged. Marshals quickly erect screens so that nobody can see him being extracted from the car. A stretcher is seen being loaded into a medical vehicle which quickly races to the medical centre. Commentators desperately try to remain optimistic. FOM has realised the seriousness of the accident and has stopped showing replays of the moment Hamilton’s car hit the barriers.

      After fifteen minutes, the announcement comes across. Lewis Hamilton has died from his injuries. The full post mortem would later reveal that the compression when his head hit the barriers shattered the base of his skull. He would have died almost immediately.

      The rest of the race is cancelled, McLaren decide to withdraw from the rest of the season. F1 suffers one of the worst moments in its history. In the aftermath, many questions are raised over the safety of F1, and lots of people point to the obvious warning signs. Just look at Massa’s accident, Henry Surtees’ accident. Look at Dan Wheldon, look at De Villota. Why was something not done before when the warning signs all pointed to this happening? All of a sudden, all those arguments about maintaining the tradition, suddenly seem so hollow. One of F1’s brightest stars just died in front of millions of people. A death which was empty and thoroughly avoidable.

      Is that what you find exciting about F1? Is that what you class as drama? Would the death of Lewis Hamilton be justified in your eyes because F1 would be less entertaining to you if the danger had been removed and Hamilton had lived to race another day?

      Yes, this is an extremely emotive way of looking at it. But if you think that my unpleasant little story is far fetched and hard to imagine, then you should take a little time to familiarise yourself with certain events from 1994 when F1 lost another of its greatest stars.

      1. Yes those would be horrible events to live through but I still think Health and Safety has gone far enough. I have a lot of admiration for Senna as do many but I really think people need to get over it. I’m not taking this position out of blood thirst.

        To me the right approach would be that we’ve made it very safe but these things are going to happen and it’s just a part of life that people need to learn from and reflect on rather than becoming hysterical and shutting everything down. We need to stop jumping on the “think of the children” bandwagon and take a more balanced view. Humans have been dying in accidents since before written history, it’s one of the most natural things in the world.

        1. But surely if you make a decision not to improve safety then you’re not ‘learning from’ these events. You’re deliberately choosing to ignore them and do nothing about them.

          I could almost agree if it detracted somehow from the technology of the cars, or harmed some other technological aspect of the racing, but in fact closed cockpits and covered wheels are a step forward both in terms of safety AND in terms of performance and car design. It’s literally win win. And yet you think that because it means fewer people will be injured and killed, that it’s somehow a bad thing?

          Explain please how drivers being killed is a desirable part of motorsport.

          1. I didn’t say drivers being killed or injured was desirable and I won’t. I think you know right well that that’s not what I’m after but you’re being sensationalist and emotional in an attempt to shut me down because you don’t like what I have to say.

            When I mention learning from such events I mean learning not to become hysterical and making rash decisions based purely on emotion.

          2. Ok, well how many drivers do you think need to be killed or seriously injured over what period of time before you think it would become necessary to take actions to avoid it? So far we can count two deaths and two life threatening injuries in open cockpit racing in the past few years which would have been avoided with canopies. If two lives lost aren’t enough, then how many?

            And you still haven’t explained why you think that closed cockpits and covered wheels are a bad things, and are worth risking human lives to avoid.

          3. I think safety levels at the moment are fine especially when combined with the fact that the speed of cars is being pegged back every year. I don’t think the rate of death or injury will go much higher than it is right now so the current rate is an acceptable rate of loss when you take into account that accidents happen and are a perfectly natural part of life. You seem to be implying that I’m advocating drastically reduced safety or none at all which is of course wrong. I want a certain amount of danger to be there but I’m not looking for the whole field to be wiped out every year. You seem determined to paint me as bloodthirsty monster.

            I oppose closed cockpits and covered wheels because I believe they are a concession too far in terms of Health and Safety but then I’ve made this clear in all of my posts already.

          4. I can’t agree that they are a concession. I would agree if it was compromising some other technical aspect of the sport but if anything, these changes would actually give a positive performance improvement while at the same time saving lives. I can’t see how you could possibly argue against the logic of taking this step other than some sort of crusade against helth and safety. Which to me seems to have more of the hallmarks of a knee-jerk irrational reaction than taking the necessary steps to safeguard the lives of some sportspeople.

            I am not trying to paint you as a bloodthirsty monster. I just think that we have different opinions regarding the value of human life.

          5. I don’t think we value human life differently (that’s a low blow by the way), we just have different views on the direction society/humanity/whatever you want to call it should take.

            I don’t think it’s fair to call my opposition irrational. I think it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into my views. You see it as a necessary step within the world of F1 and I see it as something bigger that needs to be opposed.

            In my short lifetime (28 years) I’ve watched all all sorts of laws come into force both here and abroad that force people to live their daily lives within a smaller and smaller proverbial box. I just feel that risk and the taking of risks is one of the last great freedoms we have and if I have to get uppity about something like F1 regulations then so be it.

          6. I’m sorry you felt that was a low blow, and I didn’t mean it to come across as one. What I meant was that my position is that we should do everything we can to safeguard the lives of the drivers. You think there are more important considerations. This, to me, means that we value their lives differently in our priorities.

            I call your position irrational because the point you are arguing is that because your personal freedoms are infringed upon by health and safety laws, that action shouldn’t be taken to address a safety problem in motorsport. I don’t see that there is a link. If anything if you believe in the right to take risks, surely you also believe that the right to be safe is an equally valuable human right. And so those drivers who wish to race while being as safe as they can possibly be, should be given the right to have adequate head protection. The rules as they currently stand deliberately compromise the safety of the driver.

            While I know it is tempting to subscribe to the romantic view of the devil-may-care, nihilistic race driver who lives purely for the thrill of competition and doesn’t give a damn about his personal safety, I suspect that in reality if most drivers were given the choice, they’d prefer to race in cars which didn’t have a glaring safety flaw which was known to have caused the deaths of several drivers in recent memory.

          7. You didn’t mean it to come across that way and then you immediately repeat the insult in a different manner. Just because I believe in more individual personal risk and responsibility doesn’t mean I place less value on human life. I believe that excessive safety sterilises life.

            You call my position irrational because it is convenient for you. With one word you can label me as both incoherent and unhinged. I believe that action shouldn’t be taken to address the issue because I believe safety levels are adequate given the current speed of the cars. I believe that endlessly chasing after every small safety issue is ultimately self defeating and will result in a sterile and boring non spectacle in which people will quickly lose interest.

            The right to be safe can only be extended so far. Up to a certain point you have to decide if you’re comfortable taking part, be it crossing the road on your way to work or driving a Formula 1 car.

            The drivers may not want to race in these cars but the public want to see them race these cars. They have a choice to make, and it should be a choice. I don’t demand to be wrapped in cotton wool everywhere I go, neither should they. There simply has to be risk or it’s not sport and it’s definitely not life.

