A series of crashes, the most recent of which claimed the life of Justin Wilson last month, has prompted fresh calls for cockpits covers to be introduced in Formula One and other forms of motor sport.
The danger drivers are exposed to in open cockpit cars has been a growing cause for concern since 2009, when within the space of a week Formula Two driver Henry Surtees was struck and killed by a wheel and in F1 Felipe Massa was seriously injured when he was struck on the helmet by a piece of debris.
Formula One drivers are divided on whether the time has come to enclose cockpits. Jenson Button recently admitted he had changed his mind about keeping open cockpits, and Daniel Ricciardo is among those who agree with him.
But Nico Hulkenberg, who raced a closed-cockpit Porsche 919 LMP1 car in the World Endurance Championship this year, doesn’t want to see the same configuration in F1. And even safety pioneer Jackie Stewart is not convinced that covering the cockpits is the right thing to do.
Kimi Raikkonen at the Red Bull Ring this year, Max Chilton at Silverstone last year, Fernando Alonso at Spa in 2012 – these are just some of the most recent near-misses F1 drivers have experienced where closed cockpits might have offered better protection. F1 may have had all the warnings it’s going to get.
In the wake of Ayrton Senna’s fatal accident in 1994, F1 began increasing cockpit protection for its drivers. Enclosing the cockpit is the logical continuation of that process, and it does not present any problems which cannot be solved.
Open cockpits have been part of Formula One history for so long they could be considered part of its DNA. To the general public an open-wheeled racing car without a roof is a Formula One car.
Enclosing drivers with canopies could increase some dangers in the event of a crash, putting drivers more at risk from fire or smoke inhalation or delaying medical treatment. And they would not necessarily fully protect a driver – following Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka last year the FIA’s investigation found it was “not feasible to mitigate the injuries Bianchi suffered by… enclosing the driver’s cockpit”.
However it would be wrong to characterise this debate as being simply a question of those who are in favour of improving driver safety versus those against it. Enclosing F1 cockpits presents several new safety problems which would have to be solved.
The kinds of cockpit protection already seen on other racing cars could not necessarily be easily applied in F1. What works for a drag race that lasts a few seconds may not be satisfactory a two-hour grand prix where cockpit ventilation and rain present additional problems.
But not all the objections to closed cockpits on safety grounds are as persuasive, such as the concern canopies could create a new risk by launching debris into the air on impact. As Wilson’s accident showed, this is already a potential risk.
Modern advances in safety are always a question of weighing one set of risks against another. In 2009 cockpit protection was increased in F1, yet with incredible misfortune the piece of debris which struck Massa did so after bouncing off one of these enlarged structures.
It’s impossible to legislate for every eventuality. However the trend in recent crashes indicates drivers of open cockpit cars do need an additional layer of safety besides their crash helmets. We shouldn’t underestimate the technical challenge it will be to incorporate this into the cars and solve the associated problems, but nor should we doubt that F1 car designers are capable of doing it.
Should Formula One abolish open cockpits? Cast your vote and have your say in the comments:
Should Formula One enclose the drivers' cockpits?
- No opinion (1%)
- Strongly disagree (24%)
- Slightly disagree (21%)
- Neither agree nor disagree (11%)
- Slightly agree (26%)
- Strongly agree (17%)
Total Voters: 457
An F1 Fanatic account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed in stead of the voting form.
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128 comments on “Open cockpits: Here to stay or facing the end?”
ColdFly F1 (@)
13th September 2015, 13:34
‘slightly disagree’ for me.
It is not so much the ‘being part of F1 history’ part that we cannot think about closing it. But then be careful where do we stop: closed wheels; no spectators; remote steering; etc.
But something should be introduced to minimise the potential risk of a Massa/Wilson-like impact. Maybe increasing the size of the deflector screen they all have, whilst leaving the cockpit open from above (but how to keep these see-through/clean).
13th September 2015, 13:50
Keeping those clean will be an issue. Windshield wiper is a solution, and if they follow your idea of half-closed cockpits, maybe multiple layers can be a solution, just like for helmets.
13th September 2015, 13:58
Isn’t that just a strawman argument ? Saying that we shouldn’t enclose the cockpits because it may lead to other changes isn’t an argument against closed cockpits, it’s a distraction from the actual debate about the implications of closed cockpits.
A screen may help prevent the type of accident Felipe had, but anything heavier, such as a wheel, would be more likely to smash the screen and impact the drivers head.
A screen offers no protection from objects coming from above the screen, tyres tend to bounce and would therefore be more likely to hit a driver from above, rather than coming straight at them in a horizontal line. As such I don’t think a screen would provide sufficient protection.
ColdFly F1 (@)
13th September 2015, 14:50
Not (intended to be) a strawman argument! @beneboy
My point is that if we want to make F1 100% safe then we have to move to drone or sim racing. Thus whatever we do will be a suboptimal solution, and risks will remain.
As you noticed I voted ‘slightly disagree’ because I think there are other ways to improve (head) safety significantly before having to move to a fully enclosed cockpit!
Increasing the deflector screen might be such a solution (of course strong enough to ‘deflect’ rather than break!).
And no need to be afraid for tyres/debris coming from above (again never 100% safe): 1) It will not enter the cockpit unless it moves at the same speed forward as the car; 2) vertical speed tends to be less when moving forward at the same time (air resistance laws); 3) most debris arrives horizontally (when slung off the car, catapulted by tyres, in front); 4) the impact speed is actually mostly the moving car driving into the debris/tyre; thus per definition never from above!
I am not
13th September 2015, 17:17
Claiming that we’re trying to make the sport 100% safe is itself another strawman mate.
No one is proposing we try to do that because nothing is 100% safe. Flying to a race involves risk, driving to the track involves risk, and motor sport will always involve risk. The point is do we take measures to reduce known risks, or do we leave things the way they are and accept that we’re leaving drivers exposed to flying debris, and other risks associated with open cockpits.
Personally I’d rather see closed cockpits than see another driver suffer a serious injury, or fatality, for the sake of tradition or aesthetics.
ColdFly F1 (@)
13th September 2015, 17:29
@beneboy. Look over the right shoulder of the strawman in front of you and you’ll see what I’m proposing/suggesting ;)
13th September 2015, 19:25
It is also flawed argument to say that the only way to make F1 100% safe is to eventually remove the drivers too (“drones”).
At the moment the biggest safety risk in F1 is head injuries. While making the cars durable enough to survive maria de villota’s or jules bianchi’s accidents is really hard it is possible to make the cars survive incidents like the henry surtees, felipe massa or even tom pryce back in the day.
Alonso’s accident is one of these things. While it doesn’t have much to do with closed cockpits it does prove there is still work to be done. Not to do it because it would make f1 too safe is just ridiculous argument. Sooner or later we have our next driver being hit to the head with something. Just like in 1970s it just was just a matter of time before the next car hits the guardrail and bursts into ball of flame. I hope next time it happens we don’t lose a driver, spectator, official or mechanic.
I don’t think injuries make any sport better. Be that kick boxing, soccer, ice hockey or motorsports. Making things safer does not equate sanitation.
13th September 2015, 21:54
LOL You can’t start a statement with: “My point is that if we want to make F1 100% safe then we have to move to drone or sim racing.”….and not expect a reaction.
That’s like starting a discussion with: “Well, most people know that women are not as smart as men….but here’s my theory on why they may be smart after all”.
You get everyone’s attention, but you may lose your “attachments” before the discussion gets going. LOL
ColdFly F1 (@)
14th September 2015, 8:03
And I thought people would read the full comment (open the link) before reacting. :p
14th September 2015, 19:04
Then you have much more faith in human nature than I do
14th September 2015, 12:26
Finally a sensible argument!
13th September 2015, 14:16
Rain can be kept off by coating the canopy with a hydrophobic layer. That should also help with the dirt issue; as the water beads up and runs off, it’ll take the dirt with it.
13th September 2015, 18:24
Yeh becouse solutions like that always works in practise.. no they dont.
22nd September 2015, 1:05
People once said rockets wouldn’t work in space because there’d be no air to push against.
Then we put a man on the Moon.
13th September 2015, 19:41
Major disagree from me!
Most current drivers disagree, in fact JB is the only vocal proponent that I’ve seen this season. I’d want to see Kimi and Fred get asked again, tbf.
Closed cockpit wouldn’t have saved Bianchi so where is this “series of crashes” of crashes you speak of Keith? Massa’s injury was some time ago and the only injury i can recall where a closed cockpit might have helped.
