Teams considering new kinds of cockpit protection

2011 F1 season

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 ?ǣ not a bad one, it would be easier to manage the airflow around a closed canopy than an open one ?ǣ 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.

Image ?? Mercedes

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76 comments on Teams considering new kinds of cockpit protection

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  1. dfketr said on 22nd July 2011, 18:24

    i wouldnt mind the fully enclosed canopy. they use it in lemans, and the cars still look good.

    • snowman said on 22nd July 2011, 18:48

      Ya I agree, I don’t think it takes away much from the looks.

      Think it was Abu Dhabi last year were some one’s tyre was only fractions away from Schumacher’s head in an accident. One of the most scarey things have ever seen, so it is a very real safety concern and obviously to with what happened Massa.

      Some footage of the FIA Institute testing out the fighter jet screens http://www.f1revs.com/2011/07/future-of-f1-cockpits.html They might blend in ok with the cars, more so than roll bar

    • Hare said on 22nd July 2011, 22:26

      I’m quite tired at the moment, and I read..

      ‘they use it in lemons’..

      Lemons and Canapés… they go together quite well I thought.

      • Gwenouille said on 22nd July 2011, 23:21

        Lol excellent: I had a good laugh there !

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 23rd July 2011, 2:26

        There’s an annual race in California called “The 24 Hours of Lemons” in which competitors race old clunkers for 24 hours that they’ve bought for $500 or less. Budgets are unrestricted for roll cages, brakes, and other safety related stuff, but no more than $500 can be spent on the car itself and any performance components. Some friends of mine did it a few years ago and said it was a blast. The way they control the budget cap is by having a rule that by entering the race, you agree to sell your car to the promoters for $500 if they think you’ve overspent. That way no one shows up with a significantly superior car to anyone else. It’s a pretty funny event.

    • evolunit_X (@evolunit_x) said on 23rd July 2011, 9:19

      its surely good for safety…we dont have to wait for tragedy to put this on…we had a warning with Massa and Surtees..it should be done already
      and it doesnt look visualy bad at all to me

  2. Erik said on 22nd July 2011, 18:28

    Make it look like the X1!

  3. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 22nd July 2011, 18:30

    I appreciate an enclosed cockpit idea is all to improve safety, but how much would this affect how much we as an audience can see the drivers? Especially if there was a big, brutish roll cage, or a visor/windscreen reflecting light everywhere. I like being able to see their heads and helmet designs clearly. I like seeing them lean into corners and at other drivers out the corner of their eyes when side by side. And also the hand movements on the wheel, particularly on twisty tracks. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, but won’t the possible decrease in visibility take away that intensity within watching an F1 race?

    The closed canopy would have an aerodynamic effect

    Now this I do like the sound of. The enclosure could be an area of aerodynamic development Just as much as wings or diffusers. What would Adrian Newey do with a cockpit eh?

    • Nixon (@nixon) said on 22nd July 2011, 19:48

      Agree with the first bit, i love those small details. The FIA should increase protection without enclosing the driver’s helmet, maybe a small visor or windshield.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 23rd July 2011, 1:16

      I agree about the first paragraph.

      I’m not sure it would be a big area of development though. For one thing, I wouldn’t be suprise if the FIA mandated that all cockpits were standard. For another, it a simple surface, and its contents can’t be packaged differently. Although I suppose making different parts of its surface do different things, like feed the intake and to the wing, is a possibility, I doubt they’d be able to make it very contoured.

      • Electrolite said on 23rd July 2011, 9:37

        I’m not saying they necessarily would. I’m saying they could (and implying they should :P)- and it besides, it would be a nice new variable thrown in the mix and would offer at least one positive aspect other than the safety implications.

  4. dyslexicbunny said on 22nd July 2011, 18:30

    Tough. I want to see safety but I think cars with a cockpit would look absurd and other problems were mentioned in the article.

    I’m partial to the rollbar so events like a rogue tire or Schumy driving up on Liuzzi’s car (I think that’s who was involved) last year. Prevents these worst case problems but would still let a spring through.

