Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2011

Teams considering new kinds of cockpit protection

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2011

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2011

A fully enclosed cockpit canopy is among three potential solutions being considered to improve driver protection.

Renault’s James Allison, the new head of the Technical Regulations Working Group at the F1 Teams’ Association, described the three potential solution being evaluated in today’s press conference at the Nurburgring.

Allison said: “This is something that’s been under discussion for a few Technical Working Group meetings now.

“We’re looking to try to look after the driver’s head, both from large scale things like tyres and also small scale things like the very unfortunate incident that Felipe [Massa] suffered [in 2009].

“There are a few suggestions around: one of them was looking into a fully enclosed canopy.

“Another one was looking into a visor-type where it’s still open above the driver’s head but he has a visor in front of him.

“And then there is a third type of proposal as well, where there isn’t a see-through windscreen at all but there is like a roll (bar) structure in front of the driver that would anyway deflect any big objects.

“All those things are still in fairly early discussion and you would have seen from what the FIA proposed, published recently, that they are showing some of the very early research that’s being done into the feasibility and practicality of this type of solution, but there are a lot of questions to answer before we can bring it to a practical solution.

“The closed canopy would have an aerodynamic effect – not a bad one, it would be easier to manage the airflow around a closed canopy than an open one – but there are all sorts of other things to discuss, like egress in the event of an accident, keeping the canopy clean, for example when it might get covered in oil and the like, so each of the proposed solutions has advantages and disadvantages and we need to do the basic research to find out what is the best way forward.”

The FIA has begun research into reducing the dangers of objects striking a driver. In May it conducted tests by firing an F1 wheel and tyre assembly into a fighter jet canopy, which is usually designed to withstand impacts with birds.

Formula Two racer Henry Surtees was killed in July 2009 after being struck by a wheel which had become detached from another car.

The FIA increased the number of wheel tethers at each corner of an F1 car to two this year. In Sergio Perez’s crash at Monaco, where an impact of 80g was recorded, all four wheels remained attached to the car, although the right-front outer tyre was torn from the rim.

Mercedes Norbert Haug said that if canopies were to be adopted, they should also be considered for other forms of single-seater racing.