It all sounds like knee-jerk response to something that didn’t even occur in F1. It certainly won’t save money, though based on the current regs and the 2017 regs cost efficiency and reduction aren’t high on the FOM agenda.
13th September 2015, 19:43
I’m all for safety btw, but racing is inherently dangerous and closed cockpits won’t change that.
In fact, if you want safer F1 then the resources should be spent on making tyres that don’t fail randomly at 200mph!
13th September 2015, 22:00
Ahhh, here we go again with “knee jerk reaction”. So, you define knee jerk as something we’ve been discussion in ernest since Surtees and Massa in 2009? That they’ve been running tests on the last couple of years?
I’ve seen you making gross comments on every website I look at. You’re one of those people who could not care less what happens to drivers and I’ve seen you say “they knew what they were getting into”.
You have ZERO interest in driver safety from the comments I’ve seen you make all over the internet. At least have the courage to say your true views and stop pretending to make technical arguments or arguing about how many crashes or what series they happen in.
You’re callous and that’s your right…but at least own it because that’s your position and stop making spurious arguments.
Sharon H (@sharoncom)
14th September 2015, 19:49
I think the “series of crashes” referred to all single-seater racing, not just F1.
Stig Semper Fi (@stigsemperfi)
14th September 2015, 3:51
I think I remember reading about McLaren developing a windshield for their roadcars that works like a canopy on a fighter jet and doesn’t require any wipers.
14th September 2015, 8:09
Windshield is a good solution (reinforced) like Stig Semper Fi @stigsemperfi) deflection is here the key. Debri is for 99% safe and situations like Japan could deflect the car for the most energie inpact to the structure instead of the helmet. So half open cockpits is the solution.
13th September 2015, 13:45
‘Strongly agree’ for me. I’m not willing to watch another driver die for the sake of tradition. The “problems” that have to be overcome? These are the same teams that spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year designing their cars. These engineers invented active suspensions that adjust 1,000 times a second, carbon brakes, 100kg engines producing 800bhp, F-Ducts, cars with so much downforce they could literally drive on the ceiling. So…we’re going to claim these same engineers can’t solve problems that have already been solved in other series like air conditioning in the WEC?
They CAN solve the problems of putting a closed canopy on these cars and it would increase the aero efficiency of the cars…in other words make them faster. I’m tired of watching people die and I’m tired of people making excuses about why it’s hard or can’t be done. If you prefer tradition over safety, then simply say so. But I completely disagree that these “problems” can’t be overcome by the engineers we have in F1. It’s insulting to their intelligence and past accomplishments to assert they can’t do it.
13th September 2015, 14:01
I didn’t really think anybody was saying this can’t be done, but has been more a question of how this would change the look and feel of F1 as we traditionally and currently know it. They’ve had ideas for this on the drawing board for years, but it’s a matter as well of what the cars would end up looking like, and it sounds like it would not be a matter of just taking a car like they currently drive and slapping a fighter jet canopy on it. So while I agree tradition shouldn’t necessarily stand in the way of safety, if the alternative is pretty much a WEC car then I can see F1’s hesitation. I’m sure there are at least a few very viable solutions (to me it’s the Mercedes halo so far) but it’s about the overall consequence of breaking from tradition that is more the concern, as in…how far from tradition can F1 get away with.
13th September 2015, 15:53
There’s a whole question about the value of tradition, it seems to me @robbie. What is tradition for? I dunno. Some kind of touchstone against the instinctive fear of change?
For me most traditions reflect homo sapiens’ more brutal past, and are mainly about groups of people saying how separate they are from other groups of people.
Would we say at one time in F1 it was traditional to wrap an alloy fuel tank around the driver and pop his feet into the nosecone? That was just the state of the technology at the time, I’d say.
WEC are two-seaters, is the big difference in the cars, then the race length of course and multiple drivers, and none of those are in the frame for F1 cars.
For me the difficulties with a canopy can be overcome. Of course not every accident will benefit and some will be worse off, but it’s the same for seatbelts, where at one time there was any amount of fretting about being trapped in the car by them.
13th September 2015, 16:59
I have seen people in many other forums/websites arguing that it can’t be done for various reasons. Even a few here over time, but more on other sites. I find that commenters on F1F have a higher than average level of understanding about racing compared to other sites so I don’t see so many spurious arguments on here.
But the bottom line is that it really comes down to “tradition” even for people who don’t want to admit that. If they start off arguing for some “technical problem” on closed cockpits and you shoot down their arguments one at a time…every single one of them ends up falling back on: “Well, that is just not formula 1” in some variety or other.
To those people, I say: “Were the Silver Arrows that Merc one with in 1954 and 1955 not Formula 1? Were the cars before wings “not Formula 1”? When the wings first came out, plenty of people we saying “Wings are not Formula 1”.
For me, I think @lockup totally nailed it. It comes down to:
“For me most traditions reflect homo sapiens’ more brutal past, and are mainly about groups of people saying how separate they are from other groups of people.”
Formula 1 will always be different. Do we say that Formula 1 isn’t unique because Indycar exists? Are we now threatened by WEC because we have a closed cockpit? I would like to believe we’re not that insecure.
13th September 2015, 17:21
@lockup @daved I don’t disagree and was not ‘fighting for tradition’…just expressing that I can understand that it is not a simply task to make a change of whatever description that is for the best overall. When you can say some situations might be worse off with a canopy, then I think that is cause for pause, while I agree even seatbelts aren’t always the best…just overwhelmingly so most of the time.
I’m confident there is a solution. I just don’t know how or when they will be able to decide on the best solution and implement it given that, for example, it has been over 20 years since Senna passed, and many improvements have been made but they still haven’t felt anywhere near enough motivation to enclose the cockpits.
13th September 2015, 18:34
Totally agree. As long as people are willing to say “a solution exists and we should do *something*, then we’re in agreement. I just don’t want to be here in 2017 still talking about whether or not we should do something. People keep talking about “knee jerk reactions”. These discussions of safety have been going for decades and specifically about closed cockpit or something intensely since Massa and Surtees happened in the same week in 2009.
Let’s not wait another 6 years and another set of dead or injured drivers to fix the problem.
bull mello (@bullmello)
13th September 2015, 19:21
@daved– Very well said. This really can be done. I have difficulty trying to comprehend how protecting driver’s heads could be considered a negative issue or an impossibility.
13th September 2015, 23:11
@daved @beneboy @coldfly @bullmello and everybody, I chose 1 of the neutral options, I do not wish to risk driver safety purely for tradition, nor do I want to change F1 so much that it becomes irrelevant. Many driver dangers have been addressed one by one, carbon “tubs”, kevlar fuel cells, wheel ties, more could be done to reduce the presence of airborne wreckage for a start, starting with the front nose/wing structure, maybe even banning wings altogether, afterall it would be less of a change to the cars appearance (& tradition) than any practical cockpit enclosure mooted so-far. cc @keithcollantine.
14th September 2015, 2:10
I’m not following your comment: “….nor do I want to change F1 so much that it becomes irrelevant.”
How does F1 become irrelevant by increasing safety in an obvious way? Are you saying that closing the cockpit somehow would make F1 irrelevant because it looks different? Or because then it’s like WEC? I know you’re even willing to consider doing away with the front wings so it can’t be just looking different. Sorry, I’m truly not following the point you’re making here.
For those who say that it just wouldn’t “look like F1”, then how do you explain the 1954 Mercedes Silver Arrows?
14th September 2015, 2:30
@daved, by becoming just another racing series with cars that look just like all ,the other closed prototype cars (bubble cockpits don’t look practical) with no outstanding performance advantage (speed kills, right ?) F1 could become irrelevant, 54 Mercs were form following function and I don’t object to that per-se.
14th September 2015, 2:43
Then I simply can not agree with you on this one. First, a closed cockpit would be more aerodynamic and would actually increase performance.
As far as looking unique, F1 cars look similar to other open wheel cars unless you know enough to look for all the aero stuff. That sounds silly to people like us, but show a picture to new fans you’re trying to get on board and tell them to pick out the Formula 1 car out of the lineup. They would have no idea what was Indycar, F1, F3.5, GP2, etc.
I just don’t think putting a bubble canopy would change anything else…and the other series will end up following suit anyway. So right now, they look the similar with an open cockpit. In 3-5 years, they’ll all look just as similar with closed cockpit.
As you said, form follows function and the closed cockpit would actually increase performance aerodynamically so I’ve always been in favor of that anyway. I want the cars to go faster so I wouldn’t care if they closed the wheels as well.
