Why covered cockpits and wheels may be F1’s future

F1 technology

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2012F1 cars have had open cockpits and uncovered wheels for decades. It’s become the defining feature of F1 car design.

But could a desire to improve safety and the search for more efficient performance lead to the covering of cockpits and wheels?

Cockpit covers

The FIA has been investigating the possible introduction of cockpit covers in F1 and other single-seater championships since 2009.

That year saw the fatal accident of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees, who was killed when he was struck by a flying wheel. Six days later, Felipe Massa was seriously injured when he was hit by a spring which had fallen off Rubens Barrichello’s car.

Among the solutions being considered by the FIA are fully enclosed canopies and roll hoops mounted in front of the driver, each of which have different advantages and disadvantages.

Similar discussions have taken place in IndyCar following the death of Dan Wheldon in October last year.

Wheldon was killed when he was struck by a fence post after his car flew into the barriers at Las Vegas. Following the crash some IndyCar drivers such as Ryan Briscoe raised the possibility of IndyCar adopting cockpit covers.

In endurance racing the technical regulations allow for both open and closed-cockpit designs. Closed-cockpit solutions are the preferred design of the World Endurance Championship’s manufacturer teams Audi and Toyota.

Wheel guards

In an effort to improve safety, IndyCar took the hotly-debated step of enclosing the rear wheels on its new-for-2012 chassis. The result is something that looks like the offspring of an F1 car and a sports car (below).

The fairings are designed to prevent one of the greatest dangers of open-wheel racing: wheel-to-wheel contact at high speeds which propel a car into the air. Again, it’s not hard to see how this could have prevented or at least reduced the carnage of Las Vegas.

As noted here recently, F1 has seen single-car airborne crashes such as those of Riccardo Patrese in 1992, Christian Fittipaldi in 1993 and Mark Webber in 2010.

They haven’t been as prevalent in IndyCar, which has had a particular problem with ‘pack racing’ on ovals. But there is potential for an increase in this type of accident in F1.

The F1 field is getting closer in performance and innovations such as DRS, KERS and more variable tyre performance may increase the chance of a faster car hitting a slower one in this fashion.

Safety or performance?

As future regulations become increasingly concerned with improving efficiency in F1 car design, it’s not hard to see how this could lead to a reappraisal of the merits of closed cockpits and covered wheels on grounds of performance as well as safety.

But open cockpits and wheels have been a defining feature of F1 car design for decades. Would getting rid of them amount to a desecration of F1’s historic rules?

Not necessarily. Covered wheels and cockpits have been seen in F1 before and we’d probably still have them if they weren’t forbidden by the current rules*.

The dominant F1 car of 1954 and 1955 – the Mercedes W196 – was raced in both open- and closed-wheel form. The team preferred the latter at tracks where aerodynamic efficiency was especially important, such as Monza.

Mercedes’ success inspired other teams, including Ferrari and Maserati, to create ‘streamliner’ cars. The regulations were later changed to forbid this and impose the open-wheel look we have become familiar with.

Teams also experimented with cockpit canopies in the fifties and Jack Brabham ran one on his car during practice at Monza in 1967. These too were eventually banned.

Would today’s F1 cars have covered wheels and cockpits if the rules did not forbid it? When F1’s top designer Adrian Newey was asked to envisage an F1 car that ignored the rule book, his Red Bull X2010 sported both.

His creation also serves to illustrate that the aesthetic appeal of F1 cars needn’t be diminished by such a radical change in design:

Red Bull X2010

Could F1 one day see cars with wheel guards and enclosed cockpits? Would this be a change too far? Have your say in the comments.

*Technical regulations articles 3.8, 3.9, 3.10 and 3.11 define the limits on bodywork around the front and rear wheels. Technical regulations article 13.1.3 states “The driver must be able to enter and get out of the cockpit without it being necessary to open a door or remove any part of the car other than the steering wheel”.

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188 comments on Why covered cockpits and wheels may be F1’s future

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  1. duncanmonza (@duncanmonza) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:16

    I’m not sure about enclosed cockpits in F1. So little of the head is exposed these days that it might be unnecessary. But I don’t think it would be too bad.
    As for wheel guards, We don’t need to go any further than what Indycar has done this year. Most huge crashes are from cars hitting the back of a rear wheel or interlocking with a rear wheel, this can’t happen with this system.

