When will F1 introduce closed cockpits?

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Thomas Embaye emailled in to ask one of the most pressing questions in Formula One at the moment:

When will closed cockpit F1 cars become reality?

What is taking the FIA so long to come up with the idea when drivers like Ayrton Senna, Jules Bianchi and most recently Justin Wilson at Pocono are being killed because they were hit on the head by various debris flying out on track?

Not only would it save lives, but it would be cool to see F1 cars that look like jet fighters. I wouldn’t care if it was ‘against tradition’ like so many fans are saying, because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be the one that died because a tyre hit me in the face. Wouldn’t you?

It seems as though Formula One is on course to significantly increase the amount of cockpit protection drivers have, though for now at least will stop short of covering them entirely.

As Thomas points out, it was the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 prompted the first steps towards improved driver head protection, as enlarged cockpit sides were mandated from 1996. This gain in driver protection drivers came at the expense of visibility: an example of how making safety improvements in modern times tends to be a case of trading off minor losses for more significant gains.

The 2009 season was a turning point in the debate around cockpit protection. Despite further revisions to the cockpit sides Felipe Massa suffered head injuries when he was hit by a flying spring during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. A few days earlier Formula Two racer Henry Surtees was killed when he was struck by a flying wheel.

The FIA was urged to consider bolder solutions to the vulnerability of drivers’ heads which included potentially taking the step of doing away with open cockpits. But tests of different solutions revealed the complexity of the challenge involved.

F1 increased cockpit safety in 1996
While bulking up the sides of the cockpit in 1996 had impaired visibility, covering the driver’s head with a canopy presented far more problems to solve: ventilation, clearing the screen, potential distortion to drivers’ vision from a curved canopy and aiding the rescue of drivers after a crash.

On top of that there was the question of how successfully the covers would protect the drivers. In the case of Jules Bianchi, who died last year after his car struck a heavy crane at high speed in 2014, the FIA did not believe a canopy would have saved his life.

Opponents of a move away from open cockpits have put forward the view that doing so goes against the tradition of the sport, or that some level of danger is desirable. But this is an argument which could have been invoked against any of the essential safety improvements F1 has made over the decades. It now seems the debate has reached a tipping point, though as has too often been the case in motor racing history, not before more lives have been lost.

Following the deaths last year of Bianchi and former F1 driver Justin Wilson, who was hit by another car’s nose during an IndyCar race at Pocono, F1 drivers have called on the FIA to increase cockpit protection by next year “at the latest”. It also follows several recent near-misses in F1 such as those involving Fernando Alonso in 2012, Max Chilton in 2014 and Kimi Raikkonen last year.

Nor is this just a problem which F1 needs to solve, as the drivers have already noted. Junior categories have seen similar near-misses: Lloyd Read in Indy Lights, Oliver Rowland in Formula Renault 2.0 and Sergio Perez in Formula BMW are just a handful of examples.

For F1, the preferred solution stops short of covering the cockpit completely, as in the case of LMP1 World Endurance Championship cars. It would involved placing a bar above and around the drivers’ heads – already nicknamed a ‘halo’ – with a support strut in front of them. As was the case in 1996, this will involve further trade-offs in terms of visibility and, arguably, aesthetics.

As the structure will not involve placing a screen in front of the drivers it remains to be seen how effective it will be – and whether it will be sufficient to keep F1 from one day enclosing the cockpits entirely.

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Keith Collantine
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86 comments on “When will F1 introduce closed cockpits?”

  1. Might this halo also be a possible way on increasing downforce produced by the body rather than the wings, and so help overtaking?

    1. *of not on

    2. @olliej There’s likely some benefit of controlling/conditioning airflow to the rear wing (like William’s engine cover-mounted wing of 2014), but the current formula means most cars derive the majority of their downforce from the front wing, floor and diffuser, so it will likely be negligible.

      The FIA will likely also apply mandates to the halo’s dimensions and function, probably under the remit of a devices primary and secondary function. They’ll also probably want to prevent the device being compromised or made more dangerous by attaching aero-appendages or reducing the structural integrity.

      1. also need to remember that any aero work around the drivers head area will impact the main airbox for the engine (directly above drivers head). They wont want to play around with that too much.

    3. Probably won’t make much difference. Won’t create enough downforce to make an impact nor will it alleviate the problem of disturbed air.

    4. Luke Harrison
      9th February 2016, 17:30

      I’m surely certain the halo is a controlled part, all cars will have the same one

      1. If so, that effectively controls the entire upper structural surface of the survival cell, since a standard halo will only work if attached to a standard cell surface.

  2. In the case of Jules Bianchi, who died last year after his car struck a heavy crane at high speed in 2014, the FIA did not believe a canopy would have saved his life.

    And neither would the halo. The concept just doesn’t cut it for me, it seems like it is being rushed through because the FIA needs to be seen to be doing something an it cant think of anything better. There are still massive holes that debris can get through and the structure looks nowhere near strong enough to protect the driver in a Bianchi like situation. And to top it off they look horrible.

    Head protection is needed, but the halo isn’t the answer.

    1. In fairness I’m sure they have considered many options very intensely so to say they can’t think of anything better is I think likely inaccurate. It’s complicated. And could be very costly unless they can virtually attach something to the cars as we know them without a complete ground-up redesign at huge expense.

      1. It is complicated, but your average F1 engineer is more intelligent that I am so they will be able to sort this out. It takes time and effort, the halo looks like it has been rushed and compromised.