To me, F1 is defined by the performance and ONLY F1 spends hundreds of millions a year on their car designs. Indy and all the other series, even WEC is not going to try to compete there and they are much bigger/heavier cars so they’re not going to compete anyway.
So I just have to disagree on this one.
14th September 2015, 3:37
@daved, I’ll say it again, I will not object to a bubble canopy if it really is going to be safer rather than merely trading 1 kind of fatal accident for another, but I cant see a solution to the access problems. Maybe the solution is a smaller, liter version of WEC cars, but if so that would be the time to change the name as well so as to ditch Bernie/CVC and introduce a fairer return to the real investors of F1, the teams.
14th September 2015, 3:50
I can think of a few ways to solve the access problem. Craig Scarborough proposed one method and I’ve seen a couple of others. This may sound crazy but with a clean sheet of paper it would not be that hard to design emergency “doors” in the side.
If it’s truly a bubble cockpit, I’m actually more worried about smoke inhalation as the hardest problem to overcome. Even fire can be solved with automatic suppression systems but it will take some doing to make sure some type of ventilation is working in case of a really bad wreck.
But these guys invented active suspensions that adjust 1,000 times a second. I have faith in their engineering capabilities.
And again, I’m not crazy enough to say that any system is perfect. But just like we had to go through with seat belts…you have to look at the likely hood of different types of accidents and what saves the most lives.
I’ve asked this question before: Name an instance where a driver was stuck, upside down, in a burning car in the last 30 years. Now name a driver who has been seriously injured or killed in an open cockpit racing car in even the last 5-6 years. It’s not even close statistically.
But, I will admit that it’s hard to overcome that “instinct” because we are NOT a species that likes the idea of being trapped if something goes wrong. So it is hard to overcome that first gut instinct and look at actual accident statistics and facts.
14th September 2015, 6:23
@daved, 1 quick comment, fire suppression systems work by removing oxygen from the air, another lethal problem to consider.
13th September 2015, 23:58
I agree with you. Couldn’t put it better myself. We’ve just got to make sure we are not causing more issues than we are solving. These issues that we are facing can be worked out though. I worry about claustrophobia inside the canopy.
Sharon H (@sharoncom)
14th September 2015, 19:52
I doubt claustrophobia is a major stumbling block. Fire and smoke are surely more an issue and they can be overcome.
13th September 2015, 13:46
Slightly agree – A few weeks ago, that would’ve been complete disagreement, but then it occurred to me that a raised, strong windscreen designed to protect the drivers’ heads from frontal impact as well as from vertical impact from an airborne car, without doing away with the open cockpit design and potentially causing new problems. That would be the best of both worlds.
Obviously, such a change would also require a thorough redesign of the survival cell, together with a higher position of the drivers (which would be feasible, considering that they wouldn’t be exposed to the stream of air anymore. Why? Because such a windshield would’nt be perfectly transparent, as an aerodynamically acceptable design would cause strong refraction at the base of the windshield, which is in the drivers’ main line of sight. Additionally, dirt would further worsen the visibility. The larger the part of the windscreen a driver can look through, the less of a problem this becomes.
To sum it up:
Entirely closed cockpit – no. For aesthetical (as well as brand recognition) and possibly safety reasons.
Complete redesign of the cockpit with a higher sitting position of the driver and complete protection by a raised windshield – yes.
13th September 2015, 13:52
I agree with the idea of a windscreen, I’m sure they can make one strong enough and come up with a cleaning mechanism, even if it’s just a tear off strip like the helmets.
13th September 2015, 13:47
Closed cockpits are a difficult choice, while driver safety should always be a priority motorsport is inherently dangerous and I wouldn’t want it to reach a point where all series are identical.
I have no strong opinion on closed cockpits as there are dangers either way but if we cover every risk how long until we cover the tyres and limit the speeds?
Hopefully formula 1 continues to improve safety and we have no more of the recent accidents but sadly I can’t see an answer to the balance between racing at speed and safety.
13th September 2015, 20:24
You nailed it. We could reach a point where we forget why do we watch f1.
My view on. Safety is great it’s not the risk of death that makes motorsport special, it’s risk itself. For instances the new gen motogp suits (airbag tech) since their introduction have protected the riders from significant injuries (large bone fractures, and worse). Marc Marquez crashed in practice at Mugello 2013 at around 200mph and walked unscathed, safety does not take away the thrill of the sport as any day a rider can push it too far and crash out, the risk is there it’s the championship not your life. In F1 drivers are making fewer mistakes because they are taking less risks, to use risk for F1’s benefit, use it like bike racing, challenge the F1 drivers and you’ll get risk but make sure they don’t die.
Canopies are the solution but there’s a reason why a number of recent f1 crashes such as Kimi/Alo/Austria and SPA 2012 were not serious, and that’s why I don’t agree with Keith that these crashes should be used in order to introduce closed cockpits. As mentioned in the article the post senna safety updates are the reason why Kimi/Austria and Fernando/Spa scenario were not near misses, the side cockpit protection as the roll hoop stop any large objects from interfering with the space around the drivers head, that said, there’s no way currently, to avoid small to medium objects from hitting the drivers head. In F1 due to the tether system, the crumpling system on the chassis and the nose, it’s unlikely any section of the car becomes a deadly projectile, but in the event of a freak accident or a failure the current safety standards wouldn’t suffice. One example would be in the event of a tyre blowout, the belt hitting the drivers head.
In the end in modern day F1 we should remember that Justin Wilson wouldn’t have died, but Massa might have died, and lets just hope, the new visors are good enough.
13th September 2015, 13:48
So far the votes seem quite evenly split. I went right in the middle to neither agree nor disagree. I like the Mercedes halo. To me it offers more protection, which I can’t see anybody being against, while still keeping things open in terms of ventilation issues, and access to the driver, and even the drivers ability to escape vs at least a fighter jet style canopy which we traditionally envision and which seems to have too many issues for applying it to F1. I disagree with the argument that things like tires can bounce off a canopy/halo and fly into the crowd etc. That can already happen now with an errant tire bouncing off a tire or the nose etc etc of the car being hit with the object. The halo wouldn’t necessarily stop a small projectile such as was the case for Massa, unless a windscreen was installed at the front of the halo, still leaving the top and sides open, but even no windscreen but protection for the driver from bigger objects would be an improvement.
13th September 2015, 13:49
Hmmm… can I have some thorough research and an extensive series of crash-tests with various variants of closed cockpits before I answer this question, please?
13th September 2015, 19:09
There’s obviously some differences, but the NHRA have approved enclosed cockpits for top fuel drag racing. It’s not a series I follow but I believe there have been no deaths or serious injuries for drivers using them so far.
Malcolm Tucker (@malcolmtucker)
13th September 2015, 13:56
I’m in the same camp as Button, recent incidents have totally swayed my opinion and the whole ‘F1 DNA’ argument is bordering on farcical. I think a complete redesign from the ground up is needed, rather than adapting the current regulations. A common point made is that closed cockpits would create their own issues, but why don’t we hear about these issues in LMPs? I think because they were designed as a whole, rather than a modification to an existing set of regs like they seem to be discussing in F1.
I have a vision of a ground effect car with a canopy, the ground effect side tunnels would span the entire length between the wheels and would also act as the side impact protection. Open wheels would be pointless drag multipliers so we may as well cover them up. Then hey presto, we’ve got ourselves a single seat LMP1, which totally goes against F1’s ‘DNA’ and completely removes it’s individuality and marketing potential, so it will never happen.
The sport will always be dangerous but I think current attitudes are making it unnecessarily dangerous.
13th September 2015, 14:06
I certainly don’t agree that current attitudes are making F1 unnecessarily dangerous. The cars and tracks are currently the safest they have ever been…many say even too dumbed down…and every season sees at least minor changes done to tracks or to crash test requirements that keep improving safety. Virtual safety cars comes to mind too. So I think there is nothing wrong with current ‘attitudes’. The issue is being addressed and is obviously not so easy or it would have been done post-Senna.
Malcolm Tucker (@malcolmtucker)
13th September 2015, 14:30
@robbie I agree, it’s the safest it’s ever been and attitudes are better than they’ve ever been, but the fact that we’re sat here debating whether drivers should be put in unnecessary danger all because of ‘DNA’ and ‘The Show’ just seems like a joke to me. There’s nothing stopping a solution except for these debates about, essentially, the brand.
(Dare I make a comparison to the tobacco industry; endangering lives for profit)
13th September 2015, 19:17
I would disagree that attitudes are the best they’ve ever been. In recent years we’ve seen some pretty complacent attitudes from those running the sport, be it the failure to enforce double waved yellows, the failure to enforce track limits, the failure to improve safety systems and procedures for recovery vehicles, and the failure to adapt the cars after Felipe’s accident (although they did improve helmet standards).
