Not just F1 which needs safer cockpits – drivers

2015 F1 season

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The FIA Drivers’ Commission has urged for cockpit safety standards to be improved across all racing disciplines and not just in Formula One.

Justin Wilson’s death after being struck by debris in an IndyCar crash has led to a renewed focus on the need to improve cockpit safety, potentially by covering them with canopies.

“A central theme of today’s safety discussion surrounds the concept of improving cockpit safety for single seater cars,” the Commission reported following a meeting in Pairs.

“The Drivers’ Commission is aware of the developments being made in this area, but stressed the importance of solutions that are developed for Formula One being simple and affordable enough to be implemented at all levels of single seater racing.”

The Commission also proposed giving instruction on safety to young racing drivers. This would take the form of “a mandatory course for young drivers progressing from karts to cars that breeds an inherent awareness of their responsibilities and expectations regarding safety”.

“The course would include some technical and sporting training, as well as technique training, and could potentially involve the on-site mentoring of a member of the Drivers’ Commission.”

A further area of concern for the drivers was the increasing abuse of track limits. This was an issue of concern following the tyre blow-outs seen during the Belgian Grand Prix, which a Spa-Francorchamps circuit representative blamed on drivers leaving the track.

“The Drivers’ Commission believes the increased tarmac run-off on circuits has led to scope for stricter enforcement of track limits,” it noted.

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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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17 comments on “Not just F1 which needs safer cockpits – drivers”

  1. Regarding track limits would less run off areas lead to a prevention in abusing track limits? They remove kerbs for safety reasons but according to this create other safety issues. There is no real run off at Monaco if you abuse the limits you lose a wheel and they go through the tunnel there at 180. If a kerb is dangerous drivers should approach it with a margin of error as they do at Monaco not just run off to gain time or attack a corner flat as if they go off they lose nothing and sometimes make time.

    1. The issue with kerbs is not that getting the corner wrong may break the car or cause the driver to lose control momentarily or spin. It is when you for example have a tire failure or contact or whatever before the corner and the driver loses control going over high kerbs can really hurt the driver bad. And also launch the car into air which means in worst case scenario the car could fly into the catch fence or into marshalling spot. The landing would be very dangerous regardless whether it lands into the catch fencing, tire walls or to the ground.

      There have been cases where a driver has gone over a harsh bump or high kerb and the car has bottomed out on the bump causing the driver to hurt his back. Fractured backs (google compression fractures) are not uncommon when the car bottom hits something like a high kerb.

      In monaco they can basically use as high kerbs as possible in many places simply because the kerbs are next to the walls. But there have been cases in monaco as well where they have removed some kerbs due to the dangers they posed.

  2. Track limit abuse is a real epidemic at the moment. You can’t blame drivers for doing it, you can’t blame the authorities for not policing it when everyone does it. The SRO Endurance race at Paul Ricard saw cars in their numbers (there were nearly 60 competitors) go ridiculously off-track out of Signes, as far as the third blue stripe IIRC! The stewards said they weren’t going to enforce it because they believed there was no advantage at straying wide between two right-hand corners, but the reality is: if there is no advantage, drivers won’t do it.
    So track designers need to make sure that there is no advantage at going off, that’s the only solution. The kerbs at Spa were deemed dangerous, but let’s be serious for a minute: those kerbs weren’t made to be run on! Surely the real problem was that the young’ens in GP3 had never learned to respect track limits at Raidillon in the first place! (but what the hell, it works on the computer games – we’ve all done it) Of course, the off-track design has to be safe, I’m not calling for concrete walls, we can’t have a huge crash as soon as someone makes a mistake at a daunting corner – with parts flying all over the place and potentially falling on another driver’s head, to rejoin the main topic of the article -, but to put an end track limit abuse, there has to be something beyond the track’s limits to deter driving with all fours outside the white line.

    1. Honestly, the FIA needs to paint the backside of every kerb with that abrasive paint they use at Paul Ricard.

      The ‘gained no advantage’ claim is a cop-out – drivers aren’t just using it to gain racing advantages, they’re using it when they run out of talent too, which should be penalised at the top-level.

      1. For a joke, I was thinking of a strip of glue behind the kerbs! Or maybe something that would really dirty your tyres and damage your grip levels; the problem being that you’d have to make sure it won’t burst the balloons F1 cars run on.
        But yeah, if the (red) abrasive paint works at Paul Ricard, why not put it there instead of the blue, which did nothing when GT3 cars ran over it.