        As Keith mentioned, there was nearly a two year gap between Senna’s death and the changes to cockpit safety that were brought in for 1996. The changes that were implemented then are essentially still those that the teams have to meet now (despite periodic changes to the standards they have to meet). That is an example to thinking the problem through and coming up with a proper solution. The halo is a hasty solution which is being brought in to meet an artificial deadline.

        1. Sure but I would suggest they have been putting in the time and effort to research this and I don’t know why you are insisting they haven’t been such that this is some rush idea. As an example, the changes you cite didn’t need a massive rethink and massive amounts of money to implement, nor would something like the halo. If a canopy was so easy and cheap to implement they would have done it by now and/or we would not be shown the main proposal at play right now which seems the halo.

          Just saying I would not be surprised if they were considering if they could use a canopy going back to when Senna died, but throughout these years cannot figure out a way to implement such a think without drastically changing what an F1 car looks like relative to what we have become accustomed. At massive expense and massive risk that F1 cars would no longer look like F1 cars.

          1. @robbie, as you say, the FIA has been researching this particular topic for a number of years and has tried a considerable number of designs, ranging from fully enclosed solutions through to placing structures forward of the driver to try and deflect low flying debris.

            Through the years, quite a few of the structures tested have proven to have issues of their own – for example, they tried testing the canopy from a jet fighter, but found that it deflected significantly on impact and, if struck by a wheel, for example, would deflect sufficiently far as to strike the driver on the head and still potentially cause a fatal injury, reducing the effectiveness of that solution.

            The drivers and a number of medical crews have also tended to reject a fully enclosed solution given that they thought it would present the greatest obstruction to medical crews, and thereby cause the greatest delay to accessing a driver who might need urgent medical intervention. The outcome of those issues seems to be why the FIA has gone down the route of adopting a semi open design that, even though they are aware it will be less effective against smaller pieces of debris, does reduce some of the issues associated with a fully enclosed solution (medical access, visibility and so forth).

            The ‘halo’ design is not a perfect design, but it currently represents the best compromise that can be achieved between the FIA, drivers, teams and the wider public. Ultimately, the FIA faces a difficult situation – should they delay implementation further to optimise the design further, and therefore expose the drivers to an increased risk for a longer period of time, or implement the current solution, knowing that it is not fully optimised, but is anticipated to still reduce the risk to drivers and gives the FIA time to introduce a more optimised solution?

          2. @anon well said. I think anything is going to be a compromise perhaps being worse off in some situations but increasing the safety overall. I’ve also seen a Halo version with a visor to stop a Massa type incident.

            The one thing I would say about most of the Halo type designs I’ve seen, I dislike the bar directly in front of the driver. If you hold a 1cm width book 2 foot in front of you then look into the distance, you notice it has a minimal amount of obstruction but, it does make it harder to focus on objects in the distance and effects depth perception. I’m guessing given enough time a driver can compensate for that, but I would prefer to see the front of the halo connecting to the tops of the wing mirrors and have them strengthened integrated as part of the halo solution.

          3. @alanore straight ahead is probably the best place to have it as it is the location looked least. If you are going in a straight line it is a better compromise to have hindered visibility there, rather than turning where you need to be looking at where you are going.

        2. @geemac I don’t buy into the view that anything is being rushed, indeed it seems to be exactly the opposite with endless procrastination and no action at all. This issue was high on the agenda as far back as 2009 and the FIA did work at that time on canopies and other head protection options. You say that F1 engineers are intelligent enough to work it out, but wasn’t this concept first suggested by engineers at Mercedes? If it’s the best idea at the moment then I think they should go for it, if/when someone comes up with a better solution then it can be replaced but at least there’s some effort to do something.

          Finally, following Senna’s death the FIA immediately rushed in a huge number of changes immediately during the season (plank and wear rate and aero changes) but also embarked on longer term plans which resulted in other changes such as wheel tethers and cockpit side protection several years later. In other words they both acted immediately and also continued to review longer term solutions.

        3. Luke Harrison
          9th February 2016, 17:33

          Not sure about a deadline, the drivers want it by 2017 but didn’t mean it has to be.

          This halo concept is also note nearing a year old.

          And Google “fia institute” then have a rethink about your research statement

      2. They’ve been considering options for years, but the exact timing of the halo’s announcement of being put into the cars (as distinct from when it was declared as being investigated) makes me suspicious that it may be getting put on the car before it has sufficiently matured. I hope I’m wrong on that.

    2. and the structure looks nowhere near strong enough to protect the driver in a Bianchi like situation

      I think the general consencous is that nothing anybody could have done canopy wise would have helped Bianchi in his accident. The speed and deceleration were just too great. The correct course of action in the case of Bianchi’s accident is to try and make sure that never happens again (VSC, reviewing on track use of heavy machinery), not to use it as a deciding factor on car changes to improve head protection.

      As for the Halo I am not against it. It may not be perfect but I don’t agree it is being rushed through. There has very clearly been a lot of effort, thought and testing that has gone into it. It may not be the ultimate perfect solution but as long as it doesn’t negatively effect safety then I can support it.

      Even if the FIA ultimately abandons it for a different solution in the future it at least gives some protection in the meantime. I don’t think it is a good idea to ignore doing something now in the hope of coming up with a perfect solution later. Just think how much more awful it would be if we lost another driver to an injury the halo could have saved them from, just because people were holding out for a better solution, (or didn’t want to spoil the “atmosphere” of F1 as another commentor put it).

    3. petebaldwin (@)
      10th February 2016, 0:46

      I think we need to get away from linking head protection to Jules’ crash because the issue of tractors on track has been dealt with. Without the tractor being there, he would have simply hit the wall and been ok. The focus should be debris hitting drivers as that is a much more common risk.

