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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Ferrari image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, IndyCar images ?? Honda/LAT, X2010 images ?? Red Bull

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184 comments on Why covered cockpits and wheels may be F1′s future

  1. Gav (@foxtrotoscar21) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:50

    On a side note, the images look a Red Bull sponsored Bat Mobile. Maybe times are tough for the caped crusader…!!

  2. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:07

    No, I just can’t accept this. In daily modern life we have already had to accept a huge amount of restrictions because of population. If we simply allowed everyone to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted our society and environment would grind to a halt under the pressure.

    I remember reading somewhere once that the reason there wasn’t much outcry about motor racing deaths in the 50s was because the world had only just emerged from the most destructive conflict in human history. It was said that there was a pervading sense that people should have the right to risk their safety and live their lives as they pleased.

    We may no longer be able to do as we please with no regard for the world but I believe we should still have the right to stick our neck out. If I can’t drive from one side of the country to the other without paying more in tolls than the value of fuel I’ve burned and if I can’t park my car on the street without incurring a days wages in fines then at least let me go to an event and have the thrill of highly skilled drivers performing amazing death defying feats of car control. Let me stand closer to the track. Yes I know it’s dangerous but I don’t care, it’s my risk to take. I’ll sign a waiver if you want.

    Health and safety has gone too far, if you remove the danger from life then you remove the excitement and drama. I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there. I want there to be some risk for them and for me. I don’t want to live in a world where people can’t get hurt because that’s just removing part of what it is to be human.

    Reading over this before I hit the post button… I do talk a load of rubbish don’t I :P

    • Mads (@mads) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:16

      @spawinte

      I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there

      How should danger be present without drivers dying and getting hurt? Unless you can invent a luck generator, but that would again remove the danger.
      I don’t think its fair that, because you need a thrill, that others should risk their lives for it. If you want adrenalin then you are free to go rock diving. That is not illegal. Yet.

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:28

      Imagine for a second that in Spa next weekend, there’s a big accident. Lewis Hamilton locks wheels with Fernando Alonso while entering Eu Rouge, battling for position. Neither driver yields, and they end up tangling. Alonso spins off and has to stop with a punctured radiator, however for Hamilton the consequences are far worse. As his car spins off, the damaged wheel he locked with Alonso tucks underneath the body of the car, sending the car flipping. The car maintains a lot of momentum as it hits the barriers. At the point where the car hits the barrier, the car is upside down. it’s a freak accident which should have resulted in both drivers walking back to the pits with red faces, but this is far more serious.

      Hamilton’s wrecked car lies motionless on top of the barriers. As the safety crew rushes to his aid, a shocked silence descends over the worried crowds. The safety car is deployed. The car has to be turned back over by the crane before the medical staff can assess Hamilton’s condition. As the car is flipped back over, Hamilton’s head appears to flop to one side.

      The race is red flagged. Marshals quickly erect screens so that nobody can see him being extracted from the car. A stretcher is seen being loaded into a medical vehicle which quickly races to the medical centre. Commentators desperately try to remain optimistic. FOM has realised the seriousness of the accident and has stopped showing replays of the moment Hamilton’s car hit the barriers.

      After fifteen minutes, the announcement comes across. Lewis Hamilton has died from his injuries. The full post mortem would later reveal that the compression when his head hit the barriers shattered the base of his skull. He would have died almost immediately.

      The rest of the race is cancelled, McLaren decide to withdraw from the rest of the season. F1 suffers one of the worst moments in its history. In the aftermath, many questions are raised over the safety of F1, and lots of people point to the obvious warning signs. Just look at Massa’s accident, Henry Surtees’ accident. Look at Dan Wheldon, look at De Villota. Why was something not done before when the warning signs all pointed to this happening? All of a sudden, all those arguments about maintaining the tradition, suddenly seem so hollow. One of F1′s brightest stars just died in front of millions of people. A death which was empty and thoroughly avoidable.

      Is that what you find exciting about F1? Is that what you class as drama? Would the death of Lewis Hamilton be justified in your eyes because F1 would be less entertaining to you if the danger had been removed and Hamilton had lived to race another day?

      Yes, this is an extremely emotive way of looking at it. But if you think that my unpleasant little story is far fetched and hard to imagine, then you should take a little time to familiarise yourself with certain events from 1994 when F1 lost another of its greatest stars.

      • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:48

        Yes those would be horrible events to live through but I still think Health and Safety has gone far enough. I have a lot of admiration for Senna as do many but I really think people need to get over it. I’m not taking this position out of blood thirst.

        To me the right approach would be that we’ve made it very safe but these things are going to happen and it’s just a part of life that people need to learn from and reflect on rather than becoming hysterical and shutting everything down. We need to stop jumping on the “think of the children” bandwagon and take a more balanced view. Humans have been dying in accidents since before written history, it’s one of the most natural things in the world.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:52

          But surely if you make a decision not to improve safety then you’re not ‘learning from’ these events. You’re deliberately choosing to ignore them and do nothing about them.

          I could almost agree if it detracted somehow from the technology of the cars, or harmed some other technological aspect of the racing, but in fact closed cockpits and covered wheels are a step forward both in terms of safety AND in terms of performance and car design. It’s literally win win. And yet you think that because it means fewer people will be injured and killed, that it’s somehow a bad thing?

          Explain please how drivers being killed is a desirable part of motorsport.

          • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:00

            I didn’t say drivers being killed or injured was desirable and I won’t. I think you know right well that that’s not what I’m after but you’re being sensationalist and emotional in an attempt to shut me down because you don’t like what I have to say.

            When I mention learning from such events I mean learning not to become hysterical and making rash decisions based purely on emotion.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:07

            Ok, well how many drivers do you think need to be killed or seriously injured over what period of time before you think it would become necessary to take actions to avoid it? So far we can count two deaths and two life threatening injuries in open cockpit racing in the past few years which would have been avoided with canopies. If two lives lost aren’t enough, then how many?

            And you still haven’t explained why you think that closed cockpits and covered wheels are a bad things, and are worth risking human lives to avoid.

          • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:25

            I think safety levels at the moment are fine especially when combined with the fact that the speed of cars is being pegged back every year. I don’t think the rate of death or injury will go much higher than it is right now so the current rate is an acceptable rate of loss when you take into account that accidents happen and are a perfectly natural part of life. You seem to be implying that I’m advocating drastically reduced safety or none at all which is of course wrong. I want a certain amount of danger to be there but I’m not looking for the whole field to be wiped out every year. You seem determined to paint me as bloodthirsty monster.

            I oppose closed cockpits and covered wheels because I believe they are a concession too far in terms of Health and Safety but then I’ve made this clear in all of my posts already.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:34

            I can’t agree that they are a concession. I would agree if it was compromising some other technical aspect of the sport but if anything, these changes would actually give a positive performance improvement while at the same time saving lives. I can’t see how you could possibly argue against the logic of taking this step other than some sort of crusade against helth and safety. Which to me seems to have more of the hallmarks of a knee-jerk irrational reaction than taking the necessary steps to safeguard the lives of some sportspeople.

            I am not trying to paint you as a bloodthirsty monster. I just think that we have different opinions regarding the value of human life.

          • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:50

            I don’t think we value human life differently (that’s a low blow by the way), we just have different views on the direction society/humanity/whatever you want to call it should take.

            I don’t think it’s fair to call my opposition irrational. I think it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into my views. You see it as a necessary step within the world of F1 and I see it as something bigger that needs to be opposed.

            In my short lifetime (28 years) I’ve watched all all sorts of laws come into force both here and abroad that force people to live their daily lives within a smaller and smaller proverbial box. I just feel that risk and the taking of risks is one of the last great freedoms we have and if I have to get uppity about something like F1 regulations then so be it.

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:12

            I’m sorry you felt that was a low blow, and I didn’t mean it to come across as one. What I meant was that my position is that we should do everything we can to safeguard the lives of the drivers. You think there are more important considerations. This, to me, means that we value their lives differently in our priorities.

            I call your position irrational because the point you are arguing is that because your personal freedoms are infringed upon by health and safety laws, that action shouldn’t be taken to address a safety problem in motorsport. I don’t see that there is a link. If anything if you believe in the right to take risks, surely you also believe that the right to be safe is an equally valuable human right. And so those drivers who wish to race while being as safe as they can possibly be, should be given the right to have adequate head protection. The rules as they currently stand deliberately compromise the safety of the driver.