        2. @spawinte, you seem to think making a rule to improve safety is unnecessary. I will not argue with that. That’s not what this is about. The rule currently in place forces open cockpits and open wheels. Removing this rule wouldn’t make your proverbial box narrower.

          1. I’m more concerned with why the rule would be removed (the almighty church of safety) and the path it will lead down. If you could guarantee me that it would stop there then maybe I would go away and shut up but I think you know that it won’t.

      2. I am not sure if I should thank you or damn you for that post @hohum, but I could picture what you describe all to clearly stuck together from images from last year’s race, combined with memories from Massa’s, Wheldon’s, Ratzenberger’s and Senna’s incident.

        And you are right about how its better to do something than be sorry. As any long time F1 fan can confirm, the cars have been constantly changing shape for various reasons, so visual aspects or being used to something should never be a reason to stop change for the better.

        1. Sorry, that was @mazdachris making the post.

          1. I’m flattered, that was a very sound and well written post by @mazdachris, and @spawinters point is also well made, if humans had not from the very beginning been prepared to risk their life we would have become extinct before we began, on the other hand “open-wheel” racing is just a hang-over from from the earliest understanding of aerodynamics when reducing frontal area was all that was really understood. In the final analysis even a fully roll-caged enclosed metal race car cannot be 100% safe.

        2. I know it’s a very emotive way to put it, and possibly slightly reactionary. But I think it’s important to understand properly the human impact of what is being discussed. People talk about keeping the danger in the sport as if it was a hypothetical thing. A high level concept which sort of exists outside of the competition yet underpins the spectacle. Yet the reality of a driver being killed while racing is not romantic or exciting. It’s shocking and depressing. They’re not gladiators and we’re not Emperor Nero. They’re human beings just like us, with families and loved ones, and lives outside of the sport. They’re real people, not characters in a film whose deaths are little more than a narrative device.

          I am still yet to see a compelling argument against closed cockpits. I think if you were starting with a blank sheet of paper and you wanted to design a racing car without rules then you could close the cockpit both for safety and because it gives much better aero efficiency. The idea of leaving the cockpit open wouldn’t even come into it. The only reason any Le Mans cars were left open was for the sake of quicker driver changes during stops, and that’s something that F1 has no need for. So since this makes perfect sense from a technological perspective, it’s hard to rationalise an argument against it.

          The points about ‘health and safety gone mad’ (HSGM), I absolutely reject, and I believe are slightly self-contradictory. People claim that you can never make F1 safe, because you can never account for all of the various things that happen on a race track. I agree with this; if you take nearly a ton of carbon, metal, flesh and rubber, and propel it down a road at speeds in excess of 200mph, that is inherently dangerous. The forces involved are difficult to harness and even a small error will result in significant consequences. However in the same breath, the proponent of HSGM will say that you need to retain some element of danger because with no danger you would lose something that is core to the sport (I reject that this is universal to all sport, since most sport does not rely on an element of danger in order to be exciting. Soccer fans are not sitting there thinking it’s exciting because at any moment one of the players may be killed..). However this contradicts the first point, which is that F1 will always be dangerous. If we accept that F1 will always be dangerous no matter how far you try to push safety, and also that F1 needs an element of danger, then this surely means that you would be able to introduce things like canopies, covered wheels, airbags, and whatever else you want to come up with, and yet the danger and excitement at the heart of the sport will remain uncompromised.

          I do also believe that you can go too far. I dislike how F1 tracks are increasingly becoming little more than lines drawn around giant tarmac car parks. I feel that from a competitive perspective, there is not enough of a consequence for drivers making mistakes, and that in turn is causing a reduction in driving standards. I think that the race director is a little too eager to send out the health and safety car whenever it starts raining. I also feel that the speed of the cars has been pegged back too far as they’re now getting nowhere near the lap records.

          What I don’t accept is the notion that absolutely anything done to improve the safety in F1 is fundamentally bad, without looking first at the merits. There are two extremes; one where you do absolutely nothing to improve safety, and another where you become so obsessed with it that it becomes the only consideration. I don’t think that this debate needs to go to either of these extremes. There are clear and logical arguments in favour of covering the wheels and closing the cockpit – you can point to several incidents where people have been killed or seriously injured thanks to exposed heads. I don’t see that as being knee jerk or reactionary, I see it at looking at the reason why drivers are being killed in single seaters and coming up with a simple way it can be avoided. It’s not like we’re here trying to come up with hypothetical situations in order to justify our all consuming desire for safety; the safety problem is very real and drivers are being killed. That alone means that this is certainly not a case of HSGM.

        3. @bascb

          Imagine my horror while watching that accident and thinking for a moment that my post might have turned out to be somewhat prophetic.

          I wrote my post to try and make the prospect of a driver being killed in F1 seem more real than it probably does to most of us. Even though I fully imagined the scenario above, I don’t think even I really expected that something like that would actually happen. When it looked for a moment like something may well have actually happened, even for me it was something of a reality check.

          Unfortunately as with most things, the possible consequences may be overshadowed by discussions about who was to blame, and ignored by virtue of the fact that once again disaster has been averted. it does make me wonder how many near misses we can keep getting away with before the worst does finally happen. Hopefully it won’t take the senseless loss of another life to drive this point home, as so many others have done in the past.

          1. @mazdachris, I must say that immediately after the accident happened, I remembered this post and I think we really were far too close to seeing dire consequences, and I am greatly relieved about that.
            Probably it was no coincidence that right after that accident I saw a load of comments online about how closed(-up) cockpits really should be the way forward.
            It does make one feel horribly close to 1994 when repeatedly accidents happen and there is only talk and debate, but the world moves on until something really horrible happens, so I hope this firmly convinces everyone we should not stay put but move on with safety.

      3. are you sure Maldonado wasnt involved?

    3. @spawinte

      I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there.

      Danger = risk of getting hurt

      You don’t want drivers to get hurt, you just want them to risk getting hurt…

      Now, can you be more self-contradictory?

      1. I don’t see the contradiction

        1. That’s the problem.

          If people risk getting hurt or dying, then sooner or later someone will get hurt or die. That’s what “danger” means. You can’t separate the two. If you endorse danger, then you endorse people getting hurt, even if you claim that you don’t.

          It’s like saying “I don’t want to see you losing at Russian roulette, I just want to see you playing it”.

  18. No. If F1 was closed cockpits & wheels all the lower formulae would have to follow suit, technically difficult and expensive, making entry into motorsport even more prohibitive than it is. More importantly though, closed cockpits would remove the driver even further from the audience. If you watch old footage it’s great to see the drivers working away behind the wheel, but we’ve lost that and the perception that anyone could drive an F1 car is the result.

