The issue of closed cockpits in Formula 1 and open-wheel racing has surfaced again after the death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson who was struck by a debris from another car on Sunday. F1 race director Charlie Whiting has shed more light on the current developments in regard to closed cockpits within the sport.
Whiting confirmed that the FIA is conducting further testing on closed cockpits to enhance the safety of drivers and increase survival rates during severe crashes. The designs under testing are focused on head protection following a crash and from flying debris. In the past, the FIA has disapproved proposed designs as they were seen to have more downsides than upsides. Open cockpits are preferred since they make it easier to extract a driver after a crash and closed cockpits pose the danger of trapping the driver inside with a possibility of getting burned.
Speaking to Autosport, Whiting said, “We’ve been working on this for a few years and come up with a number of solutions to test, some more successfully than others. We had the fighter jet cockpit approach, but the downsides to that significantly outweigh the upsides. We also came up with some fairly ugly looking roll structures in front of the drivers, but they can’t drive with it as they can’t see through it.”
The race director further confirmed that there are two new designs on the table, one of them was provided by Mercedes. The design does not cover the driver fully, just a hoop above his head leaving space for extraction. The other design comprises of blades with varying heights placed on top of the chassis and in front of the driver. The designs will be tested under simulations where different objects such as wheels will be fired at the chassis to evaluate the damage on the ‘head’.
‘We have to Persevere’
Whiting admits that despite the efforts made into making this a reality, there are still some challenges.
He added, “We have put in a huge amount of time, effort and research into this project, which has not been easy, in fact bloody hard. But I can definitely see the day when this will happen. One day there will be something that will decrease a driver’s risk of injury.
“Whether it will be as good at protecting a driver from an object coming towards him as a fighter jet cockpit, I doubt that, but it will offer him protection. We have to persevere. We must make something, even if it’s not 100 per cent in terms of protecting the driver under all circumstances.”