            While I know it is tempting to subscribe to the romantic view of the devil-may-care, nihilistic race driver who lives purely for the thrill of competition and doesn’t give a damn about his personal safety, I suspect that in reality if most drivers were given the choice, they’d prefer to race in cars which didn’t have a glaring safety flaw which was known to have caused the deaths of several drivers in recent memory.

          • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:49

            You didn’t mean it to come across that way and then you immediately repeat the insult in a different manner. Just because I believe in more individual personal risk and responsibility doesn’t mean I place less value on human life. I believe that excessive safety sterilises life.

            You call my position irrational because it is convenient for you. With one word you can label me as both incoherent and unhinged. I believe that action shouldn’t be taken to address the issue because I believe safety levels are adequate given the current speed of the cars. I believe that endlessly chasing after every small safety issue is ultimately self defeating and will result in a sterile and boring non spectacle in which people will quickly lose interest.

            The right to be safe can only be extended so far. Up to a certain point you have to decide if you’re comfortable taking part, be it crossing the road on your way to work or driving a Formula 1 car.

            The drivers may not want to race in these cars but the public want to see them race these cars. They have a choice to make, and it should be a choice. I don’t demand to be wrapped in cotton wool everywhere I go, neither should they. There simply has to be risk or it’s not sport and it’s definitely not life.

        • Claidheamh (@aseixas) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:50

          @spawinte, you seem to think making a rule to improve safety is unnecessary. I will not argue with that. That’s not what this is about. The rule currently in place forces open cockpits and open wheels. Removing this rule wouldn’t make your proverbial box narrower.

          • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 22nd August 2012, 18:04

            I’m more concerned with why the rule would be removed (the almighty church of safety) and the path it will lead down. If you could guarantee me that it would stop there then maybe I would go away and shut up but I think you know that it won’t.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd August 2012, 19:30

        I am not sure if I should thank you or damn you for that post @hohum, but I could picture what you describe all to clearly stuck together from images from last year’s race, combined with memories from Massa’s, Wheldon’s, Ratzenberger’s and Senna’s incident.

        And you are right about how its better to do something than be sorry. As any long time F1 fan can confirm, the cars have been constantly changing shape for various reasons, so visual aspects or being used to something should never be a reason to stop change for the better.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd August 2012, 19:32

          Sorry, that was @mazdachris making the post.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd August 2012, 1:08

            I’m flattered, that was a very sound and well written post by @mazdachris, and @spawinters point is also well made, if humans had not from the very beginning been prepared to risk their life we would have become extinct before we began, on the other hand “open-wheel” racing is just a hang-over from from the earliest understanding of aerodynamics when reducing frontal area was all that was really understood. In the final analysis even a fully roll-caged enclosed metal race car cannot be 100% safe.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 23rd August 2012, 10:23

          I know it’s a very emotive way to put it, and possibly slightly reactionary. But I think it’s important to understand properly the human impact of what is being discussed. People talk about keeping the danger in the sport as if it was a hypothetical thing. A high level concept which sort of exists outside of the competition yet underpins the spectacle. Yet the reality of a driver being killed while racing is not romantic or exciting. It’s shocking and depressing. They’re not gladiators and we’re not Emperor Nero. They’re human beings just like us, with families and loved ones, and lives outside of the sport. They’re real people, not characters in a film whose deaths are little more than a narrative device.

          I am still yet to see a compelling argument against closed cockpits. I think if you were starting with a blank sheet of paper and you wanted to design a racing car without rules then you could close the cockpit both for safety and because it gives much better aero efficiency. The idea of leaving the cockpit open wouldn’t even come into it. The only reason any Le Mans cars were left open was for the sake of quicker driver changes during stops, and that’s something that F1 has no need for. So since this makes perfect sense from a technological perspective, it’s hard to rationalise an argument against it.

          The points about ‘health and safety gone mad’ (HSGM), I absolutely reject, and I believe are slightly self-contradictory. People claim that you can never make F1 safe, because you can never account for all of the various things that happen on a race track. I agree with this; if you take nearly a ton of carbon, metal, flesh and rubber, and propel it down a road at speeds in excess of 200mph, that is inherently dangerous. The forces involved are difficult to harness and even a small error will result in significant consequences. However in the same breath, the proponent of HSGM will say that you need to retain some element of danger because with no danger you would lose something that is core to the sport (I reject that this is universal to all sport, since most sport does not rely on an element of danger in order to be exciting. Soccer fans are not sitting there thinking it’s exciting because at any moment one of the players may be killed..). However this contradicts the first point, which is that F1 will always be dangerous. If we accept that F1 will always be dangerous no matter how far you try to push safety, and also that F1 needs an element of danger, then this surely means that you would be able to introduce things like canopies, covered wheels, airbags, and whatever else you want to come up with, and yet the danger and excitement at the heart of the sport will remain uncompromised.