    F1 is already incredibly safe, and in any case the safety case for this is just knee-jerk PR to keep politicians and safety campaigners happy. Surprised to see f1fanatic playing along – Massa’s accident was a freak, and Henry Surtees wasn’t even driving an F1 car!

    The Red Bull concept thing is hideous, it looks like a remote control toy – maybe *that* is the future for F1, we already have drones replacing fighter jets, maybe remote controlled F1 is the next step? Let’s hope not.

    1. @dynodad

      the safety case for this is just knee-jerk PR to keep politicians and safety campaigners happy

      Knee-jerk in response to what?

      And what politicians and safety campaigners are calling for F1 to be made more safe at the moment?

      Massa’s accident was a freak

      There’s quite a few other examples of drivers or their cars getting hit by debris, some of which were mentioned here just two days ago:

      F1′s brushes with disaster: Top ten lucky escapes

      Henry Surtees wasn’t even driving an F1 car!

      Are you suggesting that means we should ignore it or that it doesn’t matter? Either way I obviously don’t agree.

      1. “Knee-jerk in response to what?”

        In response to Daily Mail-esque calls for safety when freak incidents occur. None of the incidents you quote in the Top 10 article (with the exception of Brundle’s Interlagos in 1994) would have been improved by having a closed cockpit. I’ll concede there is a case for some way of reducing wheel-to-wheel contact.

        Citing the Surtees crash is irrelevant as it didn’t take place in an F1 race, in an F1 car or even at an F1 circuit. Of course it matters, it’s just not relevant to the case you’re trying to make. Similarly mentioning Maria De Villota (as another commenter did) is equally irrelevant as that accident would never have happened during an F1 race.

        F1 is fantastically safe, unfortunately it took the death of Ayrton Senna to achieve that level. Changing fundamental aspects of the sport in response to freak accidents is the PR tail wagging the F1 dog. We can’t make F1 100% safe, and the current level of safety suggests that we’ve gone as far as we need to

        1. @dynodad

          In response to Daily Mail-esque calls for safety when freak incidents occur

          I don’t give a damn what the Daily Mail has to say about anything. Their ethics are in the gutter and their coverage of Wheldon’s death was despicable. I write article based on my own reasoning, not on the hysterical bleatings of a filthy rag I wouldn’t wipe my backside with.

          If you’re going to accuse me of writing something “knee-jerk” I expect you to be able to tell me what you think the knee is jerking in response to.

          Citing the Surtees crash is irrelevant as it didn’t take place in an F1 race, in an F1 car or even at an F1 circuit.

          He was killed driving an open-cockpit car in an FIA-sanctioned series like F1. You would have to be wilfully trying to avoid drawing the obvious conclusions to pretend it has no relevance to Formula 1.

          1. Don’t take it personally, I wasn’t accusing your knee of jerking – you’ve started the debate, that’s great, and it’s interesting to read all sides of the argument. It’s the FIA who are considering this, theirs is the twitchy knee.

            Henry Surtees’ accident is only relevant if you are proposing that *all* open-cokpit / open-wheel racing be outlawed. Are you?

          2. @dynodad

            It’s the FIA who are considering this, theirs is the twitchy knee.

            Massa and Surtees’ crashes (the latter being entirely relevant to the situation in F1, I do not understand your eagerness to overlook his death merely because it occurred in a different category of racing) occurred three years ago. The FIA is still considering its response, if there is to be one. How is that “knee-jerk”?

        2. @dynodad, good point, next question, what to do about motorcyle racing ?

  19. F1 is about moving forward. If they stay with open wheels and cockpits just because we as fans are used to it that way would be an offence, not only to the drivers and their families, but also to F1 as a sport.
    And I think it would be more fun to look at pictures of F1 cars when I get old and present my self and my grandchildren with mad and spaceship like racing cars and tell them “see that’s how they looked when I was a young lad”, and they can laugh at me because magneto-hyper-magnificento-el-grippo downforce generators had not been invented and they had to use old laptop fans. Instead of cars that look similar just slightly worse then they used to do.

  20. I think for safety you’d only really need rear wheel guards (like Indycar to prevent cars riding over) and enclosed cockpits. Front wheel guards wouldn’t really be necessary, as the primary danger with front wheels (apart from marshals and spectators perhaps in a real freak accident) is Surtees style bouncing, or the wheel/parts of its suspension coming back into the cockpit like with Senna. The closed cockpit would prevent this.

    However in performance terms it does make more sense, and I think the red-blooded nature of the designers means this will be easily possible if the FIA take the step. Many safety decisions are resisted against if they effect performance or the racing, but I’m quite sure if the FIA just framed the decision as ‘ok guys, go nuts and design a streamliner!’ they’d all do it and create something like the X2010, completely irrelevant from any safety thoughts.

    Safety would then be a happy side-effect.

    Overall I’m not sure. That X2010 looks so alien, but so would a real car now to anyone from the 60s or even 70s. I’m not conservative of precious so I think I’d get used to it in time, but from this perspective, where its a rather curious ‘what if’ I feel most people, me included, would feel strange about it, coz it is such a fundamental change.

    But they would look at worst, as exotic as this year Indycars which we’re all pretty much used to by now, and they’re undeniably ugly. I think F1 cars could potentially look a lot prettier if we take them down an LMP kind of route.

    I guess the question then, and I have no technical expertise so I am genuinely asking anyone who has an opinion, it’s not rhetorical, what then defines ‘the Formula’ in terms of specification. This is especially important considering the upcoming engine changes.

    Soon we’ll have closed wheel cars with closed cockpits and turbos that only develop however many RPM they do (how many is it? dunno, but its well under the 19,000 now).

    What is then differentiating F1 from any other Formula, be it Indycar or LMP. To me, the most important thing about F1 is their technical superiority, as clearly the ‘fastest’ (in terms of 0-100, shortest braking distance, cornering speed) cars in the world, which comes from producing unmatched levels of downforce in motor racing, and unmatched RPMs in motor racing. As long as this can be maintained then we’ll be fine. Aesthetics don’t matter coz F1 cars constantly change look anyway.

  21. I dislike the idea of closed cockpits because hiding the driver and his reactions isolates the viewer even more from the driver. But on the other hand, it might be a fabulous opportunity for F1 to embrace provision of a more interactive experience for home viewers/Internet users. In-car cameras, more team radio etc.

  22. The arguments on here against closed cockpits are rediculous. Enclosed cockpits increase safety. Fact. Any argument regard further seperation from the audience is a joke, we have onboard cameras which allow us views from cameras mounted on the drivers helmets for christs sake. We have diagrams which show precisly the G-forces drivers are experiencing as they race! How much more access do you need?

    I’m also incredibly excited by the resulting design race that would occur if the rules were changed so drastically. Itd be great for the audience and great for the drivers.