      I think some teams would come up with some really ugly halo ideas but if it’s been tested and it works, it could save lives and should be brought in as soon as possible.

  3. Sounds to me like they would not be able to attach a full canopy like a fighter jet has without changing the cars quite a bit compared to what we have become accustomed to. There are just too many problems with a bubble that extreme in shape. If they want to implement something relatively quickly and inexpensively then to me it has to be something like the halo, which I assume would be neutral aero wise. Is that something that deals with small debris? For the most part no, but that might just be something they will have to accept for now. I think a halo would at least do the bulk of the heavy lifting in terms of protection from the more harmful larger pieces that could come down or at a driver. And to me it doesn’t from the looks of the cars and there should be some ‘beauty’ to it’s purpose as well.

    1. That should say it doesn’t detract from the looks, at least to me.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        10th February 2016, 0:58

        A low nose should be a thing of beauty as well but when you’re maximising aero from every part of the car, things don’t end up looking as good as you’d hoped. I’m all for the idea if it works well but I don’t expect it to look great – not all of them anyway.

  4. Michael Brown
    9th February 2016, 13:00

    I don’t think the halo is the right answer. It’s still possible for an object like the spring that hit Massa to get through, and the support beam looks like it’s going to restrict visibility.

    I think a new design philosophy is needed for the cockpits altogether. Yes, it will go against the tradition of open cockpits that we’ve had for decades, but Formula 1 should move forward, not be held back by “tradition.”

    Perhaps side doors could be incorporated in some way in addition to the canopies?

    Although, one other downside to the canopies is that the canopy does deflect debris, but that debris goes high and could clear a catch fence.

    1. I feel the same: the halo design leaves some important scenarios out. A canopy would be a more complete answer and safety should’t be compromised by tradition, nor should the perception of danger for the audience’s thrill be more important than a human life. F1 is still a very dangerous sport, canopy or no canopy.

      I don’t believe the debris deflection would be a problem -a drivers head would deflect debris pretty much the same way- but driver extraction could be.

      A canopy in two halves that can be removed laterally and explosive hinges could solve the problem, thought: they are already used in some gulwinged race cars in case of resting upside down after a crash. They could even be manually deployed by the driver for a quick exit.

      It would look cool, too! :)

      1. I just don’t think a canopy is possible unless they completely change the cars from what we have become accustomed, at massive cost. Ask yourself why the direction they seem to be going is a halo and one without a windscreen initially at that. Answer: it can be implemented relatively quickly and inexpensively without a massive rethink of the cars’ design. Even to add a strong enough windscreen is going to change the cars aerodynamically so they can’t be just slapping that on without consider all the consequences.

    2. In today’s soft society*

  5. I’m sure it’s been discussed by people more knowledge than me but I would have thought that they could just strengthen the helmets and make them almost triangular to deflect debris.

    Personally I don’t want to see closed cockpits, I would like to see a different solution rather than make all categories closer and closer to each other.

    1. Luke Harrison
      9th February 2016, 17:38

      They did make a change to the helmets following Massa’s accident – the article didn’t mention it and I’m struggling to find something online.. But I aint making it up yo

      1. @glynh, Luke Harrison, they added the protective strip above the visor to prevent objects from getting in between them at that point.

      2. They also put a large clip securing the visor so that it could not come open in an accident (Felipe’s accident did not involve a visor unexpectedly opening, but it is an example of people looking at an area of the rules following an accident and making sensible proactive changes, as opposed to being purely reactive).

    2. @glynh – stronger helmets are a great idea but there is a weight cost. Drivers already need enormously strong neck muscles. Also, helmets that deflect debris will have to rely on the driver’s neck and spine to provide the lateral deflective forces, not necessarily a good idea. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a simple, or even moderately complex, solution.

      1. @tribaltalker I was just thinking about the deflection issue this morning. I think I’m right it saying that the same force the object is deflected upwards would go through the drivers neck downwards.

        1. @glynh – ah, I understand which way your wedge shaped helmets goes now… still, being whacked hard on the head (forces channeled down the neck vertebrae) is what kills motorcyclists. Nearly happened to me 20 years ago but I was lucky.
          The key to surviving is not to be hit at all, so I view this “halo” system as a good development, even if it is an incomplete solution.

  6. I believe a halo or canopy could quite likely have deflected Bianchi’s car just a bit more and made his glancing head contact survivable. I don’t pay any attention to that FIA victim-blaming smokescreen of an investigation.

    It’s quite obvious that travelling at 2-300 kph two feet from the ground is going to involve some impacts at head height, when you think about it. Halo is a bit of progress, so that’s good.

    Now adding a bit of screen is also beautifully obvious. Roll on F1 wash-wipe! What will it be like??

    1. @lockup I too have been quite surprised all along at the rhetoric that nothing would have saved Bianchi. To me anything that might have absorbed some of the shock might have reduced the forces on his head. At least from my armchair anyway.

      As to the halo, I think if we were to actually see it deflect a tire in real life we would not consider it just a bit of progress. And since this issue has been batted around on and off for years, I would think the teams would look at a halo as huge progress.

      As to a screen if some sort…that must be much more complicated to implement in terms of visibility especially in the wet, but also aerodynamically, or else one would think that would be part of the concept shots we’re being shown. Otherwise you’d think that would be a no-brainer for small debris deflection.