    • Jimbo Hull (@kartingjimbo) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:28

      Yet Massa still got punched in the head with a spring? I fail to see how it will become an ‘unnescessay’ consideration when there is still a very small number of people having accidents this way. I think it should be addressed to the extent where it is no longer an issue. For the FIA to leave something up in the air is just like them shooting themselves in the foot, because when that issue comes into practice via a life threatening accident etc they will get roasted for it.

      The essences of F1 and what we notice it to be ‘nowadays’ is only the case because that’s what was decided years ago when cockpits and closed wheel techniques were banned. Now that we have the knowledge, experience and innovation in these areas we should be pushing them because now we simply know better.

      • Giggsy11 (@giggsy11) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:56

        I really like the idea for the wheel covers to increase safety, im just not sold on the cockpit cover however.
        I firstly with a closed cockpit there is always risk of slower exit and entrance for the driver and marshalls. In the scenario where the car is on fire or upside down it would add extra crucial time to the exit procedure which can only be seen as a negative aspect of closed cockpits. It would also make a Marshall’s job far more difficult, so in the heat of the moment that could prove fatal.
        My second view on closed cockpits is an aesthetic reason. I know it is silly to rank this close to safety but with this you wouldn’t be able to see the driver work hard and helmet design would be pointless. The last human thing we can see as a spectator is the helmet and to remove that for me would just create a robotic image of F1 showing no human aspect. The mix of human and his machine is one of the things that makes open cockpit racing so sexy and exciting so i would hate to lose it. Therefore I believe aesthetics should be taken into consideration.

        • DaveD (@daved) said on 22nd August 2012, 22:14

          I really disagree with you about the problem of it taking extra time to exit the car after crash, etc. That is analogous to the arguments manufacturers used to try and avoid seat belts in cars. I really believe Dan Wheldon might have survived if he’d had a closed cockpit. A bullet-proof cockpit could have deflected him off far enough that he wouldn’t have hit that fence post head on. I can’t imagine Allan McNish walking away from his crash last year if that cockpit had been open. And we DEFINITELY would not be arguing whether Massa was being affected in his driving by that terrible scene he suffered through.

          I can see some merit to your argument about seeing the drivers but cockpit cameras can still make us at home feel like they (drivers) are part of the action. Being at Le Mans, I never felt cheated by the drivers being in the closed cockpit cars vs. the open ones. But that is personal opinion for sure.

        • Homewrecker (@homewrecker) said on 24th August 2012, 9:02

          I actually think that given the right technology, they would be able to get out in the minimum required speed (5 seconds is it?). Quick releases are nothing new, and they could even go down the route of very small explosive charges, much like a fighter jet ejection procedure. Obviously big enough not to propel the canopy away from the car, more just to disconnect all locks/hinges to the canopy can simply be pushed off with minimal effort from any angle.

          Plus, with canopy they wouldn’t need the same amount of aerodynamic cockpit covers (I forget the name), meaning they wouldn’t be as tightly squeezed in at the shoulders.

    • michaeldobson13 (@michaeldobson13) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:47

      I don’t think wheel covers would work in F1.
      The ovals that a lot of Indycar races are on have very little closing speeds, so if you hit the back, there would be little effect, but with higher closing speeds in F1 (remember Mark Webber in Valencia 2010), it’s likely a cover would break, hit the wheel and throw debris everywhere, and then the car behind could possibly hit the wheel anyway. They could also bend or break inwards and rub on the tyre, which could cause a puncture (a recent Nascar race had 2 cautions caused by a puncture on the same car, after the bodywork was bent and rubbed on the tyre.)
      Cockpit covers also are problematic – if a driver needs to get out of the car quickly, they’ll need to remove the cover somehow, but it couldn’t hinge upwards, sideways or forward in case the car rolls over. There’s also the problem of inside temperature, sunglare on the cover and the cover fogging up in cold weather (some closed cockpit cars use a ‘rag on a stick’, but this might be a bit low-tech for F1). A roll hoop would obscure vision too much. I think a better idea would be to do more to ensure parts of the car are better attached; stronger tethers on the wheels and perhaps tethers on the springs, or anything else which may come loose. (Perhaps the covers over the rear wheels may be useful!)