    1. Why is it a “joke”? Humans love to watch other humans acting and reacting, especially in extreme conditions. G-force meters are great but they don’t give a lot of insight into the mind of the driver. How many times do we hear commentators analysing the position of the driver’s head (or indeed his frustrated hand signals) when overtaking or being overtaken?

  23. I see alot of people complaining about wheel guards. Well, sure most of you do remember the extensive wheel covers that came really close to enclosed wheels, yet I hear nobody complain about that. Maybe for those people who have problem with wheelguards, we should allow “wheel covers”: enclosed wheels but with a different name.

  24. No. I don’t particularly care for aesthetics because they’ve changed so much over the last 60 years. But one thing that has always remained the same are open wheels open cockpits. When you start covering up wheels and cockpits, it’s not really F1 any more.

    This is motorsport- it will always be dangerous. Of course, as much as possible should be done to protect drivers, but you have to draw the line somewhere. What if Moto GP started enforcing 4-wheeled vehicles, because it’s safer than just 2?

    1. Surely drawing a line by its very definition means NOT doing “as much as possible” to improve safety? Drawing the line means knowing that you could improve safety, but choosing not to.

      There are absolutely no practical arguments against improving safety by protecting the drivers’ heads. I refute any arguments about it breaking with ‘tradition’ since F1 by its very definition should be about breaking with tradition. Otherwise drivers would still be driving around in cigar shaped cars with the engines in the front and two inch wide tyres. They’d be minutes slower around most race tracks than LMP cars. That’s tradition!

      As Keith points out, open wheels and open cockpits haven’t been constants. The old logic behind having an open cockpit was down to the idea that it was better for a driver to be thrown clear of the car in an accident rather than be stuck inside it. Because once upon a time F1 cars would split their fuel tanks open and explode in huge fireballs if you so much as looked at them a bit hard. Those days are thankfully very much in the past, which is exactly where open cockpits belong.

  25. I don’t know about everyone else, but that Red Bull X2010 looks frig’n awesome!

  26. Marc Schechter
    22nd August 2012, 15:03

    Any Body have a picture of the Brabham car with the cockpit canopy from 1967 Monza Practice?

      1. Well, that looks cool.

  27. I don’t know a lot about what drives the technical regulation changes. But if you step away from it just a bit you might remember that Robert Kubica suffered a career ending ( at this point ) injury in a fully enclosed rally car. Or perhaps you might remember that NASCAR lost Dale Earnhart in Daytona, again a fully enclosed vehicle. Racing is dangerous; Sailing is dangerous, Running on the side of the road for your workout is dangerous ( an old high school friend died after being struck by a car ). I personally want to see safety remain a top concern, but I think enclosing the cockpit and or the wheels of an F1 car is a sad end to fantastic open wheel racing.
    Scrap the formula, we already have a very successful LMP series, whats the difference!
    I wonder what the drivers think about it all.

    1. But if you step away from it just a bit you might remember that Robert Kubica suffered a career ending ( at this point ) injury in a fully enclosed rally car.

      Not entirely RWMiller. The significant difference between that Skoda Rally car and an F1 car is not so much the closed top, but the fact that part of the guard rail could enter through the engine-bay INTO the cockpit area.
      Had the car had a safety-cell like an F1 car, or indeed like LeMans cars and the McLaren PM4-12c has, that would not have happened. Your post rather makes the case for improving this area on Rally cars (As far as I know its something the FIA are working on with constructors too) than against closed cockpits.

  28. Perhaps an alternative could be found somewhere else.

    Most drivers can’t get out of their cars without first popping the steering wheel off and more recently the cockpit collar insert.

    So perhaps the answer could lie in extending the cockpit collar insert to incorporate the front of the airbox. You could then extend the airbox over the driver’s head to prevent objects such as wheels landing on top of the driver. The whole thing would pop out when the driver removed the collar to escape from the car.

    Obviousy this would need to be strong and could not be made from foam and plastic as it is now but I’m sure it isn’t beyond F1 to make something along these lines.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t be too pretty but I’m sure Mr. Newey and chums could sculpt some kind of aero purpose out of it which would then give it function whilst also making it easier to accept.

    1. I like your idea..

      As others have mentioned fully enclosed cockpits (or cars) aren’t that safe..

      Having said that I’m all for f1 allowing closed cockpits so we can see a grid of x2010’s

  29. “it’s not hard to see how this could have prevented or at least reduced the carnage of Las Vegas”

    I am sorry, but this is **. The enclosed rear wheels wouldn’t have changed anything in Las Vegas. At 200+ miles per hour, even the new car would still fly through the air and hit the pole. This was proved by the only time in 2012 we had a car hitting another from behind. Running at much lower speed, Andretti’s car still was launched into the air when he crashed into Rahal’s car. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVW6Fy04UB0

    It is not hard to imagine what would have happened if Andretti was driving at 200+ mph like Wheldon.

    1. So far we’ve only seen the rear wheel guards ‘tested’ on one occasion, one which was very different to what we saw at Las Vegas (as discussed here at the time).

      I think it’s difficult to extrapolate from that exactly what would have happened had the rear wheels guards been in place at Las Vegas. I don’t agree with your complete certainty that they would have totally failed at the one purpose they were designed to fulfil.

      The unfortunate aspect to this is the only way we’ll know for certain is if further such accidents happen, though that’s surely not something we want to see.

      IndyCar studied the accident and they believe the wheel guards mitigated what could have been a worse crash:


  30. Looking at that F1 car at the top of the page and then looking at the cars further down, to me it makes the F1 car look somewhat outdated.

  31. i envisage a carbon egg shell held together by pneumatic presses, with Oxygen supply and a/c.. only thing that could kill you would be the impact g’s

  32. I see absolutely no reason why closed cockpits and wheel guards shouldn’t be implemented. We’ve seen how close it can get for drivers (Think Trulli/Chandhok at Monaco last year), if not outright grievous as in Massa’s case. The driver is already protected from the back and side of the car in case of fire by heat shields, and it is absolutely true that flames rising from the side of the cockpit are far more dangerous. A shatter proof carbon fibre enclosure certainly wouldn’t go astray, accompanied by a quick ejection system. The second item being wheel guards… well… let’s just thank our stars a ‘Kamui Kiss’ hasn’t yet missed it’s mark, otherwise I doubt any two drivers would want to be entangled going at high speeds.

    As far as the Red Bull Concept Model goes… it’s a bit farfetched. I’d like to go with this plus the Indie Car styled rear wheel enclosure.


    1. That’s not bad actually, certainly less of a change than that X2010, especially as the Red Bull was designed with the sole purpose of seeing what Adrian could do without the rulebook in his face.