      1. What about using a (wire?) mesh instead of a screen?

      2. Yeah I agree one real-life save by the halo will change things @robbie. Sometimes these things get a lot more subjective than one might think. A lot of people dismissed the windscreen concept because ‘it shattered’, ignoring the crucial fact that it did deflect the tyre over the driver.

        Some people criticise a canopy because it could deflect an object into the crowd, without doing the math that the probability of a fatality from a random trajectory has to be some tiny fraction of that probability for the driver it was heading for. Plus: if you don’t deflect it what DO you do? Catch it?

        There are difficulties, for sure, but it’s a question of determination really, as far as I can see. I mean, there was nothing new in the Senna crash really, it just produced an emotional drive to improve safety. People used to go on about being trapped in your road car by seat belts. Visors have Rain-X, there are headlight washers…

    2. I believe a halo or canopy could quite likely have deflected Bianchi’s car just a bit more and made his glancing head contact survivable.

      The issue is the sheer deceleration when his car reached the tractor. Even if his head/helmet hadn’t actually hit anything the car still would have and he would have still undergone the extreme deceleration force and so would have suffered horrific and ultimately probably still fatal brain damage.

      The only things that would have saved Bianchi when he came off the track were the tractor not being there in the first place or if he had entered the corner at a much slower speed. Hopefully VSC will help greatly in the future with this

      I don’t pay any attention to that FIA victim-blaming smokescreen of an investigation.


      1. If we look at the movement of the crane @Martin and where the car ended up it looks like the car stopped over a distance of 4 metres or so as the FIA said. From reportedly 125 kph = 35m/s that’s 35^2=1225/2*4=150m/s/s=15g which is perfectly survivable.

        Bianchi’s head experienced a much higher g than that (reportedly 92g from his ear sensor later corrected to 254g ) to cause his diffuse axonal injury – he hit it on the crane. It was a glancing blow that didn’t even crack his helmet.

        FIA admit the car moved 2m sideways as it ran under the inverted wedge shape. With a canopy or halo it would have moved a bit more, and the crane counterweight was infinitely unyielding so there wasn’t much engagement as it was. It didn’t crack his helmet and he didn’t immediately die, so who knows how small a deflection would have made the vital difference?

        Don’t forget that FIA put the crane there, in effect. They put 10 loyal subjects in the investigative committee to make sure they weren’t blamed.

        1. From reportedly 125 kph = 35m/s that’s 35^2=1225/2*4=150m/s/s=15g which is perfectly survivable

          Indeed, but unfortunately in the real world you wont get the deceleration spread out over the entire distance traveled nice and evenly like that. There was a peak deceleration point, I’m presuming when the tractor and roll hoop connected, where the majority of the deceleration occurred. I have seen the crash video before (unfortunately due to facebooks love of autoplaying videos, I didn’t know what it was until it was too late) and if I recall correctly the car, post impact, slides over a car length and at a very slow speed. This means that the distance for your deceleration calculation could fairly safely be halved, quartered even, and still be an underestimate of the true peak deceleration force that Bianchi would have sustained.

          FIA admit the car moved 2m sideways as it ran under the inverted wedge shape. With a canopy or halo it would have moved a bit more

          Or it wouldn’t have, we have no way to really know for sure. It could have just as easily have been pushed downwards, digging into the ground and increasing the peak deceleration. Or it could have simply smashed and let Bianchi’s helmet still collide with the tractor.

          Don’t forget that FIA put the crane there, in effect. They put 10 loyal subjects in the investigative committee to make sure they weren’t blamed.

          And while we aren’t forgetting things don’t forget that he was under double waved yellow flags where drivers “must slow down and be prepared to stop”. I think it was pretty obvious that Bianchi was going too fast. And don’t misunderstand me I am not in any way blaming Bianchi, pretty much all the drivers were going too fast to be safe. It was a failing of the rules (hence the changes bringing in VSC).

          I’m not saying the FIA isn’t blameless in all of this, but I also don’t believe they were the only people at fault. Maybe I am just not cynical enough to agree with your viewpoint on the investigation. What is in it for Alex Wurz, GPDA president to cover up failures for the FIA over protecting the safety of the drivers for instance?

          1. The driver isn’t perfectly coupled to the car though @Martin. And his head isn’t perfectly coupled to the belted torso. There’s a lot of leeway too in only 15g average, bearing in mind for example that Sainz’s crash in Sochi was reported as 46g (peak, I assume) and he was fine. There’s a good case for believing that without the direct head contact he’d have survived.

            There is uncertainty, of course, fair enough. It was the FIA who said it moved sideways 2M tho, in that link.

            The FIA panel dismissed the crane in a few rather deceitful words, I have no faith in their verdict whatsoever even if that nice Alex Wurz was involved. Drivers crash when they race; the governance has to take account of that and they had control over whether Bianchi hit a barrier like Sutil… or a crane.

        2. The equation you have used makes certain assumptions that do not work in this case, even though it is often useful as a ballpark estimate even in F1-level crashes. 15 g, and even the 58 g quoted for the energy level received by the car, can be and has been survived in F1 before. 236 g (the eventually-determined energy level sustained by Jules himself) has never been survived anywhere before – the closest anyone has successfully survived is 203 g by Ryan Briscoe in CART in 2003.

          It assumes the energy is absorbed by all parts of the car equally. That definitely didn’t happen, as the lower part of the car didn’t hit anything – only the upper part. Among other effects, this meant Jules’ helmet (and head) got an unexpectedly high portion of the energy involved. The car itself got 58 g of impact in the accident, and even the original figure quoted Jules’ head received 92 g. Theoretically, if Jules had been positioned low enough in the car that the tractor went above the height of his head, we would simply have had a messy accident, probably concussion-inducing, but there would have been more chance of the car’s bodywork dissipating the energy and thus avoiding outright fatality.