    • Bernard (@bernard) said on 23rd August 2012, 14:26

      Wheel to wheel collisions do still occur – covered or uncovered and cars still get launched into the air, carbon fibre cowlings/wings break very easily and offer almost zero protection in a wheel to wheel impact of any notable intensity. More bodywork can also be more dangerous once a car does get airborne as it acts like a sail – see le mans.

      http://youtu.be/hVW6Fy04UB0?t=2m42s
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0eyLeI2G40
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFN_Gp1eHN0

  2. Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:20

    The problem I see occurring here is the inevitable debate about what F1 ‘is’. And what it is varies too greatly between individuals. To me, F1 means the fastest cars in motorsport, the best drivers, and the highest level of competition and rivalry. It also means sitting in my living room on a Sunday with my family. As long as those elements are retained, I’m happy.

    If these changes would help to preserve that, all the better.

  3. graham228221 (@graham228221) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:34

    When F1′s top designer Adrian Newey was asked to envisage an F1 car that ignored the rule book, his Red Bull X2010 sported both.

    His creation also serves to illustrate that the aesthetic appeal of F1 cars needn’t be diminished by such a radical change in design.

    Bit off topic, but I do wonder how compromised that design was to suit aestheic needs. The exposed front suspension, for instance, seems like just an afterthought when Adrian (or whoever actually designed it) realised that it should probably bear some resemblance to an F1 car. I always imagined a real ‘Formula X’ design would look more like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Bloodhound_1000mph_Land_speed_record_project_%281%29.jpg/570px-Bloodhound_1000mph_Land_speed_record_project_%281%29.jpg but with more turning vanes and a wider wheelbase. The Bloodhound SSC uses a Cosworth F1 V8 engine as one of its three powerplants, incidentally.

    Anything that move F1 closer to my futuristic WipEout ideal is good for me though. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about HUDs in F1 and I’m surprised we haven’t seen them yet when they could bring a lot of benefits to the sport and motoring in general (we’re already starting to see them included with some high-performance cars), a fixed screen to project onto would make this closer to reality.

    • thatscienceguy said on 22nd August 2012, 13:23

      As a further aside, the Cosworth V8 doesn’t provide any drive power, it is there to drive the fuel pump.

      I don’t see the designs being like Bloodhound at all. Firstly, Bloodhound doesn’t need to go around corners. The design of Bloodhound is solely about reducing drag, and that means as close to zero downforce as they can get. The body creates exactly as much downforce as needed to keep the car on the ground, no more. Downforce is drag, thats not what they want when all they need is it to go in a straight line.
      Bloodhound’s design would make a terrible race car. To make it into a good race car the design would be change so significantly that I’m sure it wouldn’t resemble Bloodhound at all.

    • vjanik said on 22nd August 2012, 14:20

      the bloodhound is designed to go fast in a straight line. which is almost the opposite of what F1 cars do (compromise top speed in favor of downforce to go round corners quicker – where the laptime is). So starting with a bloodhound to design the ultimate F1 machine makes no sense. and on the aesthetics front, its just a tube with a few engines in it.

      Newey’s design is functional and good looking. Why should those two things be in conflict?

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:16

      Wouldn’t work; one of the main reason an f1 car is as fast as it is is beauuse of areodynamics.
      Bloodhound is designed to primarily go fast in a straight line, not through corners, which is where laptime is gained.

    • Stjuuv (@stjuuv) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:56

      In addition to previous commenters: 13,5m long and about 6,5t weight? Really? That thing would barely fit through some of the more narrow chicanes at any speed, even less so at a racing speed.

      • graham228221 (@graham228221) said on 22nd August 2012, 18:38

        *facepalm*

        @thatscienceguy @vjanik @xjr15jaaag @stjuuv yes but I said a perfect race car would LOOK more like it, not that it was actually a viable race car. I do realise it is a rocket on wheels and, yes, I do know that F1 happens to involve corners.

        My point was that it is sleeker, with internal suspension. I know that trying to turn the Bloodhound around a gentle corner at even moderate speed would be quite stupid, but why would you design the X2010 with exposed, turbelence inducing suspension arms if you had free reign over the limitations? I’m also not sure about the need for traditional F1 style wings, if you could properly utilise ground effects – surely smaller partial wings would be better?