  33. Most people, when asked about F1 of the future, see spaceship-looking cars, with closed cockpits (some, using their fantasies, see them fluctuating without wheels). If we want to see closed cockpits in the future, why do we say we would hate to see them nowadays?
    I personally wouldn’t like canopies and closed wheels because aesthetically I prefer the cars’ looks as they currently are. It’s certainly not nice to see drivers get hurt, or worse, during a race, but no one is forcing them to do it. If they accept the risk, which is minimal today, then they go on. After all, F1 drivers are the best driver in the best series regarding safety. Measures should be adopted for lower formulae, which are even less technologic than F1. The consequences of flliping over in a kart are much worse than those for doing so in an F1 car. However, we can’t change a kart in an F1 car, and we can’t change an F1 car in a spaceship.

  34. F1 cars have developed throughout the years. The incident of massage happened in 2009. Safety in F1 cars have since then. We now have the platypus front nose which was implemented because of safety. If the closed cockpits was a big issue the FIA would of dealt with it immediately.

    Apart from that it completely ruins the aerodynamics which is also essential for safety.

    If the cockpits are closed oxygen will be less, escaping the car will be a problem and if something had to hit the closed cockpit the driver will end up crashing.

    Indycar is obviously a lower formula racing than F1 so therefore the safety won’t be the same.

    1. Correction massage – massa

    2. if something had to hit the closed cockpit the driver will end up crashing.

      But crashing is certainly better then getting your head kicked in by a flying tyre.

  35. I think it enforces the aerodependence of F1, if we have cockpits and closed wheels.

    To me, restricted aero (parts) and unrestricted engines (with restricted joules to be used) would remake F1 the pinnacle again, while at the same time increasing road relevance.

    So if these parts were introduced but fixed, development forbidden, I would just have to adjust to the look again like with the new wings.

    But if it releases/increases the aero/wake demons again…. Nooooooooo!

  36. this will never going to happen, because of the regulatsions. look on google: red bull x2011 is even faster than the red bull x2010.

    1. Its not that it should be anywhere naer as fast as the RB X2010. The drivers would pass out from the G-forces if they had to do that for an hour.
      Take away the massive fan generated downforce, and the stupidly powerful engine, and look at the concept then. Its simply used as a reference to how the cars could look like. Not how fast they should go.

  37. I’m finding it really hard to hold my tongue on this issue. Some of the comments are great. Obviously, debate and investigation into whether these measures would actually make things safer or more dangerous are required before anything is changed (we don’t want another ‘catch-fence’). As some people have mentioned, the technical aspects of the issue are nothing that the brains of the sport can’t work their way through. Changes to aero-dependancy would need to be considered.

    But what really galls is the idea that life is not precious, and not worth saving through prevention. To say that people aren’t dying or becoming injured often enough to require any change is tantamount to saying “I wouldn’t mind if someone else died in the next year or so.”

    The sport is gladiatorial, yes, but surely the feats of athleticism and skill that these people are performing is already enough to satisfy viewers. Heart rates over 200bpm, weight loss measured in kilos over the course of a race, breaking points judged to the centimetre. If you need the drivers to put more on the line than this, for your viewing pleasure… then I don’t know what to say.

    I never want to see a single person killed in motorsport. Is that such an extreme view?

    1. It’s like saying you never want anybody to get hurt or die, ever. It’s completely and utterly naive.

      What the total safety advocates need to understand is that the ultimate conclusion of the safety question has to be to ban all unsafe activity wherever it’s found. I know it sounds like alarmist talk but that’s genuinely the direction in which we’re headed. At some point people are going to have to start pushing back.

      1. @spawinte

        It’s like saying you never want anybody to get hurt or die, ever. It’s completely and utterly naive.

        No its not.
        Yeah sure people will eventually get killed no matter what you do.
        But you seem to think that as soon as safety measures are implemented then noone can do nothing.
        But its not like that. The cars were deathtraps in the 50’s. And only since the mid 90’s were there some serious work put into the safety aspect of the cars. Has that made F1 worse? I don’t think so. Safety improvements means that less people will die or get hurt over time. Why is that such a bad thing?
        Its not like the drivers will suddenly not be allowed to drive anymore.
        The cars will simply get safer, and the drivers and their friends and family will not have to worry about things flying around too much.

        If anything I find it cowardish that in your need for thrills, you want others to risk their lives for your entertainment. If the drivers stand up one day and say that the safety measures implemented is overkill, then sure. But you are rooting for other peoples head to be forced into the line of fire, just because you think the safety is too much?
        Isn’t it a bit much, to be brave (read: stupid) on the behalf of others?
        Especially as they aren’t given a choise. Canopies and closed wheels are, by the rules, illigal. At least the drivers should have a choise whether they want canopies or not.
        Whether they want to race with it or not, that could be left up to them. As long as one solution wouldn’t have a speed advantage over the other, as that would again leave the drivers no choise but to go with what is fastest.

      2. This is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. But not your life – other peoples’ lives. Why we should withhold the safety of others is beyond me. When I go mountain-biking, I wear a lid. When I replace a socket, I turn of the mains. I still fall off, break my wrists, skin my knuckles and so on. But I don’t sustain brain damage, or die. I like it that way. If someone told me I wasn’t allowed some new innovation that might prevent me from dieing whilst doing something I enjoyed, I’d question their humanity.

  38. Why not just base f1 cars on Go karts?
    Karts are amazingly fast, and actually quite safe as well.
    The superkarts can do f3 laptimes at some circuits, and the superkarts are also fairly safe as well.

  39. “I never want to see a single person killed in motorsport. Is that such an extreme view?”

    No, and in the last 18 years no-one has been killed in F1. Isn’t that enough?

    1. @dynodad
      Say that to Massa’s family and friends after his accident. He wasn’t killed, but death was just a few centimeters away. Its just a matter of time before something similar happens with the worst possible outcome. If that can be avoided, or at least mostly, then why not?

      1. “Death was only a few cm away” … a few cm the other way and no-one would ever have known about it apart from a few Brawn mechanics wondering where their bolt went! This is exactly the kind of blinkered sensationalism which needs to be avoided if a sensible debate is ever to be had.

        1. @dynodad
          Even if noone would have noticed the spring flying just besides his helmet (or technically, him driving right besides the spring), it would still have been a very close call even if he hadn’t been hit.

      1. 11 years Keith? Senna was the last death in an F1 race, in 1994, what are you referring to?

        1. Read @keithcollantine ‘s link @dynodad, its the article written on occasion of it being 10 years that Australian GP Marshall Graham Beveridge when he was hit by a flying wheel

          1. @dynodad, hold your head high, you were rightly referring to drivers and enclosed cockpits. The tragic case of a marshal being killed by a flying wheel that should have remained tethered to the chassis shows that it is impossible to eliminate all danger in motorsport.

        2. Follow the link. Keith is refering to the death of Graham Beveridge, a marshall at the Australian GP who was killed by an errant wheel.
          Enclosed wheels should, repeat should stop this from happeneing too.

          1. Fair enough (didn’t notice the link), I was thinking only of drivers – as a sometime marshall I should have realised this . Mea culpa.