        1. @optimaximal

          the FIA needs to paint the backside of every kerb with that abrasive paint they use at Paul Ricard.

          if the (red) abrasive paint works at Paul Ricard

          I’ve been told by drivers who race there that it doesn’t work. Perhaps it did when it was first laid – now over a decade and a half ago – but it’s definitely not a deterrent any more.

          1. another issue one has to take in account is bike racers – if it would work and scrub off tyre going over, just imagine what it does with a rider who is sliding over the ground with his bike … @optimaximal, @keithcollantine,

  3. Glad to see the drivers pushing for track limits to be policed. As the rules currently stand (where you can effectively go wherever you want during the race), the drivers are almost forced to leave the track if they want to be competitive! If any of them are out there thinking “it’s better to be safe than fast”, they are in the wrong sport.

  4. How about removing the curbs, installing a grass strip 2 meters wide, then pavement. Going off track would result in (possibly) loss of control on the grass then a runoff area to stop or slow down; there would certainly be a time penalty. Obviously this wouldn’t work for street courses, but it would for real race tracks. Paving the runoff at Monza was, in my opinion just plain stupid.

  5. I would say that regardless of where a track is built or laid, be it a ‘proper’ race track, a street circuit or something even marked out in a massive car park, the rules in regards to what constitutes track limits need to be clear, and something that can apply from karting all the way through to F1. Something like ‘cars must have the entirety of at least one front and one rear wheel within the designated racing track at all times’. Obviously there would need to be provision for circumstances out of the drivers control, i.e. being forced off track by another car, as well as appropriate penalties.

    Penalties would probably need to be pretty firm to dissuade drivers from going off track, so something like a 5 second time penalty applied per offence, and in F1 this would be a pit atop penalty. Do it five times and you end up with a DQ. A little bit like playing F1 2010-13 and if you keep cutting a chicane, eventually you get disqualified.

    The time penalty could work in lower categories easily as well. It would not be hard to police as the would only be a few spots where drivers would try and abuse track limits on most tracks, like Copse and Stowe at Silverstone for example. Have the marshals or TV cameras watch there permanently for track limit abuse and hit the first drivers to push the limits. The first time a driver is in a top three position but has to sevrve a 15 second time penalty for track limits abuse would certainly send a message to everyone.

    Just a thought…

    1. Obviously I meant pit stop btw. Sorry. Damn no edit button!

  6. One thing that’s bugged me for a few weeks reading all the discussion on canopy/cockpit stuff is the lack of discussion on the chain of events leading to the end result in the accidents. Personally I believe this is why Jackie Stewart’s article the other day is spot-on perfect, the solution to the problem needs to be looked at in many regards before being implemented rather than a knee-jerk reaction to develop a solution.

    The Gordon Kirby article the other day had some really great thoughts on how things other than enclosing the driver could have lowered the odds of the driver being hit with items. The nosecones in IndyCar used to be attached with bolts to help keep it on the car in an accident, whereas today it’s a quick-release mechanism, is the connection method an area that could be looked at to reduce the odds of the same accident happening in the future? Likewise the talk of using Steel suspension arms that would absorb energy by buckling while keeping the wheel/tire mechanically attached to the car, rather than Carbon arms that have a tendency to shatter and leave the wheel/tire free to flop around on a tether (which can and do fail), could the odds of a tire being thrown across track in an accident be reduced? I’m asking these rhetorically, in no way am I saying that’s the answer to everything.

    I’m not partial either way to having a canopy or staying open-cockpit, it’s not my part of the industry to make that decision. What I personally hope to see is whichever direction is taken in the future takes into account all links in the chain of events that have caused each accident, with improvements made in those areas that contributed to the event, and in the end a truly well-balanced improvement is made.

  7. Surely F1 cars can have sensors on each wheel that can automatically register on any corner where both sensors are to the left or right of the track limits which automatically tallies up every time all 4 wheels are beyond the limit, to many strikes is an automatic drive through, safety is preserved and cheating is punished in a consistent manor. Drivers can be aware on their steering wheels how many chances they have left. Of course the stewards should be able to remove strikes if one car is forced off track or driving back to the pits with an issue.

    1. Using sensors, they could even automatically drop the gas for 3 seconds when the track bounds are violated.

  8. Magnussen breaks hand in cycling fall – FIA now wants to have closed cockpits for cycling.

  9. As I have started to realize, and is confirmed in this article, F1 teams are already complaining about the risk of higher costs coming from the changes being discussed for 2017. Combine those real concerns with the FIA saying the solution has to be simple and affordable, and I’m quite sure we might as well forget any discussions whatsoever of a canopy style enclosed cockpit.

  10. Pure NONSENSE.

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