          This feeds into stopping distance. The start of the crash from the car’s perspective was not the same as that for Jules, which is probably the main reason for the disparity between the g-forces recorded for the two. The effective stopping distance for the car would begin at its crumple zone and finish at the point the survival cell started – tens of centimetres. (There are plenty of protective surfaces elsewhere on the car, but had the energy travelled far enough for these to be invoked, the data logger on the car would have picked these up due to the positioning of the sensors). Jules’ stopping distance started at the front of his helmet and finished a few centimetres afterwards. While both would be increased by the materials used in car and helmet alike (hence the car’s effective stopping distance was 4 metres despite it being rather shorter than 4 metres itself), at no stage would they become close to equal.

          It also assumes all the relevant energy is in one direction. Jules was moving both forwards and sideways (as is usual for a slide that starts in a corner) and the crane was moving approximately parallel to the wall, so there would be lateral as well as longitudinal g involved (the number for the crash, as usual, quotes total g, because that’s the typical ball-park metric for figuring out how big an accident was). Note that brains are especially sensitive to g when it’s applied in multiple directions at once.

          The crane definitely “yielded” – it jumped upwards, sidewards and a little bit backwards. The energy involved was sufficient for Newton’s First Law to visibly kick in, even for an object that heavy.

          Comments along the lines of “It didn’t crack his helmet and he didn’t immediately die” make sense when the cause of death is a direct blow (indicated by one or more focal injuries). However, there is also a type of injury where the sheer energy involved disrupts brain cell structures and their associated chemistry (indicated by diffuse injuries). Diffuse Axonal Injury, which is what Jules acquired, is the latter, and is frequently fatal. DAI doesn’t require any sort of direct impact. I grant that “who knows how small a deflection would have made the vital difference?” is a valid question, but collisions with that much energy involved are sufficiently rare that getting a threshold will be difficult. Especially if situations where cars and drivers are likely to get wildly different g-force levels continue to exist. This is why high-speed cameras facing the drivers are being installed.

          I agree the crane should have been elsewhere at that point. Granted, we don’t yet have a perfect, universally-usable solution that doesn’t require something to be in the “hot zone” of a race track, but surely if you’re going to have one car go off-circuit due to driver error, surely it is logical to expect other drivers to make the same error (with lesser or greater consequences)? Especially with conditions worsening? And with this being a race where one driver – who was still in the race – had already spun under a Safety Car, never mind a yellow flag zone? The Safety Car tool was in the toolkit, would have given a space where crews would be guaranteed no risk from drivers coming off-track… and it wasn’t used. Perhaps a clearer metric needs to be installed for when such techniques of crash management get utilised.

          @Martin I don’t think the halo would have made much difference. Perhaps it would have deformed and dissipated some energy that way (assuming proper construction), but the energies involved were simply too great.

          I think the investigation was more like a RIDDOR report investigation. For those wondering, a RIDDOR report is a British interpretation of EU law, and is compulsory for any company where a worker has an accident that results in them being unable to work for more than 7 days (and also in certain other circumstances, some of which were also met in this case). It is always an internal investigation, and in theory is meant to be completed within 10 days of the accident meeting the law’s requirements. It is mostly concerned with how an accident occurred, and rather less with how the accident was handled (which would explain the bias in the report – or at least its summary – towards causes rather than anything else). It also doesn’t look too closely at whether the suggested remedies would plausibly prevent the accident in question.

          What the FIA should have done is, upon receipt of the report, figured out the solutions proposed wouldn’t have helped in the situation described and commissioned an external investigation, to go into more detail than the internal investigation could manage.

          @lockup Sainz was quite clearly not fine after his crash. Yes, he got released from hospital, but when he raced, he drove like a man concussed – particularly towards the end of his race (he attempted to rejoin the track not once, but twice, despite not being sufficiently orientated to regain the track in a sensible manner, and then he complained to the press about being released too early.

          1. My point @alianora-la-canta was to argue against @Martin‘s contention that the car g would have been fatal irrespective of head contact.

            Since it’s clear that the car deceleration was not severe enough to cause the brain injury, direct head contact remains as the candidate. The solid steel counterweight did not yield to the helmet contact of course it applied a large acceleration to the helmet and the head inside it.

            Since the helmet was not smashed, this suggests a slight engagement with the helmet glancing off at high speed. That is where the damaging energy comes from.

            I go from this to wondering if a halo might have moved the car a bit more sideways – say 2.01m – so that helmet-to-counterweight contact might have been prevented or mitigated.

            Anyway I don’t think a halo can be airily dismissed as being useless in that scenario because of the energy involved. I feel the probability is that it might have saved a life.

            Yes you are right about Sainz I’d forgotten. He had some head contact with going under the tyres istr. FOM were rather coy about showing us.

    3. In Bianchi’s accident the roll hoop was destroyed. Any canopy would probably be made to the same standards and would probably have broken as well. I don’t even think an LMP1 could have saved him.
      I am for protection like the halo but don’t pretend that a bar like the halo will protect you from a 10 tonne crane. Debris and heavy machinery are two different safety hazards that need two different solutions. Halo or canopy helps the debris problem, saftey car/VSC/yellow flags help the heavy machinery problem.

