Video: How new closed cockpit idea works

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When the FIA conducts its tests of new 'closed cockpit' concepts next month, it is hoped that they will offer the best of both worlds, protection from debris but easy cockpit exits for drivers.

Delivering on both those fronts is essential if, by covering cockpits, motor racing is not going to cure one problem but open up plenty others.

Ever since the crashes involving Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch in 2009, and Felipe Massa at the Hungaroring a week later, motor racing's governing body has been working hard on better cockpit protection.

But tests on fitting fighter jet canopies to single seaters highlighted key problems: either the debris would get shot high into the air and risk injuring spectators, or there would be tremendous difficulties in getting drivers out of cockpits in the event of more typical crashes.

Cockpit access issue

While covered touring cars and sportscars have doors to allow medical crews access, the only way in to a fighter jet canopy single seater would be in taking the cover off.

And if it became damaged, the car was upside, or there was another vehicle on top of it, valuable minutes could be lost trying to get cockpit access at the very time a driver needed help.

That is why the latest concepts due to be tried out are aimed at delivering both debris protection for driver, but not hindering cockpit access.

The first idea is for a series of vertical fans in front of the drivers head that will help deflect debris in the event of a crash.

The second idea, which has come from Mercedes as part of a project involving a lot of teams, is for a halo-style solution.

As our video shows, this concept could deliver improved safety. But through a locking mechanism, can also be easily removed if required so the driver can get out of the cockpit quickly and easily.

 

Solutions needed

Justin Wilson's fatal crash at Pocono has led to a number of calls for action to be taken – and all efforts made to do something about the situation.

Highly respected team boss Trevor Carlin, who has worked at all levels of the sport, says there should be no excuse for motor racing not introducing the best solution.

In an emotional blog on his team's website, Carlin wrote: "At such a tragic time it's easy to be seen to be jumping on a bandwagon with knee jerk reactions and no doubt my opinions will provoke criticism.

"But I wish I had written this piece earlier as the loss of our friend Henry Surtees stays with me everyday and I dread the inevitable next tragedy. Justin's cruel loss has prompted me to finally comment.

"Money is not the issue here. We are in an industry / sport which has a combined annual spend of billions of pounds, surely between us all we can find a solution quickly; proportionally all the teams and manufacturers can contribute for the greater good.

"There is no reason why a system cannot be designed and produced that ultimately fits all modern single seaters, an F4 driver is at the same risk as an Indy Car driver.

"Engineers will always find excuses why it won't work, but if as much time was spent looking for solutions instead of problems we would reach the answer sooner and lives will be saved.

"As for being a drama queen, I don't think so, just a father who feels a massive responsibility towards the young men and women who drive my cars every day."

 

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Series Formula 1
Article type Analysis