          I do also believe that you can go too far. I dislike how F1 tracks are increasingly becoming little more than lines drawn around giant tarmac car parks. I feel that from a competitive perspective, there is not enough of a consequence for drivers making mistakes, and that in turn is causing a reduction in driving standards. I think that the race director is a little too eager to send out the health and safety car whenever it starts raining. I also feel that the speed of the cars has been pegged back too far as they’re now getting nowhere near the lap records.

          What I don’t accept is the notion that absolutely anything done to improve the safety in F1 is fundamentally bad, without looking first at the merits. There are two extremes; one where you do absolutely nothing to improve safety, and another where you become so obsessed with it that it becomes the only consideration. I don’t think that this debate needs to go to either of these extremes. There are clear and logical arguments in favour of covering the wheels and closing the cockpit – you can point to several incidents where people have been killed or seriously injured thanks to exposed heads. I don’t see that as being knee jerk or reactionary, I see it at looking at the reason why drivers are being killed in single seaters and coming up with a simple way it can be avoided. It’s not like we’re here trying to come up with hypothetical situations in order to justify our all consuming desire for safety; the safety problem is very real and drivers are being killed. That alone means that this is certainly not a case of HSGM.

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 3rd September 2012, 11:24

          @bascb

          Imagine my horror while watching that accident and thinking for a moment that my post might have turned out to be somewhat prophetic.

          I wrote my post to try and make the prospect of a driver being killed in F1 seem more real than it probably does to most of us. Even though I fully imagined the scenario above, I don’t think even I really expected that something like that would actually happen. When it looked for a moment like something may well have actually happened, even for me it was something of a reality check.

          Unfortunately as with most things, the possible consequences may be overshadowed by discussions about who was to blame, and ignored by virtue of the fact that once again disaster has been averted. it does make me wonder how many near misses we can keep getting away with before the worst does finally happen. Hopefully it won’t take the senseless loss of another life to drive this point home, as so many others have done in the past.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd September 2012, 12:48

            @mazdachris, I must say that immediately after the accident happened, I remembered this post and I think we really were far too close to seeing dire consequences, and I am greatly relieved about that.
            Probably it was no coincidence that right after that accident I saw a load of comments online about how closed(-up) cockpits really should be the way forward.
            It does make one feel horribly close to 1994 when repeatedly accidents happen and there is only talk and debate, but the world moves on until something really horrible happens, so I hope this firmly convinces everyone we should not stay put but move on with safety.

      • Jono (@me262) said on 23rd August 2012, 1:08

        are you sure Maldonado wasnt involved?

    • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 23rd August 2012, 12:18

      @spawinte

      I’m not saying I want drivers to die or even get hurt but I want the danger to be there.

      Danger = risk of getting hurt

      You don’t want drivers to get hurt, you just want them to risk getting hurt…

      Now, can you be more self-contradictory?

      • Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 23rd August 2012, 12:57

        I don’t see the contradiction

        • MaroonJack (@maroonjack) said on 23rd August 2012, 13:10

          That’s the problem.

          If people risk getting hurt or dying, then sooner or later someone will get hurt or die. That’s what “danger” means. You can’t separate the two. If you endorse danger, then you endorse people getting hurt, even if you claim that you don’t.

          It’s like saying “I don’t want to see you losing at Russian roulette, I just want to see you playing it”.

  3. No. If F1 was closed cockpits & wheels all the lower formulae would have to follow suit, technically difficult and expensive, making entry into motorsport even more prohibitive than it is. More importantly though, closed cockpits would remove the driver even further from the audience. If you watch old footage it’s great to see the drivers working away behind the wheel, but we’ve lost that and the perception that anyone could drive an F1 car is the result.

    F1 is already incredibly safe, and in any case the safety case for this is just knee-jerk PR to keep politicians and safety campaigners happy. Surprised to see f1fanatic playing along – Massa’s accident was a freak, and Henry Surtees wasn’t even driving an F1 car!