  7. It looks to me like the ‘halo’ would prevent escape from the cockpit if the car were inverted.; I’ve seen quite a few instances of drivers crawling out from under an inverted car. It does look, however, that it would protect a driver going into a tire barrier; that’s always seemed scary to see a car completely buried in tires with no protection for the driver’s head.

  8. In Bianchi’s case the open cockpit wasn’t te problem. The crane was.

    I don’t know what to say about this solutions. Why have the cockpits been open in the first place? To get out asap in a case of fire? Something that we don’t see very often these days anymore.

    And how do are the closed cockpits of a WEC-prototype safe in case of a roll-over?

    1. In recent years we’ve had McNish or Duval (?) go full on into the barrier after hitting a Ferrari his rear and only last year Webber repeated his crash at Brazil, Interlagos, in the Porsche. Nakajima hit the tyres very hard in Spa last year too. All were taken to the hospital but none had damage in proportion to their crash. The monocoques are very solid and safe one would think.

    2. RaceProUK (@)
      9th February 2016, 21:58

      And how do are the closed cockpits of a WEC-prototype safe in case of a roll-over?

      They’re basically a dome, so they’re about as strong as it’s possible to get. Plus, the load is spread over a much larger area than it would be for an F1 car, as they enclose a cockpit about twice the size; that greater size also means, in the case of ending on the roof, the driver can still open one of the doors enough to get out.

  9. I’m probably going to get slated for this, but…
    I don’t think closed cockpits should happen. I’ll admit I am a traditionalist, and the idea of closed cockpits just seems so bizarre to me. Grand Prix racing has always been about open wheel, open cockpit cars. At the end of the day, drivers know full well the possible dangers motor racing presents. It’s why they get paid huge salaries, and most importantly, they have the choice to stop racing at any point they wish. Drivers in the past weighted up the benefits and negatives of continuing to race, and indeed many chose to retire early when they felt they were no longer willing to take the risk.

    At the end of the day, there have been so many features introduced for safety. Entire racetracks with their huge runoff are designed for this very purpose, but the possible danger will remain even if closed cockpits were introduced. Motorsport, by its own nature, will never be 100% safe, and the danger is part of the excitement, both for drivers and spectators. You don’t see MotoGP trying to introduce closed canopies over the rider. Measures have been made to their race suits, bikes and circuits to minimise the danger as far as possible, but the category understands you can only do so much, but the danger will remain.

    1. I’m not going to slate you, but I will suggest that you are mistaken.
      Until the Sixties, it was ‘traditional’ to have the engine at the front and the driver at the back of racing cars, but that tradition was abandoned pretty quickly. In the Thirties, drivers wore non-flameproof clothing with leather helmets and they weren’t strapped in to their cars either, but that tradition was abandoned too.
      Racing is about innovation and development, not tradition.
      I wouldn’t want to see anyone injured or worse killed in the defence of a tradition when the sport could minimise or remove it completely.

      1. Luke Harrison
        9th February 2016, 17:42

        There’s lots of things that have changed in f1 and its just abroad, where did safety, performance or rules. Why should this be different?

        1. Luke Harrison
          9th February 2016, 20:20

          **edit because it makes no sense**

          There’s lots of things that have changed in f1 which hasn’t always just been about safety, performance or rules which people just move on and accept. Why should this be different?

      2. Continuing that logic F1 should just stop, then there is 100% certainty no one will be killed or injured.
        Or why not give them 150cc engines and limit the cars to 100 kph. That way you could still sacrifice something for a significant increase in safety and save lives. But that would seem just stupid to you. To many people, so do closed cockpits.
        If I were a good enough driver to be put in an F1 car, I would do it without any complaints, just the way it is.

        Of course no one is against fireproof clothing or seatbelts. These are just minor things giving absolutely huge benefits and all while not looking bad or changing the experience. And putting the engine in the back just allowed for more speed and driveability so that was a welcome change. If they found an advantege putting the engine in the front again I’d be fine with it as long as it would look and drive as good.

        One thing F1 could do to improve safety in my mind would be to stop using sub par pay drivers, that create a lot of these dangers by crashing all the time. Drivers in f1 should be there because of their talent. And you can’t be very talented if you keep crashing. Plus I think drivers often crash because of taking too much risks. Causing a crash should be very heavily penalised. That would bring the number of crashes and danger down immensely.

  10. An open topped canopy, similar in shape to the halo but with a clear glass/plastic screen and somehow getting rid of the support, as I feel that would hinder vision. However in my eyes at least it is imperative that the top part of the canopy, directly above the driver, must remain open, for quick extractions

  11. I see it as just another step in the development of F1 cars, like sophisticated front wings. I would probably not be too happy about fully enclosed cockpits but the ‘halo’ looks quite nice and it certainly does not change the “DNA” of F1. If it has the potential to save lives, then bring it on.


    1. @win7golf What has Le Mans to do with safety in F1? Did you know they also both use 4 wheels.

      1. He means closed cockpit cars like LMP1 if you aren’t bright enough to get that on your own.

    2. Apex Assassin
      9th February 2016, 19:12

      Amen. If a driver wants a closed cockpit they can leave F1, there are plenty of other drivers that aren’t scared.

      I’m still waiting for the mandate for enclosed motorcycle racing!

      1. Amén to those comments.
        To me it’s infamy what the current drivers are doing in order to safeguard their life styles.
        I have been a fan since 1981, but I no longer visit circuits to watch f1. Huge scape areas, weak sound, no danger level worth mentioning, and now halos¡¡¡¡ give me a break.
        I now travel to watch motorcycle racing. It remindes me of f1 during my youth. Because I think f1 is a lost cause.