        The radical Indycar proposal that emerged a few years back is a better example of what I was thinking of: http://lotpro.com/blogphotos/Bridgestone/tn_CS10%20Delta%20Wing%20IndyCar%20concept%203.JPG

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd August 2012, 19:07

      I am not sure about exactly why @graham228221, but I imagine the front suspension is made to optimize airflow (less parts obstructing it).

      The front wing makes for a faster flow to the under-bottom, but leaves an almost direct flow towards the air inlets and on towards the diffuser and rear bodywork (notice how the front wheel pods are placed further out than on an F1 car to allow for his clean air flow), with the airfoils behind the rear wheel pods helping point it exactly where he wanted it to go.

  4. Nick.UK (@) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:36

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ‘against’ making things safer for the drivers. But health and safety is just going into overkill if it makes changes such as these. You’d think after the likes of Robert Kubica’s crash in Canada 2007 and Mark Webber’s in Valencia 2010 that they would sit back and say to themselves; ‘You know what, I think they’re safe now!’

    Motor racing is an inherantly dangerous activity, you can’t make it 100% safe. There will always be something that comes along after new safety tech has been applied that highlights a new unforeseen risk area to the driver. And these rare situations arise so infrequently that it just isn’t practical to try and protect against them ALL!

    Closed cockpits also make me fear for those who may get stuck in them during fires! F1 cars do not have doors and windows to escape from like with conventional non formula race cars. If that roof is unbreakable and sealled and has a faulty release system, or got stuck due to something relating the the crash itself… then the driver will be trapped! And a tech that was meant to help protect someone will have killed them!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:47

      @nick-uk

      Closed cockpits also make me fear for those who may get stuck in them during fires!

      Graham Rahal made an interesting point on that on Twitter following the Las Vegas crash:

      For everyone asking about fire. Closed cockpit may be better. When we get burnt it’s from the flames flowing over the sides…

      https://twitter.com/GrahamRahal/statuses/128568424740831232

      • John H (@john-h) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:11

        For everyone asking about fire. Closed cockpit may be better

        So if the car is on fire the driver is going to stay inside and hope it doesn’t escalate further? I can’t believe this would go down well with most drivers. Natural instinct is to get away from the place where the fuel is as quick as possible.

        In my opinion, a type of front visor/roll-hoop that ended before the front of the cockpit would help shield from debris and allow the driver to escape from a flaming car.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:22

          The point is that the cockpit would prevent fuel from entering the cabin. While it’s no longer allowed, in the days of refuelling there were some really nasty examples of cars being doused in fuel and the driver being engulfed in a fireball when it hit the hot exhausts. Of course the reaction of the driver is always going to be to exit a flaming vehicle as fast as possible. That wouldn’t change. However I think you’d struggle to find an example of an F1 car bursting into flames while upside down from the past 30 years.

          • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:09

            Pedro Diniz, but I forget the location. Hungary, maybe.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:58

            If you mean the 1996 Agentine GP, his car burst into flames while it was driving along because of a problem in the fuelling system. He stopped the car and jumped out, as you would expect, exactly as he would have done if he had a closed cockpit. The question was whether a car has burst into flames while upside down – creating the scenario suggested by some of a driver being trapped in the car by virtue of it being upside down. I can’t remember it happening in the time I’ve been watching F1, although I’m prepared to be corrected.

          • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:27

            Certainly no car has caught fire after a crash (upside down or not) since Gerhard Berger’s accident in the 1989 San Marino GP. After that accident (Berger hit the wall at Tamburello, which damaged the fuel tank) the design of the fuel tanks were changed to a deformable, puncture-proof bag rather than a solid tank.

            There have been refuelling issues, like Jos Verstappen’s car catching fire in the 1994 German GP, but they tend to happen in the pit lane where there are a lot of fire extinguishers about (and also that one was caused by Benetton rather naughtily removing the fuel flow restrictor from the refuelling rig), so they can usually be dealt with fairly quickly. But there is very little danger in modern F1 of a crash causing a fuel spill, and hence a fire.

          • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:29

            To add to my previous comment, the car catching fire while upside down was what killed Roger Williamson at Zandvoort in 1973. I don’t know whether it’s happened since, and obviously we’ve moved on a lot since then.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:25

          And it’s also worth noting that the last two deaths in F1 were both also from head wounds and would probably have been avoided had the cars had closed cockpits.

          • Andy (@turbof1) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:27

            Wouldn’t wheelguards also help at containing the tyres from bouncing all over the track?