It’s starting to feel an awful lot like the early nineties again, and I fear we could have to wait for more on track deaths to get those responsible to take a more responsible attitude.
13th September 2015, 15:39
Because LMP cars have doors. In an F1 car, any canopy would also have to serve as the point of egress. So the structural challenge is significant.
Malcolm Tucker (@malcolmtucker)
13th September 2015, 17:54
@tdog Why would it have to though? The point I was making is it needs to be a complete chassis redesign from the ground up, so they could easily end up with doors, an opening canopy like a jet fighter or some sort of mix of the two. Many people seem to be asking ‘how can we adapt?’ when really we should be going straight to the drawing board and starting again with a clean sheet
13th September 2015, 14:15
Slighty disagree. Not because tradition but because until now all studies still points that all proposed closed cockpit solution for F1 create a different kind of high risk situation for drivers just like Keith already pointed out above.
If F1 introduce closed cockpit, say next year, and a driver died because he inhaling to many smoke or the medic cant get to him fast enough because they blocked by the cockpit, I bet there will be lot of people and media that calls for open cockpit back. That’s why I gonna trust the judgement of competent people research the situation and weighing the benefit and risk carefully instead of forcing my armchair knowledge.
Malcolm Tucker (@malcolmtucker)
13th September 2015, 14:40
If that happened I’d be calling for better canopy design, not a return to open cockpits. And every other category seems to manage ok, why does everyone think F1 will struggle with their sky-high budgets?
There will only be a problem if the FIA try and rush some regulation changes like they always do and force teams to modify existing designs. It needs to be a total back-to-the-drawing-board affair and done properly, even 2017 is too early.
14th September 2015, 7:44
@malcolmtucker That’s the point, we need a good design. A bad design will just introduce new risks. Are you willing to accept those risks just because armchair experts call for closed cockpit?
Also FIA is taking their time with closed cockpit. They already study it for years and there still some things that they not satisfied with hence no closed cockpit until now. What these kind of publication do is basically using mass pressure to make FIA rush things.
13th September 2015, 19:27
Inhaling in fumes eh… hmmm that seems like a good excuse to introduce fighter pilot style oxygen mask to go with canopys. Looks cool, increases safety. win win =)
13th September 2015, 20:10
I disagree. “Not because tradition but because until now all studies still points that all proposed closed cockpit solution for F1 create a different kind of high risk situation for drivers just like Keith already pointed out above.”
The people making these “studies” and statements have a vested interest in not changing the sport. they would also have to accept the blame for not doing something before now which is also not in their interest. This is no different than the auto industry making studies for a decade to “prove” that seat belts would not solve all deaths, could trap someone in case of fire, could trap someone in case they went off a bridge into water, etc, etc, etc.
Does ANYONE really want to argue that seat belts don’t save lives now? Seriously. Can we not see the same parallels with the arguments and the motivations and bias of the people making these studies today???
Who here really believes that Justin Wilson wouldn’t be alive today with some type of solution? Now, who thinks the head of Indycar wants to stand up and say: Yes, had I only acted sooner…Justin would be alive today.
NO. They want to talk about all the uncertainties and how much they need to study the “risks”, etc. Nobody in charge wants to take the moral hit or the legal threat and admit they could have done something.
14th September 2015, 7:36
@daved Well if you can prove your medical qualifications or pointed me to source with such qualifications that proposing a good closed cockpit design, I’d really like to read it. You can think or believe all the conspiracy about all people asked by FIA to study it are corrupt, but you can’t deny that FIA probably responsible for all improved automotive safety standards in since 1994. Hence, by logic and historical performance I tend to believe those “studies” more than your opinion / rant.
P.S.: No one ever think that seatbelts will prevent all death, same as nobody says closed cockpit is bad. What people arguing is whether it create another unaccepted risk condition for the drivers (e.g. delayed extraction, danger from smoke inhaling because enclosed room). To continue using your seatbelt analogy, there was debate whether seatbelt can make severe injury from sudden body snapping, hence we still develop airbags and HANS among other things to minimize the extra risk introduced by seatbelts, which we still don’t have proper research for proposed closed cockpit solution yet.
14th September 2015, 19:02
So you’re saying we should have held off on seatbelts until airbags were in every car? Or perhaps we went ahead with seat belts and kept improving overall safety by adding airbags as well. Why would you not assume a similar path here?
As for being a medical professional, you’re showing you don’t understand the problem. It is a matter of physics and engineering of which I do happen to be. The strike that Justin sustained was well below the threshold required to destroy an F16 canopy. That is simply a fact.
As for the so called “rant”…not at all, but a simple statement of bias. People make assumptions when they perform tests and analysis. These assumptions completely alter the results of the experiment. Why do you think there are conflicting results from “experts” all the time? Do you believe the “expert results” the NFL put out for decades stating that there was no proof that concussions were caused by football or a long term health problem? Do you believe that “expert results” from the tobacco industry that STILL CLAIM TO THIS DAY that there is no link between smoking and cancer?
I’m sorry if you really believe there is no bias in a study carried out by people with financial gains…or losses… depending on the results. I don’t know what to say to you at that point.
15th September 2015, 4:09
@daved Of course I’m not suggesting we put on hold on seatbelts until we found airbags because even without airbags the benefit of seatbelts is clearly outweigh the additional risk (instant death vs survivable heavy injuries). However, with closed cockpit we already identify almost equal risk (death by head impact or death by delayed extraction) which is why I think is justified to wait until we have more studies and better solution.
Also for someone who understand physics and engineering you really have limited scope of understanding the whole problem. Nobody said closed cockpit doesn’t saves lives. Yes, Massa and Justin accident should be avoided with those, however the concern is if it will make worse another type of accident. One of such scenario is if an accident/failure leak dangerous smoke/gasses into the cockpit and the driver can’t get out fast enough and as a result they get unnecessary injuries? I’m sure there are also other scenarios that put open cockpit as better solution than proposed closed cockpit here. And those scenarios is what FIA needs to analyze further before they can make the decision.
Also I’m perfectly aware how there are lot of conflicted experiment results and actually lot of “doctored” test results because they sponsored by someone with interest in those results. That’s why I ask if you could point me to other studies from qualified source to back up your stance. Please do notice that my back up is FIA safety commission statement, which is okay if you want to treat them as corrupt institution, but so far they have done superb job at increasing automotive safety so I still believe in them.
15th September 2015, 4:31
Ok @sonicslv then name an instance in the last 5-6 years where there was poison gas leaking in the cockpit? Quick, name them.
Now name a time in the last 5-6 years where a driver was seriously injured or killed by being struck in the head in open wheel racing.
Not even close. It’s just like the seat belts. The statistics will tell you that it’s much more likely to be the head injury.
I’m not suggesting that it even has to be a closed canopy. Craig Scarborough has put together bifurcated designs that would allow it to be split down the middle and mechanically collapse with the pull of levers. If you’re starting with a clean sheet of paper, it’s very possible to design it so that the canopy can be quickly removed from the outside or even “doors” built into both sides that could be opened in an emergency.
I’m seriously not suggesting that they simply just bolt on the first polycarbonate bubble they get from an Air Force garage sale. These people are incredibly smart. The point is to tell them to have it ready for the 2017 season….whatever “it” is. And keep working it so they can make it better every year.
My emotional response is that people are making the same arguments and excuses now that they were making in 2009 when Surtees died and Massa nearly did. I don’t want to be here in 2021 having this same discussion when it happens again. I’m sick of seeing senseless deaths that could be avoided. NO, it won’t be perfect, but it will be better than it is now and they keep working on it.
16th September 2015, 3:31
@daved 2015 Chinese GP practice Massa has smoke in his cockpit form the titanium skid blocks. Of course I don’t know if that smoke is poisonous or not, but I’m sure closed cockpit will make the situation worse. Also with the nature or gas (poisonous or not), open air room (cockpit) and the speed of F1 car travel, any leakage – especially if it not caught by camera – will never get the publication for us to know about.
Statistically, F1 also only have 2 serious head related accident from 352 GP (1995-2014) which is only 0.5% chance. Objectively, it’s still the safest form of top level motorsport. Forcing them to change without proper study is just kneejerk reaction.
And yes, that is totally a kneejerk reaction. You basically accept if someone died because… whatever “it” is and, go “eh, we’ll fix it next year. At least, driver head is safer than ever!” (/sarcasm).