  40. But very unlikely that a tire will hit a driver on the head because if their is a loose tire it will be picked up by the team and will fall out when exiting the pits.if a tire comes out during a crash it will always go away from the cars

    1. @zaakir
      But only away from the car it has fallen off. In its path could still be spectators, marshalls, photographers or other drivers for that matter.

      1. But usually the damage comes once the car is off track and wheels just braking off like that won’t happen.last year Canada button knocked Hamilton onto the pitwall but the wheel never come off only suspension damage.most accidents happen at corners so other drivers can avoid it.

  41. If there’s going to be closed cockpits f1 might as well be scraped because it Weill become like le mans.

    1. No it won’t. The function of the cars is quite different. 24 hours verus 2 hours, refuelling, versus no refuelling. They are not at all similar at the moment, are they? Despite both formulae having four wheels . . .

      1. If they where to have cockpit covers it will be the same design wise.

        1. Look very carefully at the pretend Red Bull and the real-world Audi at the top of the page. Surely you can see the difference?

          1. @timothykatz, the Newey sketch is just that, a sketch, a real race car will inevitably be fully enclosed unless the rules preclude it.

  42. That would be awesome, I’m all for it for some years already, but I fear it will take many years until we see something like that. The problem is that most people don’t recognize an anachronism as soon as something gets labelled a tradition.

  43. The best thing to do here is to have a poll or survey

  44. With the advent of cockpit canopies now permitted in Top Fuel Dragsters, the many reasons outlined by opponents regarding visibilty, safety, egress can be explored on a first hand basis.

    NHRA takes safety to a higher maxim, with many more safety systems then seen a F1 car.

    Perhaps a discussion with Don Shumacher regarding the positive features of a canopy should be had. He has many pro and cons. Quiteness a pro, visibility a con for example


    Things that the NHRA insisted on were

    Also added were kick-outs on lower side panels for fire hose access; reflective canopy fasteners and a fresh-air breathing system for the driver’s helmet like what is used in Funny Cars.

    Interestingly many other forms of motorsport use canopies. Notably powerboat racers.

    Canopies enable firefighting, air conditioning units to be deployed.

  45. Reading Chris Goldsmith’s rather chilling post earlier about the conjectured televised death of a champion driver, it occurs to me that there is another dimension to this issue that the sport as a whole has virtually no control over.
    If there was such an accident as foreseen by Chris, and if it was accompanied by a wheel going into the crowd, I think there would be a fairly voiciferous body of opinion seeking to ban competitive motorsports in that country.
    I know circumstances were different then, but in the aftermath of the Le Mans disaster, Switzerland banned all motorsport where vehicles raced against each other (I think single car events like time trials or hill climbs are still legal, aren’t they?). If there was tragedy similar to that discribed by Chris Goldsmith, I can imagine a sort of Ralph Nader/Jonathan Porritt type of figure arguing strongly for the banning of competitive motorsports on safety as well as ecological grounds. And I think this could happen in any European country, and it would be totally beyond the control of Bernie, the FIA or even The Horse Whisperer.
    In a way, I think the FIA are already aware of such a threat and are trying to steer (sorry) F1 and other formulae towards a slightly greener basis. They probably are also aware that the last thing they need is another driver disaster and that ALL motorsport needs to be seen by the entire population to be eco-responsible and safety focussed.
    Unless we want to see the 2030 British Grand Prix contested by bicycles around Silverstone, things will have to change and racing will have to be seen to be safer.

    1. Another good point, will we be raging against gravel rash in 2031 ?

  46. I’m a little biased towards the closed cockpit design being an Aerospace Engineering student with eyes towards F1. I’m also only 21, and while I appreciate the history and tradition of F1, I don’t hold the open wheel nature of the sport as sacred as some others.

    Those aside, I cannot think of a legitimate reason for why F1 cars couldn’t adopt this in the future. Each of the concerns people list can be addressed.

    Getting out:
    Being able to leave the vehicle in an emergency is always priority 1. The area around the driver is already required to remain in one piece and undamaged in the event of an accident. So long as the cockpit is deemed part of the survival cell and subjected to the same requirements, deformation should not be an issue.

    Secondly, the roof should be designed for quick removal. My idea would be to include a canopy ejection system which could be activated from the cockpit, or outside by emergency crew. Fill areas around where the canopy and body join with a pressurized, inert, non-flammable gas that is added at the start of a session. That way, if the driver needs to exit quickly there is no need to fumble with hinges or sliding the roof this way or that. The crew can release the gas (or better, recollect it) at the end of the session, and the driver should be able to release it from the car in the event of running out of fuel, or some other non-emergency exit.

    As for the driver being trapped upside down, this isn’t such a big deal in a normal crash that doesn’t involve fire. Much like NASCAR has a way for drivers to exit through the roof, F1 cars in the future could be designed to have side access for medical personnel. Even if the driver could not exit through this opening, it would allow for medical teams to determine the condition of the driver before attempting to roll the car over.

    While we haven’t had a major fire incident in recent years, there is always a chance for something to ignite when fuel is concerned. In the event one of the car’s accelerometers detects a g-force over a certain threshold, all ventilation from outside the cockpit should be shut. A supply of oxygen should be incorporated into the survival cell, with the ability to sustain a breathable atmosphere for five minutes on it’s own. The panels on this storage unit that face away from the driver should be weaker than those facing him, that way if the oxygen somehow ignites, the explosion is directed away from him.

    While a sealed cockpit should never have an issue with fire encroaching on the driver, nothing is ever a 100% guarantee. Just in case, there must be external access. My idea would be a universal ports on the sides and underbody of the car. These ports could be used to deliver oxygen to the inside, or fire suppressant depending on the need. Again, with the suppression systems already carried by F1 cars and quick marshal response, there should never be the need to shoot fire suppressant into a sealed compartment, but better safe than sorry.


    There are a few solutions to deal with changing light/weather. One idea is to incorporate a layer within the canopy that works like Transitions glasses, along with anti-glare layers. If this proves too complicated, thin canopy covers could be brought for rain, cloud, or high sun conditions, all of which are attached over top of the clear, survival-grade canopy.

    Cleaning the canopy is one issue I haven’t thought of a solution beyond the crew doing it, as small wiper blades wouldn’t work, and a blade spanning the entire canopy would weigh too much.

    Any other issues I’ve missed? I realize these solutions would require a good amount of technical investment to work out, but that’s what F1 is all about.

    1. There are problems with the gasses you mention, people die when they breath inert gasses that don’t support combustion and oxygen rich environments create unexpected opportunities for combustion. Also a vehicle with all your features would be much larger and heavier than current race cars, enclosed wheels and cockpits will result in cars very like current GT prototypes.

