Should F1 cars have cockpit covers?

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David Coulthard, Alexander Wurz, Melbourne, 2007, 2The collision between David Coulthard and Alexander Wurz in yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix left me wondering what direction F1 car safety might take in the future.

In the years since Ayrton Senna’s death we’ve become accustomed to seeing every conceivable safety flaw being pounced on immediately by the governing body. Only last weekend the run-off area at the final turn of the Albert circuit was flattened off following the accidents that befell Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

It seems to me that the greatest point of vulnerability in current F1 car design is the drivers’ heads. The deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger led to the introduction of greater cockpit protection. But should the next step be to cover the cockpits completely?

You only need to look at the replay of the Coulthard-Wurz crash from the cockpit of the Williams to see how vulnerable the drivers’ head is in this kind of accident. Past incidents such as the Michael Schumacher-Ralf Schumacher collision at the Nurburgring in 1997 revealed the same weakness in current car design.

But covering the cockpits would fundamentally change the appearance of current F1 cars and raise the problem of how to evacuate the driver quickly in an emergency.

It is possible, then, to make a case for covering the cockpits? Or are current cars sufficiently safe?

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