    The Red Bull concept thing is hideous, it looks like a remote control toy – maybe *that* is the future for F1, we already have drones replacing fighter jets, maybe remote controlled F1 is the next step? Let’s hope not.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:14

      @dynodad

      the safety case for this is just knee-jerk PR to keep politicians and safety campaigners happy

      Knee-jerk in response to what?

      And what politicians and safety campaigners are calling for F1 to be made more safe at the moment?

      Massa’s accident was a freak

      There’s quite a few other examples of drivers or their cars getting hit by debris, some of which were mentioned here just two days ago:

      F1′s brushes with disaster: Top ten lucky escapes

      Henry Surtees wasn’t even driving an F1 car!

      Are you suggesting that means we should ignore it or that it doesn’t matter? Either way I obviously don’t agree.

      • “Knee-jerk in response to what?”

        In response to Daily Mail-esque calls for safety when freak incidents occur. None of the incidents you quote in the Top 10 article (with the exception of Brundle’s Interlagos in 1994) would have been improved by having a closed cockpit. I’ll concede there is a case for some way of reducing wheel-to-wheel contact.

        Citing the Surtees crash is irrelevant as it didn’t take place in an F1 race, in an F1 car or even at an F1 circuit. Of course it matters, it’s just not relevant to the case you’re trying to make. Similarly mentioning Maria De Villota (as another commenter did) is equally irrelevant as that accident would never have happened during an F1 race.

        F1 is fantastically safe, unfortunately it took the death of Ayrton Senna to achieve that level. Changing fundamental aspects of the sport in response to freak accidents is the PR tail wagging the F1 dog. We can’t make F1 100% safe, and the current level of safety suggests that we’ve gone as far as we need to

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 20:04

          @dynodad

          In response to Daily Mail-esque calls for safety when freak incidents occur

          I don’t give a damn what the Daily Mail has to say about anything. Their ethics are in the gutter and their coverage of Wheldon’s death was despicable. I write article based on my own reasoning, not on the hysterical bleatings of a filthy rag I wouldn’t wipe my backside with.

          If you’re going to accuse me of writing something “knee-jerk” I expect you to be able to tell me what you think the knee is jerking in response to.

          Citing the Surtees crash is irrelevant as it didn’t take place in an F1 race, in an F1 car or even at an F1 circuit.

          He was killed driving an open-cockpit car in an FIA-sanctioned series like F1. You would have to be wilfully trying to avoid drawing the obvious conclusions to pretend it has no relevance to Formula 1.

          • Don’t take it personally, I wasn’t accusing your knee of jerking – you’ve started the debate, that’s great, and it’s interesting to read all sides of the argument. It’s the FIA who are considering this, theirs is the twitchy knee.

            Henry Surtees’ accident is only relevant if you are proposing that *all* open-cokpit / open-wheel racing be outlawed. Are you?

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 22:01

            @dynodad

            It’s the FIA who are considering this, theirs is the twitchy knee.

            Massa and Surtees’ crashes (the latter being entirely relevant to the situation in F1, I do not understand your eagerness to overlook his death merely because it occurred in a different category of racing) occurred three years ago. The FIA is still considering its response, if there is to be one. How is that “knee-jerk”?

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd August 2012, 1:20

          @dynodad, good point, next question, what to do about motorcyle racing ?

  4. Mads (@mads) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:11

    F1 is about moving forward. If they stay with open wheels and cockpits just because we as fans are used to it that way would be an offence, not only to the drivers and their families, but also to F1 as a sport.
    And I think it would be more fun to look at pictures of F1 cars when I get old and present my self and my grandchildren with mad and spaceship like racing cars and tell them “see that’s how they looked when I was a young lad”, and they can laugh at me because magneto-hyper-magnificento-el-grippo downforce generators had not been invented and they had to use old laptop fans. Instead of cars that look similar just slightly worse then they used to do.

  5. James Hosford (@hosford90) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:27

    I think for safety you’d only really need rear wheel guards (like Indycar to prevent cars riding over) and enclosed cockpits. Front wheel guards wouldn’t really be necessary, as the primary danger with front wheels (apart from marshals and spectators perhaps in a real freak accident) is Surtees style bouncing, or the wheel/parts of its suspension coming back into the cockpit like with Senna. The closed cockpit would prevent this.