Also if you read carefully my first comment, I never against any kind of changes in the formula, as long as it has been properly studied (by qualified people or course). FIA has studied many forms of driver head protection from fighter jet style canopies to raised windshield but they never got a solution that satisfied them. Since their research is done by professionals and I’m pretty sure you and I not even devoting enough time for those kind of research, it’s very logical to accept their conclusion rather than yours or mine.
16th September 2015, 3:54
I’m sorry, but something they’ve been studying since 2009 and telling them to stop waiting for perfect and implement the best they’ve got by 2017 (8 FREAKING years later) is not a knee jerk reaction by any stretch of the imagination.
And you’re making a really big assumption: They have people who are experts in this particular field working the problem. They had people with no aero expertise on the Overtaking Working Group despite that fact it is an aerodynamic problem.
They are exchanging data with Indycar right now and agreeing on which path each will explore so that they don’t duplicate effort. That is a start. But you don’t put people in charge of something like this who are biased and are not experts in this specific field. Which open wheel category has extensive experience with closed cockpit design and the problems it will present? LOL Don’t answer because that’s clearly a silly, rhetorical question.
You hire teams from aviation who design these systems and test them for a living. You hire people from WEC who have solved the ventilation system. F1 have proven they can make mistakes in the selection process so there is no reason to assume they got this right either.
And again, they are biased by their background and their own personal feelings. “Do I want to look in the mirror and know that somebody is dead because I didn’t act?”. No, people are not wired that way. They want something or somebody to tell the it wasn’t their fault and their is nothing they could do…and people gravitate towards that reassurance without even realizing they are doing it. And don’t forget the potential legal exposure if you were wrong. Ask the NFL how their decades of “expert research on concussions” turned out.
I am an engineer by training and I run large teams of engineers with hundreds or even thousands of people on projects. My job is to know when they’re dithering and looking for “perfect” when “good enough” will do…and then improve as you go. I’ve done everything from weapons systems for the Los Angeles class attack subs to microturbines to hybrid electric cars. I recognize the symptoms here because I see it every day and have for nearly 30 years. They are simply not making that decision to take action yet.
Today, I had to make a call as we sought to insure data “Safe Harbor” for our european clients. The engineers are still dithering to figure out the “final solution” because what we have in place now will only cover 4,500 of our 4,788 clients. They want to wait another 18 months until we can do EVERY one of them. It’s just the way they’re wired to think. If someone in charge doesn’t make ‘The Decision’ they’ll do it forever.
16th September 2015, 8:55
@daved Then please apply for a job in F1 Safety Commission then or fund an independent research and publish the results so rational people will buy your theory that “FIA experts research result is wrong and horribly biased”. But, please remember the reluctance for going closed (or partially closed) cockpit on F1 does not means F1 never tried to protect driver head. In fact its the exact opposite. Wheel tethering, HANS, better helmet design, raised side pods, lowered noses is only part of those attempts.
Massa accident is super freaky one, and when the other time you hear a spring detached from running F1 car and the trajectory even go into general head area of following car in a curve? Bianchi probably walked away form his accident if his car positioned a few centimeters away so his head doesn’t hit the counterweight directly. Surtees accident should be prevented if the tire tethering is there. Last time I see a tire run loose in F1 is because it goes with the whole suspension with it, unlike Surtees case. What I’m trying to say is F1 driver head is already really safe.
But then again you ask for a change in a sport that have 0.5% head related accident (both are freak accident too) for an unknown system, and you accept 0.9% risk (from 288 out of your 4788 client) for a change to be implemented. I’m an engineer too, and while I probably don’t do jobs as big as yours, I know not to rush things just for the sake of “satisfying the masses”. If we had terrible rate where almost every year there is head related accident that can be prevented by a known solution then I’ll gladly support the change too, but as it is now I believe the unknown new system risk is greater than the known open cockpit risk.
13th September 2015, 14:28
Strongly agree. However Canopy only, no ugly front roll hoop rubbish. Really like the concept by Andries van overbeeke. Wide cars with canopy will look great and have effects on: safety, overtaking and aesthetics. So they will have a few things to find solutions for if they go this route but that is what f1 is about.
13th September 2015, 17:11
Looks so wicked. What happens if the car ends up upside down? No choice but to flip it on it’s side or completely upright to get at the driver, and unable to stabilize his head and neck before doing so.
Malcolm Tucker (@malcolmtucker)
13th September 2015, 18:01
They could utilize a taller airbox/roll hoop to give extra space to remove the canopy. I expect in that same car and situation but with an open cockpit, the driver would lose his head as it’s only about 6in below the highest point
14th September 2015, 6:38
Not what experience has shown, but don’t ask me for specific who/when examples, look em up.
Marlo Stanfield (@mstanfield)
13th September 2015, 19:28
That concept McLaren is stunning!
13th September 2015, 23:26
That is a great concept but it still looks like a potential deathtrap.
13th September 2015, 14:49
Slightly agree – I see the need for more cockpit safety, and don’t really follow the counterarguments. Staying true to “F1 DNA” is a poor argument against it – it doesn’t detract from any quality of the sport, and as long as it looks good it wouldn’t be a problem getting casual followers to think a covered canopy is a true F1 car. Part of me is cynically thinking that much of the opposition stems from arguing just for the sake of it.
13th September 2015, 15:37
Strongly agree. Putting aside the argument of tradition, the real question for me is whether a closed cockpit, with all the additional risks, is actually safer than open cockpits. In my view, I can think of several severe accidents (or some very close calls) which could have been made considerably safer with a closed cockpit. I can’t think of any incidents that would have been worsened by closed cockpits.
13th September 2015, 15:54
closed cockpits will be a disgrace unless it’s a completely new design which allows drivers not to wear helmets & we can see their expressions while driving the cars…
13th September 2015, 19:13
Yeah I think this is the big opportunity, to see their faces.
13th September 2015, 19:50
No racing series, closed or open cockpit allows the drivers to not wear a helmet. That won’t change.
13th September 2015, 20:05
That will never happen, helmets still have to be used in every motor sport series, and it would be ridiculous for F1 to allow drivers to race without them.
Even with an enclosed cockpit the driver’s would still require helmets for many reasons, not least to be used with the HANS device.
It may be possible to use open face helmets, but we’ll never see drivers racing without helmets.
14th September 2015, 0:15
HANS is essential @beneboy @mads but there may be alternatives to the existing helmet for attaching it to drivers’ heads. Headbands, thin helmets with the face not sunk into them, for example.
And they could ban visors. I’d ban tinted visors now, personally – they don’t actually need them for a couple of hours.
John Doe (@watertank)
13th September 2015, 21:39
14th September 2015, 3:52
Not only do I not believe they could ever secure a Hans device to a drivers head with anything other than the fully supportive helmet of today, I doubt there is any design of cockpit and it’s driver restraints that would ever be so trustworthy, including fire and smoke proof, such that a helmet could be discarded, and for insurance purposes to boot, we will never in our lifetimes and beyond, see any racing series rid themselves of helmets. I would think they would also want to keep their visors as an extra measure to keep specks of anything from getting in their eyes at a minimum, or indeed somethg more intrusive, not to mention a lick of flame if it frighteningly comes to that.
13th September 2015, 16:12
F1 is the epitome of technical innovation. The sport has best of the breed engineers designing and building cars . Given a chance I am sure they can come up with innovative solutions for the cockpit safety. I don’t not like to limit any ones imagination by saying “closed cockpit” because that is just one of the options. There could be many other options out there that can be imagined, designed and implemented. Having said that these solutions should be implemented in a haste. They should be thoroughly tested and implemented on an incrementally basis rather than adopting a completely new solution one fine day.
One thing is sure should the F1 cockpits remain the way it is today. I Say “No”. There is tremendous scope for improvement.
For these reasons I voted “Strongly Agree” . But I am saying “Strongly Agree” not just to enclose cockpits but to redesign the cockpits for better safety to the drivers. The last thing anybody wants is a knee jerk reaction to a particular problem with a specific solution.
13th September 2015, 16:15
Correction: Having said that these solutions should not be implemented in a haste. They should be thoroughly tested and implemented on an incremental basis rather than adopting a completely new solution one fine day.