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:38

            Indeed, although the canopy/cockpit concept does more than just stop bouncing wheels. It would have prevented Dan Wheldon’s death in IndyCar, prevented Felipe Massa’s severe injuries, Stopped Maria de Villota from losing an eye, and saved the life of Roland Ratzenburger. None of which were injured by bouncing tyres.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:17

            Maria de Vilota’s accident was so bizarre that I don’t think that it is a good example for this. The lesson to be taken there is more precaution with obstacles like that, not protect people who collide with such strange obstacles. Prevention rather than protection here.

          • Andy (@turbof1) said on 22nd August 2012, 21:53

            @mazdachris yeah just saying it acts as an extra safety measure on top of the canopy. Both solutions, probably individually but certainly together, would have kept henry surtees alive (the canopy could have saved him anyhow). Anyhow though: the canopy would need to be strong enough to survive a direct impact from a projectile like that hit Massa. In massa’s case the spring did lost alot of it’s kynetic energie by first hitting the chassis, so you should take that accident and imagine how powerfull the impact would have been at full force. That would require a very strong but at the same time transparent and non-viewdistorting canopy.

          • Trido (@trido) said on 22nd August 2012, 23:25

            That is faulty logic. Senna may have survived had he had the benefits of the HANS device. Roland Ratzenberger died because he was silly not to come in to repair the damage to his front wing from the previous lap.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:42

        That assumes that even in a huge crash the cockpit stays completely sealed so it doesn’t allow in fuel or smoke, and that the whole thing doesn’t go up and turn the cockpit into a nice sealed oven.

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:50

        @keithcollantine Even so, it would depend on how fast marshalls could get to the crash site and extinguish the flames. The cockpit temperature would be rising quickly if surrounded by flames. Personally, I wouldn’t want to sit inside a wait, hoping someone came to put the fire out, all the while slowly cooking to death!

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:01

          Le Mans prototypes are designed specifically so that the driver can exit the car while it’s upside down. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same with an F1 car. As far as I’m concerned this is a non issue, since the problem was addressed decades ago and Le Mans cars have been running fine without a single example of this happening.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:20

            le mans cars have far wider cockpits, with doors. F1 would have to go through some massive changes to be apply such a cockpit.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:04

            I agree, although I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t incorporate doors into the sidepods. It would give some challenges in terms of packaging but I’m sure it’s nothing that’d be beyond the abilities of F1’s designers.

            The cockpits of LMP cars are as wide as they are purely because the cars have to have a two-person cockpit with the driver offset to one side. Obviously in practice they never have two people in them, but they should in theory be able to take a second seat. The driver usually enters and exits via the door closest to him so I don’t see why you couldn’t have a narrower cockpit that wasn’t just as easy to get in and out of.

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:52

      I really can’t agree. I don’t think you can ever say that they are ‘safe enough’. Henry Surtees, Felipe Massa, Dan Wheldon, and Maria de Villota are all examples from the fast few years of drivers being seriously injured or killed because of their exposed heads. Two deaths and one near fatal injury don’t constitute ‘rare’ or ‘safe enough’ to me. Of course it would be impossible to pre-empt every single dangerous situation and take action against it, but when there is a glaringly obvious safety problem which is causing injuries on a fairly regular basis, I think that common sense suggests that it needs addressing. We haven’t seen a fatality in a long time in F1, but it’s clear that the danger remains.

      With regards to possible safety concerns over upturned cars, those concerns are fairly legitimate and that’s why I’d favour a Le Mans style cockpit with side entry rather than a canopy which lifts off. There aren’t any (to my memory) examples in the last 20 years where a driver in a closed cockpit Le Mans car has been put in danger by an inability to exit the car, and yet there are several examples of very nasty crashes where a closed cockpit has been the only thing between a driver and serious injury.

      F1 may have a tradition of open cockpits. It also used to have traditions of skinny tyres and the engine in the front. These things were moved away from when they became outdated. The open cockpit concept is definitely outdated and F1 needs to move with the times. The ACO has banned open cockpits for all new le mans prototypes, and once again F1 is left playing catch up.