    However in performance terms it does make more sense, and I think the red-blooded nature of the designers means this will be easily possible if the FIA take the step. Many safety decisions are resisted against if they effect performance or the racing, but I’m quite sure if the FIA just framed the decision as ‘ok guys, go nuts and design a streamliner!’ they’d all do it and create something like the X2010, completely irrelevant from any safety thoughts.

    Safety would then be a happy side-effect.

    Overall I’m not sure. That X2010 looks so alien, but so would a real car now to anyone from the 60s or even 70s. I’m not conservative of precious so I think I’d get used to it in time, but from this perspective, where its a rather curious ‘what if’ I feel most people, me included, would feel strange about it, coz it is such a fundamental change.

    But they would look at worst, as exotic as this year Indycars which we’re all pretty much used to by now, and they’re undeniably ugly. I think F1 cars could potentially look a lot prettier if we take them down an LMP kind of route.

    I guess the question then, and I have no technical expertise so I am genuinely asking anyone who has an opinion, it’s not rhetorical, what then defines ‘the Formula’ in terms of specification. This is especially important considering the upcoming engine changes.

    Soon we’ll have closed wheel cars with closed cockpits and turbos that only develop however many RPM they do (how many is it? dunno, but its well under the 19,000 now).

    What is then differentiating F1 from any other Formula, be it Indycar or LMP. To me, the most important thing about F1 is their technical superiority, as clearly the ‘fastest’ (in terms of 0-100, shortest braking distance, cornering speed) cars in the world, which comes from producing unmatched levels of downforce in motor racing, and unmatched RPMs in motor racing. As long as this can be maintained then we’ll be fine. Aesthetics don’t matter coz F1 cars constantly change look anyway.

  6. dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:35

    I dislike the idea of closed cockpits because hiding the driver and his reactions isolates the viewer even more from the driver. But on the other hand, it might be a fabulous opportunity for F1 to embrace provision of a more interactive experience for home viewers/Internet users. In-car cameras, more team radio etc.

  7. The arguments on here against closed cockpits are rediculous. Enclosed cockpits increase safety. Fact. Any argument regard further seperation from the audience is a joke, we have onboard cameras which allow us views from cameras mounted on the drivers helmets for christs sake. We have diagrams which show precisly the G-forces drivers are experiencing as they race! How much more access do you need?

    I’m also incredibly excited by the resulting design race that would occur if the rules were changed so drastically. Itd be great for the audience and great for the drivers.

    • dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:13

      Why is it a “joke”? Humans love to watch other humans acting and reacting, especially in extreme conditions. G-force meters are great but they don’t give a lot of insight into the mind of the driver. How many times do we hear commentators analysing the position of the driver’s head (or indeed his frustrated hand signals) when overtaking or being overtaken?

  8. Andy (@turbof1) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:36

    I see alot of people complaining about wheel guards. Well, sure most of you do remember the extensive wheel covers that came really close to enclosed wheels, yet I hear nobody complain about that. Maybe for those people who have problem with wheelguards, we should allow “wheel covers”: enclosed wheels but with a different name.

  9. VettelS (@vettels) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:39

    No. I don’t particularly care for aesthetics because they’ve changed so much over the last 60 years. But one thing that has always remained the same are open wheels open cockpits. When you start covering up wheels and cockpits, it’s not really F1 any more.

    This is motorsport- it will always be dangerous. Of course, as much as possible should be done to protect drivers, but you have to draw the line somewhere. What if Moto GP started enforcing 4-wheeled vehicles, because it’s safer than just 2?

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:48

      Surely drawing a line by its very definition means NOT doing “as much as possible” to improve safety? Drawing the line means knowing that you could improve safety, but choosing not to.

      There are absolutely no practical arguments against improving safety by protecting the drivers’ heads. I refute any arguments about it breaking with ‘tradition’ since F1 by its very definition should be about breaking with tradition. Otherwise drivers would still be driving around in cigar shaped cars with the engines in the front and two inch wide tyres. They’d be minutes slower around most race tracks than LMP cars. That’s tradition!