    If we’re superconcerned about safety, let’s just give them simulators that control unmanned F1 cars. And then we just give drivers two big gulps (7-11 drink that’s 32 oz – 1L each for those without the franchise) to finish so you can add in bathroom breaks. You can even regulate distance from sim to bathroom or decide it through qualifying.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 22nd July 2011, 18:48

      Schumy driving up on Liuzzi’s car

      It was those two – but the other way round. It was lucky Schumacher was unharmed as the wheel was very close to his head.

    • Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 22nd July 2011, 20:39

      i guess the best soln would be a windshield. cause canopy and rollbar will both cause obstructions incase of an escape when there is a fire n stuff. a bulletproof or high strength windshield would be best?

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd July 2011, 21:36

      I don’t want to seem callous, but single-seaters are open cockpit categories. It is part of what makes F1 what it is. Unfortunately danger comes with it. A cockpit canopy would be very difficult to exit from quickly and would ruin the feel- seeing the F1 drivers exposed to the open air and elements helps make it spectacular. A windscreen would be useless in rain. A rollbar might work. It would probably be hideous, but the main concern would be if it obstructed the drivers view.

      Many improvements have been made to F1 cars in the name of safety over the last 60 years, the last 30 especially. But all those changes have made improvements without removing or changing any essential elements. The cars are still open wheeled- even though that can cause worse tangles (Webber in the air last year). They are still the fastest category of racing- even though that has obvious dangers.

      I’d love to see a poll of drivers. perhaps with something like this the best thing is to ask the GPDA- if the drivers say they don’t feel comfortable racing any more without more protection then I’d understand. Otherwise, the FIA is wasting its time.

      • Bhudi (@bhudi) said on 23rd August 2012, 11:12

        Agreed…
        A few statistics to also ponder -
        Between 1952-1962,(ten years) 23 F1 drivers lost thier lives.
        Between 1962-1982,(twenty years) 20 F1 drivers were lost.
        Between 1982-2012,(thirty years) 3 F1 drivers died.

  5. MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 22nd July 2011, 18:34

    I see a lot of drawbacks to a canopy. How do you cool the driver? How do you keep it dry inside? How do you keep it clean outside? Will they have to run wipers in the rain?

    The roll bar idea is appealing but the for the weight issue, and the fact that it would only stop large objects from hitting the driver.

    The only way to truly isolate the driver from exposure is to surround him in a roll cage and sheet metal.

  6. snowman said on 22nd July 2011, 18:47

    Ya I agree, I don’t think it takes away much from the looks.

    Think it was Abu Dhabi last year were some one’s tyre was only fractions away from Schumacher’s head in an accident. One of the most scarey things have ever seen, so it is a very real safety concern and obviously to with what happened Massa.

    Some footage of the FIA Institute testing out the fighter jet screens http://www.f1revs.com/2011/07/future-of-f1-cockpits.html They might blend in ok with the cars, more so than roll bar.

  7. MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 22nd July 2011, 18:58

    How about dirt sprint car solution? Roll cage overhead with a mesh screen in front?

  8. BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd July 2011, 19:02

    Certainly a canopy would make the cars look really like the top of the foodchain in motorsports. But it is a bit too far a step. Close the wheels and merge it with endurance prototypes if you do that!

    The windshield sort of thing is not really effective, so i think we might end up with something like the cage construction in the end, protecting against big, heavy objects but not completely enclose.

  9. Stefan Kelly (@brawngp) said on 22nd July 2011, 19:03

    driving an F1 car with a misted up windscreen would be pretty crazy! You can just imagine the drivers wiping it with their glove on the straights :D

  10. Im all for improving safety, but in the last 20 yesars, how many people hjave been killed in F1 (F1 only!) by an object hitting them?

    The accidents of Surtees was RARE, and Massa’s even more so.

    • well look at schumi accident in abu dhabi 2010 and also karun and hekki 2010 accident in monaco.

      those accident could of easily cause injuries that would have been prevent from a canopy.

      its irresponsible to wait for someone to die or get injured before you justify a change.You have to be proactive not reactive

  11. If anything i think a windshield with a rigid sort of frame/roll bar around it would most probaly be implemented.

  12. javlinsharp said on 22nd July 2011, 20:08

    Yes, Yes, this is an awsome idea!!!

    They should have a completely enclosed cockpit. The hundredes of cockpit intrusions are really bad for the sport, something must be done. But the real issue is the Over-wheel launches. For safety sake, add wheel arches and fenders to protect against these horrible events.