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:02

        @mazdachris While I agree there have been numerous incidents. My view on it is that the risk goes with the territory. Nobody is forcing these drivers to sit in a cock pit and race. They do it because they want to, they consent to the risk like any other sports person; like in Rugby or American Football for example. So much has already been done to improve safety that it’s as safe as it ever has been. Making such radical changes to a sport that is iconic and ‘classic’ by nature is totally unecessary.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:08

          I disagree that F1 is ‘classic’. It should be about performance and technology. Canopies and covered wheels improve safety but at the same time they improve performance and efficiency, making the cars themselves faster. That’s a two for one improvement right there. It could be argued that the rules in F1 are all there to improve safety. That’s why the speed is carefully governed. The only exception here are rules around open cockpits and exposed wheels which make the racing less safe. It seems odd to have these anachronistic elements when others, such as front engines and narrow tyres, disappeared years ago. F1 is constantly evolving, and this is the next natural step for the formula. Whether the drivers accept the risks or not is irrelevant. No life should be put in unnecessary danger in the interests of ‘tradition’

          • vjanik said on 22nd August 2012, 14:40

            The F1 cockpit is one of the safest places in the world. If one wants to improve safety and avoid injuries and deaths, they should put their focus elsewhere where they can make a greater impact. Thousands of people die on the roads every year in cars that should have been safer.

            More football players died during a football match than F1 drivers in the last 20 years. F1 is one of the safest sports today. A driver is safer while racing in a grand prix than if he was driving home on the M4. Most of us put ourselves in more danger every day than F1 drivers do at a GP weekend.

            I am not saying that safety is wrong or that the FIA should stop improving it. Im just saying that there is a law of diminishing returns and the priorities seem to be going too much in one direction.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:28

            I’m not sure where I sit, but this is a terrible argument. Football is in no way comparable, not least due to the fact it’s professionally played by thousands rather than 20 people, and far more regularly. The driving on roads thing is clearly also pulled from nowhere.

            The worst thing about this argument is that you’re apparently saying F1 should instead try to make things that aren’t F1 safer. Or is it just that safety isn’t important when there are other things less safe in the world? Which is the equivalent of saying “our country has reasonable health care, but we needn’t bother improving it because other countries have worse health care.”

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 20:28

            More football players died during a football match than F1 drivers in the last 20 years.

            24 F1 drivers participated in 19 races last year, that’s 456 participations.

            How many participations were there in football?

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:17

      Close cockpits are fine in touring cars for instance; the drivers can leave the car in less than 8 seconds or so

  5. DavidS (@davids) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:38

    I think that closed wheels and cockpits will eventually happen in F1, and don’t really have significant objections to the idea.
    One thing I would like them to include in the regulations is a way of making the driver visible, be it in the form of “accessibility” regulations, of specifying cockpit dimensions.
    I want to be able to see on board shots from inside the cockpit that show the driver, so you can see them working the controls as well as the effect the g-forces are having on them.

    The cockpit like in the Red Bull X2010 won’t allow this, but it would be better aerodynamically compared to a Le Mans style cockpit, so regulations will be required to enforce it.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd August 2012, 19:15

      I would imagine that would there ever be a closed cockpit, or roll-bar, that its likely it would be a single source safety part, to avoid teams wanting to be too clever for their own good and contain cost.

  6. andae23 (@andae23) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:39

    As mentioned in the article, the World Endurance championship allows both open and closed cockpits. I’ve been to Le Mans in 2009 and 2011, and to me it really didn’t matter whether you could see the pilot or not. I actually quite liked the closed cockpits at Le Mans, not to mention the spectacular Red Bull Gran Turismo. I’m actually more concerned about the 2014 engine regulations than about closed wheels and cockpits.

  7. sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:50

    For me Formula 1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport, and nothing should be compromised in terms of speed, safety and driving ability. If closed cockpits, closed wheels and ground effects are the solutions, then we should go ahead with them. Remember, these current F1 cars look nothing like the F1 cars of the 50’s, so anyone arguing about the aesthetic changes need to remember how far away we are from the original cars as it is

  8. Tyler (@tdog) said on 22nd August 2012, 12:54

    I’m sorry, but to me open wheel, open cockpit cars are an essential part of the DNA of F1. Yes, I’ve read what Keith had to say about the Mercedes of almost seven decades ago, but that was before most of us (me included) were even born. If you want to race or watch closed wheel, closed cockpit racing, there are plenty of categories to choose from. Besides, as someone has already pointed out, closed cockpits bring their own safety issues. I might be open to persuasion if the current drivers were pushing for this change, but I’m yet to hear it.