      As Keith points out, open wheels and open cockpits haven’t been constants. The old logic behind having an open cockpit was down to the idea that it was better for a driver to be thrown clear of the car in an accident rather than be stuck inside it. Because once upon a time F1 cars would split their fuel tanks open and explode in huge fireballs if you so much as looked at them a bit hard. Those days are thankfully very much in the past, which is exactly where open cockpits belong.

  10. Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:57

    I don’t know about everyone else, but that Red Bull X2010 looks frig’n awesome!

  11. Marc Schechter said on 22nd August 2012, 15:03

    Any Body have a picture of the Brabham car with the cockpit canopy from 1967 Monza Practice?

  12. RWMiller said on 22nd August 2012, 15:37

    I don’t know a lot about what drives the technical regulation changes. But if you step away from it just a bit you might remember that Robert Kubica suffered a career ending ( at this point ) injury in a fully enclosed rally car. Or perhaps you might remember that NASCAR lost Dale Earnhart in Daytona, again a fully enclosed vehicle. Racing is dangerous; Sailing is dangerous, Running on the side of the road for your workout is dangerous ( an old high school friend died after being struck by a car ). I personally want to see safety remain a top concern, but I think enclosing the cockpit and or the wheels of an F1 car is a sad end to fantastic open wheel racing.
    Scrap the formula, we already have a very successful LMP series, whats the difference!
    I wonder what the drivers think about it all.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd August 2012, 19:39

      But if you step away from it just a bit you might remember that Robert Kubica suffered a career ending ( at this point ) injury in a fully enclosed rally car.

      Not entirely RWMiller. The significant difference between that Skoda Rally car and an F1 car is not so much the closed top, but the fact that part of the guard rail could enter through the engine-bay INTO the cockpit area.
      Had the car had a safety-cell like an F1 car, or indeed like LeMans cars and the McLaren PM4-12c has, that would not have happened. Your post rather makes the case for improving this area on Rally cars (As far as I know its something the FIA are working on with constructors too) than against closed cockpits.

  13. coefficient (@coefficient) said on 22nd August 2012, 15:49

    Perhaps an alternative could be found somewhere else.

    Most drivers can’t get out of their cars without first popping the steering wheel off and more recently the cockpit collar insert.

    So perhaps the answer could lie in extending the cockpit collar insert to incorporate the front of the airbox. You could then extend the airbox over the driver’s head to prevent objects such as wheels landing on top of the driver. The whole thing would pop out when the driver removed the collar to escape from the car.

    Obviousy this would need to be strong and could not be made from foam and plastic as it is now but I’m sure it isn’t beyond F1 to make something along these lines.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t be too pretty but I’m sure Mr. Newey and chums could sculpt some kind of aero purpose out of it which would then give it function whilst also making it easier to accept.

    • I like your idea..

      As others have mentioned fully enclosed cockpits (or cars) aren’t that safe..

      Having said that I’m all for f1 allowing closed cockpits so we can see a grid of x2010′s

  14. Victorinox said on 22nd August 2012, 16:43

    “it’s not hard to see how this could have prevented or at least reduced the carnage of Las Vegas”

    I am sorry, but this is **. The enclosed rear wheels wouldn’t have changed anything in Las Vegas. At 200+ miles per hour, even the new car would still fly through the air and hit the pole. This was proved by the only time in 2012 we had a car hitting another from behind. Running at much lower speed, Andretti’s car still was launched into the air when he crashed into Rahal’s car. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVW6Fy04UB0

    It is not hard to imagine what would have happened if Andretti was driving at 200+ mph like Wheldon.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2012, 17:14

      So far we’ve only seen the rear wheel guards ‘tested’ on one occasion, one which was very different to what we saw at Las Vegas (as discussed here at the time).

      I think it’s difficult to extrapolate from that exactly what would have happened had the rear wheels guards been in place at Las Vegas. I don’t agree with your complete certainty that they would have totally failed at the one purpose they were designed to fulfil.

      The unfortunate aspect to this is the only way we’ll know for certain is if further such accidents happen, though that’s surely not something we want to see.

      IndyCar studied the accident and they believe the wheel guards mitigated what could have been a worse crash:

      http://www.indycar.com/en/News/2012/April/4-17-Rear-wheel-guards-perform-as-expected

  15. robk23 (@robk23) said on 22nd August 2012, 16:49

    Looking at that F1 car at the top of the page and then looking at the cars further down, to me it makes the F1 car look somewhat outdated.

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