  13. meh, I just don’t care to be honest, just as I didn’t care when the cars where made quieter.
    At the end of the day is all about being the fastest cars in the world with the best drivers competing against each other, I’m happy as long as they don’t end up reducing lap times by 10 seconds or something in the name of safety.. only then I would have a problem.

    1. But you can’t feel the difference in speed watching at home? What’s the difference wether they are going at 230 kph or 330 kph? But you can deffinately hear (exhaust note) and see the difference (design). Most tracks today are so wide and barenaniway that it’s alot more difficult to say if the car is going 100 kph slower or not.
      Not attacking you btw. I love how fast they are aswell.

  14. Best radical over all redesign concept I’ve seen so far for a new era of F1.

    1. That’s just a Formule Ford with a roof.

  15. I don’t think in either of those three cases a covered car would’ve helped. Only Massa might have been spared a serious injury had his head been protected by a canopy. The piece that hit Justin Wilson was way too heavy and the impact was at a very high speed.

    I also don’t think I would stop watching F1 if they introduced it but I’m not going to lie it would make the cars a whole lot less appealing. On top of that I understand safety is important but do we really think this will solve those very, very, rare occurences. We ‘want’ them and use as arguement incidents in which the canopy wouldn’t even be sufficient to save the drivers live.

    Motorsport is dangerous and it will always be so come the day they put the drivers in their seats and let the cars be remote control. I will not like it but if the FIA thinks it will increase safety and it could save ones life I’m fine with it.

  16. I do not believe it is necessary to have closed cockpits in F1, the chances of a driver being hit on the head by a large enough piece to cause harm in F1 are so incredibly small that it is virtually impossible.

    I don’t think that the death of Jules Bianchi had anything to do with a lack of cockpit cover, much more to do with his car striking a heavy recovery vehicle at reasonable speed. This type of accident should not have been allowed to happen in the first place and the introduction of the virtual safety car (VSC) probably has gone some way to prevent this type of accident from ever happening again. It is my view, based on what I know of this tragic accident, that no kind of closed cockpit or cover over Bianchi’s head would have prevented his injuries, the collision was just too hard for him to survive.

    In terms of Justin Wilson’s death, his accident happened on a high speed oval, a type of circuit which has no run-off areas on the outside. This means that any car approaching the scene of a very recent crash is very likely to make contact with something or other due to the speeds involved in such races. This is exactly what happened to Wilson, a car ahead of his lost control and crashed into the wall, sending pieces of debris flying through the air into the oncoming cars including his own. The fact that a piece of debris hit him on the head and not another part of his car is just plain bad luck. F1 cars do not race on ovals, in fact the majority of F1 circuits have plenty of run-off areas so that if a car does crash into the barriers it is very unlikely that any pieces of debris will be directed towards oncoming cars. This means that the accident that lead to Wilson’s death is something that will never happen in F1 unless they decide to race on ovals with no run-off.

    For the drivers to say that F1 cars should have closed cockpits based on a couple of fatal accidents, one of which wasn’t even in F1, is a massive overreaction when you consider how much it will cost to develop and design the cars to make a covered cockpit that is safe enough for the drivers to race in, i.e. doesn’t impede the driver’s view, doesn’t trap the driver inside the car in the event of a fire, is strong enough not to break off or collapse on top of the driver, when it will make next to no difference to the improvement of safety in F1. For high speed Indycar oval racing it should be considered but for F1 it just isn’t worth it, the costs far outweigh any safety improvements in my view.

    1. I do not believe it is necessary to have closed cockpits in F1, the chances of a driver being hit on the head by a large enough piece to cause harm in F1 are so incredibly small that it is virtually impossible.

      Tell that to Massa

      in fact the majority of F1 circuits have plenty of run-off areas so that if a car does crash into the barriers it is very unlikely that any pieces of debris will be directed towards oncoming cars.

      Tell that to Chilton

      The fact that a piece of debris hit him on the head and not another part of his car is just plain bad luck.

      So let’s not bother trying to do anything about it? You could take probably any motorsport accident and spin it as bad luck. Why don’t we remove the airbags from your car? Hey if you crash and die it’ll probably be just plain bad luck.

      For the drivers to say that F1 cars should have closed cockpits based on a couple of fatal accidents, one of which wasn’t even in F1, is a massive overreaction when you consider how much it will cost to develop and design the cars to make a covered cockpit that is safe enough for the drivers to race in

      Seriously? Who are you an 18th Century Mill owner?

      1. Duncan Snowden
        10th February 2016, 17:58

        The point is that it’s a cost/benefit tradeoff. Of course people will come up with the “if it saves just one life” argument, but it only takes a moment’s thought to realise that motor racing is always going to be dangerous. It’s not that some level of danger is “desireable”; it’s that it’s inevitable. You can’t remove all the risk. The fact that Max Chilton narrowly escaped flying debris doesn’t negate the fact that it’s unlikely. The safety calculation in motorsport isn’t a binary, “Is it safe, or is it dangerous?”; it’s, “How dangerous is it?” Is it an acceptable risk?

        Racing autonomous cars would undoubtedly save lives – there can be no question that taking the drivers out of the equation entirely would prevent any from being injured – but nobody wants to see that. Some changes we accept because the safety benefit massively outweighs the impact on the spectacle, but others we don’t. I’ve never had any problem with safety measures before, but my feeling about this is that it’s genuinely unclear where it sits on that scale.