13th September 2015, 16:14
Slightly agree. We definitely need to start taking steps toward protecting the driver’s head. Whether that’s closed cockpits or higher windscreens, I don’t know. All I know is a methodical approach needs to be taken to tackle the safety concerns everyone raises when closing cockpits on single seaters. Hell, if it’s a worry about the driver getting out, maybe that means introducing gull wing doors of some sort? We’ll simply have to think beyond tradition. I do agree that they must remain single seaters, but the do not need to remain open cockpit. The reason my vote is slightly agree is because I do not want to see a knee jerk reaction that leaves the serious pitfalls everyone mentions about a trapped driver. Then we’ll simply have a huge reaction in the other direction: “see? They’re dangerous!” We need to do this, but we need to do it right.
13th September 2015, 16:36
I have a lot to say on this subject, but I am just going to leave few of my opinions and thoughts.
-) I am for closed cockpits on ovals, or in other words, in Indycar.
-) I am against closed cockpits in F1.
-) It is wrong to conflate all the different open wheel single seater series, there are many different kinds of cars, with different demands, different circuit safety standards etc.
-) When was the last incident of death in F1 that would have been prevented by a closed cockpit? Not since I was born, that is for sure. And I don’t know all the incidents of 80s, 70s, 60s and 50s, but I literally know of no single fatal accident (or non fatal for that matter) that would have been prevented by a closed cockpit. Would be interesting to know, if someone can recall that.
-) Have there been any accidents in F1 that have led to serious hospitalizations of the driver since the the beginning of 70s, apart from Massa’s incident, that would have been prevented by a closed cockpit? Have the corresponding issues that led to the incident not been solved already, like the increased strength of the helmets after Massa’s incident?
-) Unfortunately, I see all this recent talk about closed cockpits as an emotional and irrational reaction to a lot of recent unfortunate events that would not be helped by a closed cockpit. I am talking about the reaction in F1 here of course, I think in other series it might bring more of a benefit in terms of safety. It has been made sure that F1 does not need completely closed cockpits by the already overprotective circuit safety standards, the smart safety measures such as wheel tethers and other safety protocol and regs.
-) There needs to be line of how small or big the risks have to be before we try to mitigate them, because if the argument is going to be that everything has to be safer and safer and safer to no end, than the next logical step is to not put the drivers in the cars, but let them remotely control the cars from home.
-) This whole debate for a lot of the time is had with the assumption that closed cockpits would decrease the injury risk more than it would increase it, but we simply do not know that. And we have reasons to think otherwise, especially since the risks it would potentially solve, given a brilliantly executed design, are frankly minuscule (in F1).
13th September 2015, 17:09
+1, agree with everything you say.
I watched the race which lead to Justin Wilson’s tragic passing.
There was a crash every 15-25 laps of the race, it bordered on absurd. Less than half the field finished.
Just as bad as cars slamming into concrete walls with such frequency, the Indy aero kits seem very prone to fly off in large chunks and create debri showers which pose a risk to competitors and spectators alike.
In one sense, while the particular circumstances of Wilson being struck might be described as a freak accident, that someone was seriously injured or killed in a race with so many high speed crashes was foreseeable.
I understand the discussion about open vs closed cockpits in the wake of this recent tragedy, but I find it surprising that people ignore what I see as the bigger issue, which is the substantially higher risks attached to racing high speed single seaters on ovals.
13th September 2015, 17:25
@tdog Yeah the problem with spec cars that are so close in performance is that once they get on a high speed oval they are just asking for trouble, with regs that see the cars so similar and therefore always racing so close to each other. The new aero kits were to at least help prevent some wheel to wheel touching at such high speeds given such close racing.
13th September 2015, 19:25
Well @mateuss Bianchi’s car could well have been deflected a bit more from the crane by a canopy of say 16mm polycarbonate. After all his helmet wasn’t broken, it was a glancing blow.
Senna’s suspension arm quite likely wouldn’t have penetrated a canopy either.
Then add in the near misses like Chilton at Silverstone when Kimi went off, and iirc JB at Spa a couple of years ago coming out of La Source, not to mention Massa and Kimi with Alonso at Austria.
13th September 2015, 21:50
@lockup As far as I know, there is no carbon composite that is optically clear, how do you propose making a 16 mm carbon canopy?
I disagree, as do the FIA, that a closed cockpit would have changed the outcome for Jules.
But the solution to that problem has already have been found: don’t have dangerous vehicles on track when at racing speed in dangerous positions! Simple.
Mm, yes, I did not consider the dynamics of the Senna one. That might be a different case.
So if that was an answer to my question, that is a plausible example of a canopy changing an outcome. Anyone can think of any more?
But having said that, the issues that caused that Senna accident can not manifest themselves ever again, with the current designs of the cars. So it has been solved already, and therefore is not an argument for closed cockpits.
13th September 2015, 23:05
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic. It is naturally transparent, even more than many types of glass. Among a lot of other high-strength uses, it is an essential component of many types of bulletproof glass.
14th September 2015, 0:30
The FIA investigation of Bianchi’s crash was a butt-covering whitewash @mateuss. They didn’t even say the crane was part of the problem. If you look at the evidence, we saw the crane being moved a couple of metres, the car stop over a distance of around its own length, the helmet intact. It was a glancing blow. A few mm extra deflection could have made all the difference.
Polycarbonate is what they make safety spectacles from, as @losd says, and aircraft canopies.
They have added wheel tethers since Senna that’s true, but at Silverstone 2014 they still broke and a wheel only just missed a driver. All kinds of ‘freak’ events can produce an object 2 feet off the ground, after all. There have been quite a few near misses.
14th September 2015, 7:57
@lockup I agree with FIA and @mateuss that cockpit wont change the outcome. Bianchi cause of death is concussion because the accept all the force directly to helmet without passing any crash structure. To really avoid that we need a cockpit design that can deflect the mass of the tractor. However, I agree that the closed cockpit will absorb more impact and probably lessen the force (although it will be still too big for a human head to handle). Also unless the canopy system intact (which I really doubt in Bianchi accident) it will make the extraction much longer, hence that’s why I believe Bianchi most likely will still be dead even with closed cockpit.
14th September 2015, 11:02
Well consider @sonicslv how the injury contact was between Bianchi’s helmet and the solid steel counterweight of the 6-tonne crane. The total force / energy involved was a 650 kg car at 200 kmh approximately, and that clearly did not all go into the helmet. What moved the crane and stopped the car was most likely the roll hoop, which was torn off.
So the force on the helmet was not the force of the collision. There was a partial overlap – quite likely a very slight overlap – between the counterweight and the helmet, which gave an acceleration and probably rotation to Bianchi’s head, causing the diffuse axonal injury. The helmet was not even cracked.
Richard Hammond (if you watch Top Gear) also had a diffuse axonal injury in his high speed crash, but he fully recovered.
Bianchi lived for a year. So who knows for sure, but IMO there’s a good case for suspecting that if the car had been deflected even a few mm further away from the crane, by a canopy, he might have survived.
In the aftermath I see no reason to think a canopy would have impeded the rescue. The corner workers didn’t touch him but waited for the medical car as per their training. The crane could still be moved, so it would have been easy to remove a canopy whatever state it was in, unless we’re going to imagine some very primitive bolts and hinges for the attachment system.
15th September 2015, 4:19
@lockup Well it could save him or not, but I still think Bianchi will still be dead regardless. Speed is relative to both masses, so you could also say he was hit by 2 ton truck on 200 kmh. But I think the important part is since the canopy wont be intact we don’t really know what will happen.
14th September 2015, 1:39
Jonny Edwards (@racectrl)
13th September 2015, 16:48
Does anyone else think that this should be a debate for Indycar? Oval racing consistently has the biggest crashes and it’s the only form of motorsport that makes me feel nervous when watching due to the high speeds and close proximity of the barriers. Ban open cockpit oval racing, or design a closed cockpit specifically for oval racing, and it is a step in the right direction but please leave other race categories out of it. The risk is so low that it is a non-issue for the majority, proved perfectly by how everyone cracked on after Massa’s near miss (including the man himself). As i said, racing Indycars on ovals is very dangerous and if any race series needs to make a change it is this one.
13th September 2015, 16:51
Simply put, F1 needs it and F1 needs it NOW.
Force Maikel (@force-maikel)
13th September 2015, 17:04
I’ve been a long time defender of the open wheel categories. So a couple of months ago I would have probably voted against the idea completly. However recently my stance has come under scrutiny by the horrible accidents we’ve seen.
Still I’m not 100% onboard though. The idea of fogging up and a driver getting trapped in such a thing, probably causing an even more dangerious situation is keeping me from moving into the yes camp.
I voted ‘slightly disagree’, because I’m still not convinced this will improve safety to a degree that it would make such a contraption worth it. I would however have no qualms about it if they implemented it. If the drivers absolutly want this then who are we to deny them that? Tradition is nice and all but I prefer to see my drivers exit the cars in one piece.