    • Marcos said on 22nd August 2012, 15:53

      … but that was before most of us (me included) were even born

      Pointless! If they change the rule for next year and a friend of mine starts to follow F1 next year…

  9. coefficient (@coefficient) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:02

    Bring it on!! A grid full of those RB X style cars would be a sight to see. I would prefer a clear canopy so the driver can still be observed working the wheel, he/she will still have a helmet to cope with bright sunlight etc. I’d love to see a few renders of that Red Bull X car in different teams liveries, Mclaren and Ferrari especially.

  10. I think one thing to keep in mind when discussing this is that if F1 were to move towards closed cockpits, wheel covers and such, it would be a few years and we’d also see every important feeder category of single-seaters go in the same direction, with the explanation that the drivers should be educated about and prepared for what F1 would be like for them. So once they committed to this, I’d expect single-seater racing in general to change its appearance.

    That said, I’m seeing arguments that such solutions can help lessen the danger, which is why I think I’d be able to adjust to the cars appearance changing drastically like that quite quickly.

    Done with care, there could even be crossover potential between such a kind of F1 and WEC-type cars. The first thing I thought when the Red Bull car for Gran Tourismo was presented actually was that it reminded me of an LMP car, just without the bodywork covering the area between the splitter and above the front suspension.

  11. Alexander (@alexanderfin) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:23

    A windshield high enough to cover the driver, a bit like on motoGP bikes… would be easy to design and the aestethics of the car would not suffer. Covered wheels, why not??

    • Claidheamh (@aseixas) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:40

      MotoGP style windshields seem like a good solution. Both for protection and for aerodynamic efficiency, without sacrificing the visibility of the driver. But canopies made out of that material, or one with similar optical properties, would also work in basically the same way, and protect the driver from sideways impacts. I can see only one problem with entirely closed cockpits in F1, and that is refrigeration for the driver, which doesn’t seem a hard problem to solve.

      • Dave1 said on 8th November 2012, 3:12

        Bit late, but during the FIA experiments with “closed cockpit” solutions a canopy was tested.

        They discovered that with a canopy/windshield Tyres that come loose, large pieces of debris could get deflected with such force that marshals and fans safety could be put in more danger

  12. gabal (@gabal) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:30

    I don’t have anything against closed wheels as that is an easy and not so visually drastic change solution to a serious problem that is wheel-to-wheel accidents.
    However, I’m not too sure about proposed canopies – wouldn’t visibility be a problem? Drivers have layers of transparent films on their visors to deal with oil, insects and other factors that limit visibility – how will that be managed with enclosed cockpits? I’m not sure screen wipers would be effective enough and not to mention the dangers of racing in the wet.
    I have never followed endurance racing so I don’t know have this issues been addressed in Le Mans series?

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:38

      When Le Mans cars pit, usually there’s a member of the pit crew who quickly sprays a powerful cleaner on the windscreen and wipes it off. Some have also had full sized tear-off panels on the screens which can be removed if it gets particularly bad. I don’t think there’s any reason why something similar couldn’t be implemented for F1. For rain, there are plenty of water-repellant treatments which would allow the rain to bead off easily, especially on an aerodynamic canopy like the Red Bull X2010. In fact visibility might even be improved a little.

  13. thatscienceguy said on 22nd August 2012, 13:35

    Beginning 2014 the Le Mans regulations make closed cockpits compulsory for LMP1.
    http://www.lemans.org/en/races/24h/update/new-lmp1-technical-regulations-for-2014-unveiled_7618.html

  14. arise said on 22nd August 2012, 13:37

    if safety comes first, I think F-1 should only played in game console with very big screen!!!

  15. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:42

    I don’t get too precious about the current aesthetics or history of the sport. From day one this sport has been innovating so to stifle any kind of development just seems the pure antithesis of Formula 1. We should be under no illusions that motorsport is inherently dangerous and people will get hurt. The sport should do as much as possible to limit that. Closed canopies would probably work, if it works for endurance racing then visibility surely isn’t an issue? The roll hoop seems like a daft idea. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making the cockpit safer you may as well close off the entire thing rather than try and find a solution that MIGHT deflect a bit of nasty debris but will most certainly hinder your vision or escape route.

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