    Since we are on such a good role, lets add a roof, as every one knows, rain comes from clouds but Lighting does too, we MUST protect against that.

    And all these Wings and aero bits, they look sharp, someone could get stabbed, lets do away with those.

    And we all know the most important aspect of driver survivability in a crash is crumple zones. These F1 cars as waay to small, double the width and increase length and hieght.

    Oh wait, all this ‘innovation’ is getting expensive, lets save costs by subcontracting all the development and building to a single company.

    You know this Super Improved F1 needs a new name. Something that sounds Dashing, and invokes thought of Home and Hearth… lets call it NASCAR

    ***Javlinsharp snaps awake from a terrible nightmare

    Its AUTO RACING, Its always been dangerous. Seeing driving heros overcome impossible odds every race is a big part why people watch. If you dont like it, you dont have to do it. These days, nobody really gets hurt anyway, just ask Perez, Kubica, Webber.

    • Bigbadderboom (@bigbadderboom) said on 23rd July 2011, 11:46

      There is a difference between being a purist and protecting participants from risk with the best available technology. Nobody wants to detract from the spectacle of racing. But if there is now a solution to protect a driver, which can be quickly removed then for me it’s a no brainer. As for “the danger” aspect, there is a huge difference between risk and avoidable risk, the decision lies in balancing it’s impact on the sport, and this would have little impact so should at least be investigated.

  13. I know fires are really rare in F1 but it’s one of the things that really puts me off about closed cockpits.

    I’m always impressed how the FIA keeps looking into safety improvements. Every time I see a bit of debris on track I always half a split second of worry after what happened at Hungary.

    I have to admit though that closed cockpits don’t really do it for me. Safety has to come first and this is just personal taste but I like how they have the wind in their helmets.

  14. mole (@mole) said on 22nd July 2011, 20:17

    I am really for the jet plane cockpit! I bet we would be able to see a lot more of the drivers actually – at the moment they’re in a high sided pit almost, for aero and safety reasons and the only part you can see of the driver offboard is the helmet bobbling away. With this canopy they wouldn’t need so high a wall and we might actually be able to see them turning the wheel from offboard, which I think would look amazing during overtaking manoeuvres.

    I quite like the idea of having ejector seats too…or a cycle made of two of the wheels if the car takes too much of a beating and needs to self-destruct. (Yes, I just finished the Dark Knight for the umpteenth time)

    • bosyber said on 23rd July 2011, 8:54

      Good points, it would be quite entertaining for sure, if not all that light; I’m not sure they could do it in 680kg :-p

  15. chavighurst said on 22nd July 2011, 20:30

    I’m a relatively new lover of F1 – three years of following every race – and I can’t even believe there’s any positive feelings out there at all about an enclosed cockpit. I checked into the comments fully expecting a riot against it. It’s the first new rule proposal I’ve heard that would truly alienate me from the sport. The tradition is open cockpit/open wheel racing, with the perils and excitement those imply. The cars today are incredibly safe, and yet I can see and feel the drivers hands and head dealing with turns and bumps and G forces. This is not a problem that needs solving.

    • Tom said on 23rd July 2011, 0:22

      It’s open wheel racing. Open cockpit is not anywhere enshrined. It would still be open wheel Formula 1 racing if the cockpit were closed.

      As you said, you are new.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 23rd July 2011, 14:27

      This is not a problem that needs solving.

      Why not? Would you like to be responsible for taking that decision and then see a driver get killed because of it a few years after?
      In the last few years we haven’t seen death, but we have seen some incidents that were a few centimetres away from being a deadly accident. Massa at Hungary in 2009 springs to mind, but also the accident in Monaco 2010 where two of the backmarkers parked on top of each other.
      Mark Webber’s Valencia 2010 crash could also end really bad had he landed upside down with his helmet hitting a curb, another car barrier etc. That could have been horrible.
      It would still be open wheel racing.
      The thing I don’t like about it is that it could be harder to see what the driver is doing inside the cockpit.
      But hey it could be an opportunity for placing cameras on the inside of the canopy to have a view that is really near a helmet cam, without having the camera on the drivers head, which ain’t good because it adds weight and stess to his neck.

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