13th September 2015, 17:06
Designing better helmets with stronger composites is a less complicated solution. Closed cockpit doesn’t increase safety, it just tackles 1 problem while bringing another host of other problems. If drivers are scared of open cockpit, maybe touring cars is a safer alternative for them.
13th September 2015, 17:07
If guys like JB were so adamant about closed cockpits, then why don’t they quit? Clearly they could race elsewhere. The men who race in F1 know the risks and are there by choice. Racing will always be dangerous. There are plenty of racing categories with closed cockpits and higher rates of injury and fatalities than F1. Don’t like bikes? Don’t ride them or watch motogp. Don’t like open cockpits? Don’t drive them or watch them. Strongly disagree for me.
Btw, i think if a team wanted to close them, they should be able to. But I doubt most wood due to expense and weight. I disagree with making it mandatory.
13th September 2015, 17:17
I’d like to see increased head protection… but only if a suitable system can be found that doesn’t affect the drivers’ vision, create problems with exiting the car and which doesn’t fire debris off in random directions, potentially putting the lives of marshals and fans at risk. I don’t think the “jet fighter style” will ever satisfy all those points so I’m more inclined towards partially enclosed systems like the Mercedes halo. But I’m not convinced that particular style is the answer either.
And from a slightly selfish point of view… I still want to be able to see the driver. I want to see his helmet, his hands on the wheel, stuff like that. Part of the appeal of F1 to me is that I can actually see the guy controlling the car, rather than just watching a big lump of machine circulating the track. The historical aspect (it’s always been open, so should always be open) means little, but the whole idea of being able to watch the driver is important to me.
Consider me a “slightly agree.”
13th September 2015, 17:31
Neither Justin Wilson nor Henry Surtees were killed in F1 cars. So should the proposal really be to do away with open cockpit racing in all categories? I don’t remember a lot of calls for closed cockpits when Tom Pryce was killed by an errant fire extinguisher, so let’s just be crystal clear exactly what it is that we are calling for. I’m an ‘undecided’ by the way as I’m not convinced a closed cockpit will necessarily solve the problem and I’m wary of other problems that it may cause.
13th September 2015, 21:15
Formula One was a whole different animal back when Tom Pryce was killed- you can’t really compare it to today’s motor racing. Formula One was more dangerous, the Armco barriers back then weren’t usually properly installed and car construction was rather dubious. Back then, the FIA and F1 in general dismissed it as a freak accident (which it was), made some changes to what track marshals were allowed to do (that includes not running across the track when cars are coming at full racing speed, which is what that marshal did), and thought no more of the accident. Pryce was a really good driver; he may have even have been world champion.
bull mello (@bullmello)
13th September 2015, 18:14
Strongly agree. Haven’t always felt that way, in the past I’ve waffled on this issue.
Those who say that Wilson or Surtees were not killed in F1 I would ask, should we wait for more deaths in F1 before acting on a known danger? For reference please view photos of Alonso’s car on top of Raikkonen’s earlier this season. A slightly different angle and Kimi’s head could have been crushed.
To those who say it can’t be done I would ask how can a sport such as F1 that holds itself up as the ultimate in racing technology not be able to solve this challenge when they have already come up with so many more solutions including some more difficult than this one.
Amazing strides have been made in protecting the driver’s body in F1 and other open cockpit racing series. Why should the same not be done to protect the driver’s heads?
13th September 2015, 18:39
There have been far worse rules introduced that affect the quality of the racing. Tyres especially if anything have hurt safety. I have no concern for tradition or ‘DNA’. This is a prototype series, holding on to old ideals is contradictory. I don’t think stopping drivers being killed from something coming at their head sanitises the sport. The risk I enjoy seeing is the risk of losing time or position, not their head.
I’m all for something that does improve safety. I’m sure it will be fully risk assessed before implemented, I can’t remember the last year we didn’t have cars on fire though.
What does worry me though is I know the rules will be a mess if it’s just a written set for teams to interpret. They will push for performance and loopholes wherever they can. In WEC drivers need to be able to get in and out quickly as part of the sport. Without that requirement in F1 I don’t trust the teams to not compromise something for performance
13th September 2015, 18:55
If F1 worries for the drivers to have a difficulty to jump out of the car in accident, they should create a foam type of airbag. It would be released automatically during an accident and it would be easier for the driver to get out. He could punch way out or rip it up to jump out. Remember movie Demolotion Man.
John Cousins (@drone)
13th September 2015, 19:00
For me, it is completely emotional. I raced open wheelers for 3 years and gladly accepted all risks. Granted, my category was much slower than F1 but I have had another cars wheel pass by me. It is what it is. Call it tradition, call it what you will. I will always want to watch open cockpit ra ce cars and I can’t explain why. To me, putting a cockpit on an F1 car is as ridiculous as enclosing a motoGP motorcycle. It is what it is… and if you don’t like it, go race something else or make a different category. Seriously… why do we have to keep reducing the risk of everything… This world is becoming way too soft. That’s my opinion. If a driver dies, it’s bad…. but people die every day doing mundane things like walking to the shops or falling off a ladder.
13th September 2015, 19:01
When it comes to closed cockpits I think the best solution is something like this
I don’t believe canopies are the way forward. Canopies have the issue of being difficult to open when the car is flipped. Personally, I think side doors should be added to help drivers escape, similar to how they are implemented in LMP1.
I don’t buy the argument that open cockpits are a part of F1’s DNA. F1 is a single seater championship, not an open cockpit championship. That’s also the reason why I’d like to see the wheels covered as well.
What is a problem with closed cockpits is that they deflect debris, which could end up in the spectator area. The argument is mostly made towards tires, and I think low profile tires would reduce how much they bounce (although it isn’t perfect).
Lastly, to those that think we’re trying to make F1 too safe. Motorsport is risky, yes, but drivers shouldn’t have to put their lives on the line for our entertainment, like in the 50’s – 70’s.
Greg Kingston (@gregkingston)
13th September 2015, 19:33
“Should Formula One abolish open cockpits?”
The question is fine but the poll is flawed. The answer is either yes, no or let me explain why it is neither or why I think there’s something better.
My own vote (equally flawed). Slightly disagree. I think open cockpits are part of the sport, but of course I want continued progress to increased driver safety.
Stephen Crowsen (@drycrust)
13th September 2015, 19:58
I read all the comments and was encouraged by them. I like the McLaren concept car, that is very close to something I envisaged.
Here are some points that don’t seem to be mentioned, but might be relevant:
1) Currently there are “driver evacuation” time limits, so, with maybe a slight modification, one would expect a driver to be clear of a crash with the car in an “upright” position to be in close to the same amount of time as we currently have.
2) There are minimum weight requirements on an F1 car, so it is arguable that a closed canopy doesn’t penalise a team.
I think the current rules should be relaxed to allow for closed canopy and windscreens, and to allow in season modification as well.
My thanks to Keith for this article.
13th September 2015, 21:11
Closed cockpits should have been introduced so long ago- but I would still like to see the driver’s helmet (not that you really can anymore anyway). There has to be some kind of glass-type material invented that won’t shatter on impact with flying car debris of any kind. Bianchi’s accident was really caused by poor on-track safety management- the safety car should have come out- but Wilson’s accident- come on. I was there at Pocono and I saw it with my own eyes- if he had a fighter-jet style cockpit canopy cover of some kind, he would still be alive.
13th September 2015, 21:11
*some kind of transparentglass-type material invented that won’t shatter on impact with flying car debris of any kind.
13th September 2015, 21:17
How is this step even a freaking debate? How many more youngsters have to die? F1 seriously needs to look up the word common sense. It directly affects the drivers and they should debate and have the final say whether it is mandatory or not.
John Cousins (@drone)
14th September 2015, 3:13
Common sense??? That has nothing to do with it. Can’t we just accept that the level of risk is low enough. Drivers still have a choice! Either you accept the risk or you go race sports cars. Lets just stop interfering at this point. This cotton wool world is becoming pathetic. Maybe we should just ban motorsport?
14th September 2015, 6:50
@drone, Ban motorsport? That’s the solution the Swiss came up with, and no one says it hasn’t worked. The ultimate solution.
13th September 2015, 21:38
What happens to the lower formula would they have to lose the open cockpits as well ? if they did then surely its all just sports cars.
John Cousins (@drone)
14th September 2015, 3:14
Exactly. This is becoming ridiculous. Leave open cockpits alone.