      1. The cockpit ejection system I envision doesn’t require a lot of [insert inert gas here], just that it is at high enough pressure so that, when released, it can blow the canopy off. The tubing itself would be built within the bodywork, so there shouldn’t be an issue of the stuff leaking. And, while activating the system releases the gas, it also releases the canopy, which will give the driver open atmosphere to breathe. If Nitrogen is used, he might sound like Mickey Mouse for a few minutes, but beyond that there is no long term issue.

        As for the oxygen, that’s one of the issues I haven’t fully worked out yet. Tank explosions can be made less hazerdous by designing ways to direct the force away in the event of tank ignition, but that still leaves the cockpit. Maybe instead of the O2 releasing into the car it could release into the helmet? I honestly don’t know how hot a fuel fire would get, and how quickly it could heat a sealed area to oxygen’s combustion temperature.

        Maybe there isn’t a good way to mitigate that risk. As has been stated before, you can never account for every eventuality, and if designed properly the chances of fire getting into the cockpit itself would be very, very slim.

        As for the weight, they would be heavier for sure, but not that much. I would suspect the greatest increase would come from the oxygen containment and canopy itself, but the aerodynamic benefit should mitigate this somewhat. This is an idea I started working on when the pictures of that “what if” closed-cockpit Ferrari made the internet rounds. It does not include covered wheels.

        1. For “oxygen”, I would say just use an N2/O2 70/30 mix (or similar): Basically air. This presents no more of a fire hazzard than the air already present.

          However, I believe this is over-engineering, as is using a compressed gas supply for a canopy ejection system. I would say that the chances of fire within a well-designed closed cockpit are negligible, and the risks for the pressurised gass cylinders exploding are higher (but still negligible), so the cockpit could just be fed air from atmosphere. There could easily be a shut-off which seals the cockpit in case of emergency, and there would be enough air inside the cockpit for the driver to breathe for the small mount of time he would be in there.

          For canopy ejection, I would envisage something similar to current air-bag deployment systems: A set of (very small) explosive charges. I believe these would be safer than a compressed gas cylinder, as well as weighing much less.

  47. Quite frankly, F1 is safe enough now. No deaths in over 18 years, and only a small handful of injuries sufficient to cause drivers to miss a GP in the last 10 years.

    It is going overboard. They are paid millions per year to race wheel to wheel and that is what I want to see. I don’t want to see anyone be injured or killed but as has been said, that is the risk they acknowledge and accept when they sign those huge contracts. I am getting tired of them keeping the safety car out far too long when it is wet and delaying starts far beyond what is reasonable. When the cars have to pit for Inters straight away you know they were kept from racing too long.

    The sport will never be safe. That isn’t to say they should stop innovating but they need to remember that F1 has an aesthetic that people easily recognise. The new Indy cars look terrible with those wheel covers and similar wheel covers would do nothing with the high rate of closure in F1. But by all means keep working on HANS and other such devices that greatly lessen the threat of serious head injury. I struggle to see the relevance of Massa and De Vilottas accidents because they were both quite bizarre. An accident that De Vilotta had will probably never happen again because the FIA will crack down on safety at tests which I think they should. It was a dumb accident that should never have had the opportunity to happen. As for Massa, it really was bizarre and I hope to never see something like that again because it was terrible. But again, using that as an excuse for cockpit covers is flawed logic. You cannot plan for every contingency and freak accidents like this can always happen. Look at Ralf Schumacher at Indianapolis or Schumacher at Silverstone. Freak stuff will always happen and the cars can never suitably protect the drivers.

    I know this is an unpopular sentiment but I don’t really care. I know a large section of the F1 enthusiast base agree with me.

      1. I meant driver fatality. Cockpit or wheel covers won’t protect marshalls.

        Really, that is a subject all on its own. You look where some Marshall’s are on some tracks and you wonder how more aren’t injured. I think I will always remember that death you referenced at Melbourne and the death at Monza before it. They were horrific and while I know Marshall’s know the risks, they are mostly volunteers I believe? I do believe there needs to be more Marshall safety considerations made.

        1. I think the death at Monza occurred in 2000.

  48. Amongst these solutions, I find myself biased towards the closed cockpits rather than the closed wheels. Especially if a closed-wheel design resembles that Red Bull. The way I see it, should anything Hamilton-Massa-esque happen, and a wheel flies off the car, instead of avoiding the tyre (big, imposing, easy to spot), anyone in the way will have to shield him/herself from what I can only describe to be shrapnel.

    1. can anyone tell me what will happen if the enclosed tires blow out on a long straight? wouldnt that be more dangerous to the driver than a freak spring? also with the canopy, the amount of over engineering required to do this safely is staggering. this is a sport where an ounce is a lot and you want to add how much weight to the car? will there be an increase in horsepower to counteract this? it sounds good and simple but think on it and its bloody complicated and will only make more common occurrences more dangerous.

      1. this is a sport where an ounce is a lot and you want to add how much weight to the car? will there be an increase in horsepower to counteract this?

        Personally, I would imagine the aerodynamic improvements would counteract the additional weight, if there even was additional weight. The thing about anclosing the cockpit is it would likely be incorporated into the structure of the car, and the enclosed section would be stronger. Just look at the weight difference between your standard car and the open-top version: It takes more weight to keep the strength in a Cabriolet. It is counter-intuitive, I know, but adding a canopy (if done right) could well derease the weight.

  49. This might seem like an amateurish question but why has no one thought of using air-bags in F1 cars to protect the driver’s head in event of a crash.
    The air bags in our car come out when the car decelerates rapidly. The same could happen in an F1 car (we would just have to change the deceleration threshold compared to regular cars). With advances in plastics, I am sure they can make an air-bag which inflates in a fraction of second and withstands impact.

    Have they tried testing the above solution? If it works, we can keep the open cockpit.

  50. Great article!

    Personally I don’t mind closed canopy and closed wheels. That X2010 looks almighty pretty! However I think it’s a good idea to make the canopy see through. In terms of canopies getting stuck and drivers not being able to get out quickly, perhaps a partial canopy could be introduced instead, maybe Y-shaped or something so there’s space for the driver to jump out at the top or sides but still protect the driver’s vision plane and prevent large objects like a wheel from hitting the head.

    1. A canopy could be fired off with explosives like on a fighter plane when the pilot ejects.

      Also, the canopy could be teathered to the car so that it didn’t fly off and hit a Marshall or audience member.

      Also, the canopy could be designed to automatically jetison if the car becomes airborne or rotates beyond the point of righting in order to prevent drivers being trapped if the car lands up side down.

      I personally think my suggestion to extend the insert collar to incorporate a longer airbox section would be worthwhile investigating.

  51. Those Indycars are so dull. Even doing 300+ does not add to the feel. Mid-late 90′ CART was golden era.

  52. I think what many concern about some probles of closed cockpit can be easily sorted out. But closed cockpit, which is certainly not large enough, may require HVAC system or even oxygen breathing mask. This means there’s rich source of oxygen and it can be very dangerous in some cases. I’m sure it could be sorted out either but might be quite tough.