        I don’t know the answer. I’m not arguing either way. I’m certainly not saying that closed cars would be The End of F1, or that the current crop of drivers are a bunch of big jessies. If everyone accepts that it’s necessary, then okay. But it does seem like there’s a lot of people going around saying, “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it.” That is not an argument.

    2. RaceProUK (@)
      9th February 2016, 22:02

      I do not believe it is necessary to have closed cockpits in F1, the chances of a driver being hit on the head by a large enough piece to cause harm in F1 are so incredibly small that it is virtually impossible.

      The spring that almost killed Massa was 500g and about the size a fist, if not smaller. So not only is it possible, it’s happened.

  17. As far as I’m concerned, any comments regarding “sanitising”, “history”, “aesthetics” or irrelevant. This is about safety at the end of the day. Having a roof over your head does not “sanitise” what you are doing (Look to the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans for an example), “history” has shown that head protection has steadily increased over the years and this is just the next step, and I don’t particularly care how it looks, as long as it helps to protect the drivers.

    My biggest worry however is that this is being rushed, as I am yet to see a concept in which a driver is able to escape easily and quickly after flipping over, and the ‘halo’ idea would almost certainly not help in the case of Henry Surtees or Justin Wilson due to the angle they were struck. A sensible solution which minimises other risks should be found. I’m no fan of the halo idea, but it is inevitable now that there will be some sort of innovation to allow for further head protection for the drivers.

    1. Pretty sure the FIA would have considered the angles and trajectories of the Surtees and Wilson accidents in the halo study.

      Until any of us actually see the studies and science behind all of the tested objects that have been done, any opinion is just conjecture.

      The halo has been “extensively” tested, the drivers have seen the data – none of you have.

  18. or irrelevant.

    Should read:

    Or equivalent is irrelevant.

  19. Ughhhh I’d really rather they didn’t.

    But seeing as they’re going to no matter what I say I’ll make a suggestion. If we’re going to let go of the open cockpit as a fundemental part of F1 then they may as well go the whole hog and dispense with the single seater “hop in” format.

    Instead of a bubble canopy with all the problems that brings you can have regular doors and a small wrap around windscreen. They would still be distinguished from LMP cars by the exposed wheels and load bearing engine among other things.

    I’d imagine the windscreen having a wide curve in front of the driver and tapering in towards him/her ending just over their shoulder. I wish I had artistic abilitites so I could show what I mean.

  20. I am pro-halo, and I cannot believe the enormous negative reaction. Apparently it is sometimes good that F1 ignores its fans….

    1. @satchelcharge Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    2. You mean they always ignore their fans

  21. I’m not sure a halo or canopy is a safe solution. How many of F1’s incidents would they have prevented?

    Bianchi would likely have still received a head injury and also taken longer to have been freed and gotten medical attention. Changing the procedure with cranes, safety cars and race times seems the best solution. Massa may have avoided being hit by the spring, or with a halo it may still have hit him. The improved helmets again seem a good solution.

    But how many incidents that we’ve been fortunate with would it have complicated?

    Tradition be damned, I don’t watch it as a blood sport and a modicum of watchability for a significant safety gain is well worth it. But I’ve not seen a convincing solution presented yet.

  22. It is gratifying to see real attention and serious design possibilities being considered for this important safety issue. I think it will eventually happen and could very well save life and limb of race car drivers that we hold in such high esteem.

  23. just throwing something out there, road cars use preventive tech as well as structural. F1 used to have ABS and we can be thankful for that.
    what if road cars could help racing be safer?
    Could there not be onboard CPU to do some anti collision manoeuvres?

  24. petebaldwin (@)
    10th February 2016, 1:03

    Am I not right in saying that the halo design is a concept? It can easily be improved following tests. A lot of the negatives people are pointing out are fairly easily fixed by altering the design slightly.

    1. It is a concept, which the FIA are trying to get mandated for next year (with the rules for 2017 having to be set in stone by the end of this month). We’ve run out of time for further testing, at least with regard to deciding whether it’s the right idea for 2017. I’m just worried that it has the feel of being a rushed concept.

  25. Because the halo sticks out if a loose wheel struck it that would otherwise have bounced over the car, damage it would a car be black flagged?

    The halo would not have helped in the Massa 2009 Hungary accident, would it have helped Bianchi as the part of the tractor that he caught a glancing blow off may have slipped in the side of the Halo?

    What’s wrong with a wrap around screen covering the angles to the drivers head? Would actually look good as well, kind of retro to the 50’s and 60’s.

  26. Not only would it save lives, but it would be cool to see F1 cars that look like jet fighters. I wouldn’t care if it was ‘against tradition’ like so many fans are saying, because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be the one that died because a tyre hit me in the face. Wouldn’t you?

    I fully agree. It is cool and safer.
    or Red Bull X prototype: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_X2010
    A closed cock pit has to be:
    1. “self-cleaning” from rain, dirt, vapor etc in order to visibility (or use windshield wiper)
    2. as strong as possible (at least bulletproof)
    3. easily removable from inside and outside in case of accidents or pit stops: brake, dent

  27. dont like open cockpits go race elsewhere. boxers suffer the risk of death everytime they fight should we campaign for them to were helmets and hans device?

  28. just thinking outside the box…
    could you have a screen or canopy that pops up in an emergency, perhaps activated by driver or automatically on visual processing of airborn objects? like those the tellers in banks have.

  29. F! is not nearly as great as it used to be!!
    Engine sound like porridge… blahhhhh
    Closed cockpit will just further kill the sport.

    What’s happened to open wheel racing… dead!
    tell the manufacturers a size limit, weight limit and engine mileage and let them go. 6 wheels might come back!

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