13th September 2015, 22:42
an argument they made here: http://www.racecar-engineering.com/articles/features/how-easy-is-it-to-introduce-closed-cockpits-to-f1/#
was that closed canopy for a single seater would also distort the field of view, creating some danger as well. also some nice vids of testing by fia of different concepts, good to see they have been investigating.
13th September 2015, 22:53
Strongly favor an open cockpit very similar to today’s. Aesthetically, open-wheel, open-cockpit cars are inseparable from what I enjoy as F1. Anything which addresses the entirety of the kinetic events imagined will change the sport so much that I would almost certainly abandon the sport or follow something else without the shenanigans which have already diminished the sport from my personal hey-days of the 90s. If I want to watch low-risk, closed-roof, racing with economically restricted technology and regulated innovation then I can find it everywhere, even locally, at much less cost.
If driver safety is important then the sport will tend towards remote drivers controlling unmanned cars on track. Technically that may appear exciting from the logical perspective, and may even allow for non-driver participation of the ‘fantasy F1 for real’ type with you and I racing real-time representations of our favorite drivers in FIA arcades, or even at home, on a Sunday. But, I watch for the demonstration of skill against the acceptance of risks, the moderation of bravado by consequences, the calculation of risk and reward. The real world in other words.
John Cousins (@drone)
14th September 2015, 8:41
Immaculately said. +1million.
13th September 2015, 23:13
I voted that I neither agree nor disagree, both because I think that there needs to be sufficient research and testing put to it before a decision is reached and because it’s not my decision to make. I’m not an engineer, and I don’t know what the results of such an analysis would be. I’m also not one of the drivers, so it’s not my risk in question. However, it’s an interesting thought exercise.
To my knowledge, enclosed cockpits would:
– Prevent debris-related injuries to drivers entirely
– Retain full visibility (which other proposed solutions would not)
They would introduce other issues that would need solving, most of them likely easily solved:
– Cooling problems
– Ventilation problems
– Potential issues with exiting the cockpit quickly in case of car flipping or fire
– Potential visibility issues in rain
– Potential deflection of debris into the spectator areas (if this were the case, it is a serious issue)
However, I think we can reasonably assume that any enclosed cockpit solution which is adopted will be thoroughly and well engineered and will remove most if not all of those drawbacks. If it doesn’t, the pros would need to be weighed against the cons. I certainly don’t think that we should oppose the possibility of enclosing the cockpit simply because of how the car looks. Yeah, I like how they look now, but I’m not about to favour looking cool over preventing people from dying.
Some theoretical closed-cockpit designs, such as the McLaren concept posted earlier here, certainly to me keep the general spirit and look of the car at least as intact as it has been already throughout the years (it’s not as if today’s cars bear a very direct resemblance to the cars of the 50s or 60s anyhow, after all). They’d still look cool. I don’t see a problem there. The proposed ring or blade designs are interesting, but seem to me a relatively minimal upgrade in protection that will have at least some negative impact on driver visibility (which is, obviously, in itself potentially dangerous — although at least one wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning them in the rain).
Nothing we currently are capable of putting together will eliminate deceleration injuries, so the risk of concussion and other brain injuries would still be present, although reduced (as in, deceleration would then be the only potential cause of such).
All that said, there’s a point to which you can’t reasonably reduce risk. Life has risk. Motorsport has more risk than life in general, and it’s always going to, due to the high speeds involved. Everyone who races knows and accepts that. One way or another, I think the drivers are ultimately the ones listen to here; after all, they’re the ones actually running the risk, not us. We’re just watching.
14th September 2015, 0:20
I refuse to believe that the combined engineering prowess of the F1 teams cannot devise a safer solution.
Two half moon hoops from the roll bar to the mirror area nicely built into the chassis.
A dynamic shock or intrusion-alert triggered system of something way stringer than air bags. Hydraulically raised posts around the cockpit.
Let’s not limit the engineers to existing technologies and arrangements. That’s hardly the spirit of F1.
14th September 2015, 7:51
When people were dying every second week there was a serious issue. But with the rarity of significant incidents and the freak nature of some of them, it’s absolute overkill to try and stamp out any possible danger just in case something might one day happen…
In the end it’s up to the drivers to decide, and no-one else. Just like most of the other safety improvements. It’s their neck on the line.
14th September 2015, 8:12
I’m not in favor of canopys simply due to fire. But if the go with canopys, the only thing I can think of would be a removable bottom panel that allows the entire seat to be pulled out from underneath.
Charles King (@charleski)
14th September 2015, 8:52
I used to be strongly opposed to closed cockpits on the grounds that open-head racing has been a signature of F1 since its inception. But I have to accept that is a purely sentimental reason, and should be trumped by considerations of safety – drivers aren’t gladiators and we don’t go to races to see people get hurt.
The issue for me is whether closed cockpits would introduce other, new, safety issues. I certainly don’t think you could just pop a plexiglass bubble on the current cars and say ‘job done’. Introducing closed cockpits would have to go hand-in-hand with a thorough investigation of F1 car design and the regulations that drive it.
14th September 2015, 9:15
right now if the engine of the car infront blows or spurts out oil the driver behind can just peel off a layer from their visor. If oil gets on the “windscreen” ur quite screwed unless they have a way around this. I think cars blowing oil/engines happen way more than flying tyres..
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
14th September 2015, 10:05
Change ‘tyres’ to ‘debris’, which is the real heart of this matter, and I suspect the balance tips the other way.
We do see quite a lot of power unit breakages these days, but not that many of them accompanied by smoke, oil and all the rest we used to see in the eighties and nineties. These days if a power unit is about to fail the teams usually spot it on the telemetry and instruct the drivers to shut it down long before it gets to that stage. Nico Rosberg’s failure at Monza was a rare example of that not happening.
14th September 2015, 11:07
Neither agree nor disagree is the only option for me. Safety should be improved, but you won’t improve it by creating new dangers. Some kind of enhancement should be made to protect the driver’s head but not by full canopy
14th September 2015, 14:38
I already thought a closed cockpit via a canopy had too many issues, particularly regarding a car ending up upside down. Now that we have had the article regarding teams already concerned over cost increases from that which they are proposing for the 2017 season, I am convinced we will never see a canopy as a solution. The R&D and testing alone, and then the time/energy spent coming to a consensus, and then the actual massive changes needed to make F1 cars that have functioning and safer-than-open-cockpit canopies/cars is simply too expensive for F1 to take on.
So after thinking about it more, from a cost standpoint alone, I believe we will never see a fully enclosed cockpit in F1, and rather it will have to be something that can be relatively ‘tacked on’, not requiring a complete rethink of the whole chassis and car. The Mercedes halo remains for me a pretty good option/compromise.
14th September 2015, 19:35
I know it’s a very weak argument, but for me an open cockpit is an essential part of F1’s DNA. Just like the open wheels.
Sharon H (@sharoncom)
14th September 2015, 19:59
I think most would associate rear and front wings as being part of F1’s DNA, but they haven’t always existed.
15th September 2015, 13:46
Slightly disagree. I think there are other options that will reduce the (already fairly low, in my opinion) risks posed by open cockpits. These options should of course be fully explored. Windscreens, halos, front roll hoops etc.
Motorsport is inherently dangerous, as many have said. I am in favour of doing what we can to reduce the dangers, but also, risk will always remain. And if you want to call it tradition, then so be it.
19th February 2016, 11:34
There are many arguments for a closed cockpit but I still don’t want it.
Open cockpits presents a certain danger but to me it is also part of the attraction of the sport. Man against element. Sun glare, heat, cold or rain, they must cope with it. The danger part is also part of the excitement. When you watch a mountain climber, you can almost feel the danger. Without that added danger element you could as well stare at paint drying for all the excitement that generates.
I am not against the idea of improving driver safety such as increasing cockpit sidewall strength as they did this year but I am against changing the open cockpit / open wheel nature of of F1. For me open cockpit is essential to the sport.
Danger and even death is simply part of the excitement though you want to minimize the risk within the sports concept. You wouldn’t want a closed cockpit for bikes, would you? It would be a totally different sport once you do that.
If you look at accidents in F1, you can see that its a remarkably safe sport. Just look at Robert Kubica’s accident in Montreal 2007 to see how safe F1 has become. Freak accidents happen and in the Bianchi accident Jules himself added to the severity of his accident by going way to fast in a double yellow zone thereby not only putting him in danger, but also the track Marshalls.
F1, although relatively safe, can still be dangerous and that’s ok. No need to take all risks away and completely change the fundamentals of the sport. All IMO of course.
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