  53. Been not only Ferrari tifosi, but an F1 fan as well since 1955. The day they close cockpit and wheels I’ll stop…

    1. Somehow I doubt this!

  54. If it is a big issue to have closed cockpits the FIA would of dealt with it immediately

  55. I never seem to have time to read through all the comments, and this is no exception. There’s a good possibility that my points have already been covered, but I will make them anyway.

    My first points are about safety. To kick it off, although there is always the temptation to think “The driver accepts the risk, it’s a dangerous sport”, this is no reason to discount new ways to improve safety. Neither of these ideas would affect the racing in any meaningful way, and their correct implementation would improve safety. I see this as a win-win situation. Many safety improvements compromise the racing in some way, and are a trade-off. This is not (in terms of the actuall racing), which can only be a good thing. It may even make it possible to relax other safety regulations which do compromise the racing.

    Next up is the often-quoted “what if the car is upside down” argument against canopies. To me, while this is a real danger, it is already difficult for a driver to exit a car which has turned over. However, to mitigate this I would suggest that the canopy should be in 3 peices: One over the top of the driver, and one down each side, such that the driver could exit if only one was removed. The canopy could extend lower than the current top of the cockit.

    The next up is “what if the canopy is stuck”. To my mind, the answer would be make sure they dont get stuck :) but I know there will always be a possibility. I believe my 3-peice idea would mitigate this, too, if the parts were all joined to the chassis separately.

    Finally, I will leave safety and venture into “F1 is an open-wheel open-cockpit formula”. This is an emotive subject, but to my mind the argument is flawed. The central idea of F1 is that it is, and should remain, the pinacle of motorsport. This core value is only enhanced by enclosed cockpits and wheels. Having them open is vastly inefficient. Huge amounts of effort go into mitigating this at the moment: See all the aero devices designed to stop the wheels interfering with the aerodynamics of the car. I would say that enclosing the wheels would stop the manufacturers concentrating their efforts on such an irrelevant part of the car. These efforts could then be put back into the more relevant areas: Overall aero, engine/powertrain, suspension, etc. I cannot see how it would detract from the racing, or the core F1 values, at all.

    I’m sure not everyone will agree, but everyone’s entitled to their oppinion. Even though anyone who disagrees with me is obviously wrong :-P

  56. Totally agree with wheel covers / enclosed wheels, open wheels have always looked ugly, to me anyway. I don’t think they would detract form the visual side of F1, and if it is even a bit safer so be it.

    Would not like to see closed cockpits, seems a step too far, I like to see the driver working, but I dare say I would get use to it, as with any decent change it soon becomes the norm.

  57. I have not read through the comments yet so this idea may have already been brought up. I think that canopies would be fine. What I would do though is make the drivers then wear exposed helmets with no visor. I’d have one HD camera embedded in the helmet as close to between the eyes as possible and then one HD camera in the cockpit facing the drivers face (which would be visible).

    Who else would go for this setup? I think it would be amazing to see their full face as they concentrate and sweat because of their exertions and make faces at the other drivers actions.

  58. Drivers take the risk. If they think that F1 isn’t safe they won’t race

    1. If it was only drivers who got hurt, or if it was only drivers who had to deal with the dead and injured, or if it was only drivers who wrote the rules, I might agree with you.
      But it’s not, so I don’t agree at all.

  59. I’m sorry, but the “new” Indycar with its curved rear body structure just doesn’t look right. In fact, it is downright hideous. The Delta Wing concept was much more appealing to me.

    As far as F1 is concerned, I think open wheels and open cockpits were the definition of the class. That’s the reason they call it “open wheel racing”.

    If I wanted to see something else, I’d’ve gone to watch World Sportscar Championship races or ALMS or the Rolex series.

  60. If Formula 1 looked like that… Lotus would be one step closer to looking like the Batmobile ^_^

  61. An ounce of prevention is better than a funeral for a friend! Enclosing the cockpit and tyres will not diminish Formula 1, especially if it saves lives!

    1. so you have no problem with a construction bulldozer operating on an active racetrack? If that bulldozer wasn’t there Jules wouldn’t be in a coma now. That was the DIRECT cause of his injury. Not the rain, not the flags… a damn bulldozer.

  62. Let’s not forget that canopies have been successful due to the requirement of having a roll cage and possessing either a door or a minimally uninhibited escape route (Nascar). You’ll also need to consider the ability to remove debris from the screen while in motion. Helmets have peel-offs that drivers can use when visibility is hampered because of debris/oil. They’ll need to consider windscreen wipers and they’ll have to be able to operate at speeds exceeding 300kph – not an easy feat on a curved lens.

  63. I don’t agree with the enclosed cockpit it will take away from the sport.

    What about a shield around the tyres? Something like a mud guard all the way around the tyre. Wouldn’t take from the open wheel look and would be safer.

  64. I’m all for closed cockpits and wheels. Bring on the new era!

  65. Larry McCarter
    7th July 2014, 14:20

    I’m all for driver safety if cockpit covers are the answer then ok however there has to be some balance with risk comes reward, I fear if we keep tampering with it will become indylights instead of f1 I’m still trying to adjust to the groaning of the new power units, the sound that made f1 unique is now a memory, we have to decide what is accaptable if its going to be risk free then I want a job driving its becoming a predictable bore we need less tampering and more racing they know the risk let them race!

  66. Christian presas
    6th October 2014, 18:48

    I think is a great idea to have closed Cockpits and wheels, it would make them safer, yet faster because of more aerodynamic efficiency

  67. so…. basically F1 becomes a WEC car with exposed front suspension elements.

    F1 should be what it was when its commercial appeal grew the most in the late 80’s and 90’s. Open cockpit, open wheel, racing protoypes. That should never change.

    What should change is not having a construction vehicle with parts that line up with a driver’s head on an active racetrack.

  68. With a car like this, Krosnoff and Wheldon would still be alive.

  69. Motor Racing is a dangerous sport. Remove the risk and you remove the romance and reason why drivers are heroes. I’m not saying go back to 1967 but come on guys closed cockpits is going way too far. The only way it can be 100 percent safe is implement a speed limit of 40kph. Sound like something you want to watch?

    1. Seeing Justin Wilson’s car heading straight for the barrier without deviation, the driver’s head motionless after being struck by a nosecone and the poor occupant obviously in a very serious condition before the car even came to a stop, is not something I want to watch.

  70. I really don’t like the huge fin that they put on LMP cars behind the cockpit, I think it destroys the beauty of the car. I also don’t like the big holes above each tire. It used to be that things that were high performance always looked cool. Now I think high performance technology will move beyond what we will find visually pleasing. That said, I still think that car looks cool, but I have the feeling that many people don’t.

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