Are canopies the right solution for open cockpit racing?
18th October 2011, 12:56 at 12:56 pm #130377
With Dan Wheldon and Henry Surtee’s tragic deaths, and Felipe Massa’s impossibly near miss covered cockpits are being discussed due to be discussed between the techincal working group, and the GPDA. Now, with hindsight, it’s easy to say that cockpits would have had a chance of reducing harm to all three of the above drivers, however, there are also possible risks accociated with the device.
In a high impact situation, inevitably at some point there will be a situation where the cockpit jams, what happens if the car is on fire, or approaching an explosion. There are also those who say it will drive a barrier between fans and drivers, this I don’t personaly beleive to be true, so long as the racings good and the cars are as fast as is resonable with different drivers indentifiable, a covering shouldn’t be too different to a helmeted head.18th October 2011, 13:07 at 1:07 pm #183146
I think closed cockpits for F1 at least (not decided with Indy and oval racing) would be a side step rather than a forwards advancement. Both come with risks and I’m not sure either is better than the other. The idea of a driver being trapped in a cockpit will always put me off wanting a switch to closed cockpits.18th October 2011, 13:20 at 1:20 pm #183147
Having seen numerous fiery accidents in the 60’s, the drivers who got out of the car I don’t think would have made it fussing with a canopy on top of their problems, or the track workers working in flames to unlatch the canopy to get the driver out. F1 cars seem very easy for drivers to exit quickly compared to Indy, that a big plus up for us.
Racing is inherently dangerous, 200 plus at Vegas, 500 plus at Reno, the end results are often the same. Earnhardt was killed in a tank of a car, totally enclosed, probably one of the safest cars around, there’s times when there’s nothing anyone can do.18th October 2011, 13:20 at 1:20 pm #183148
No. I think there should be track improvements in Indycar, particularly looking at the number of participants and angle of banking. The driver protection should be as much as possible. But a canopy removes a fundamental element from the series. Single seaters are open-cockpit. It is perhaps their most defining characteristic, as even in F1 there have been closed wheel cars in the past. And that’s before thinking about all of Steph’s points- a closed cockpit could be even more dangerous more of the time.
However, although I personally think canopies would be wrong, if drivers were in support then I would change my mind- I don’t think they would be though. Many things can and have been done for safety, but something like that should come down to the drivers. If they don’t mind running the risk, then open-cockpits should remain.18th October 2011, 13:34 at 1:34 pm #183149
With modern F1 cars, 60’s style inferno’s are incredibly rare. The car which Wheldon was driving was old, if you look at the gallery of his career in the guardian it’s the same car as in 2003, saftey alterations won’t have been massive. F1 cars have raised and shaped the area sourrounding the driver in an attempt to cover potential risk and the cars currently do seem to have some sort of removable semi covering at the moment anyway, which needs to be removed to exit and enter the car.
If there was to be something simular to that but with a full head covering I don’t think exit and entry time would be materially altered, it would also reduce the last big area of preventable risk to the drivers, lowering the chance of fatalities.
Seeing as there is already a form of canopy in F1, I reckon the big question is more asthetic, and much as i love the idea of open cockpit racing, if canpy’s can prevent a death I don’t think my yearning for the spirit of motor racing is particularly important.18th October 2011, 13:51 at 1:51 pm #183150
I’m not for or against canopies in principle. But I do think there are some other things that need to be addressed, besides those already mentioned, if a canopy is to be fitted.
1, Visibility and possible distortion.
3, Cockpit temperature.
4, Opening canopy if car is upside down.18th October 2011, 13:54 at 1:54 pm #183151
@Scribe it isn’t purely aesthetic though. There’s a greater sense of connection when the drivers is exposed. It makes it more personal, like you’re watch a person driving rather than just a car.18th October 2011, 14:01 at 2:01 pm #183152
@ Scribe – the cockpit surround does not NEED to be removed for a driver to get out of the car, it is removable to make getting in and out easier.
There is also a regulation which states that a driver MUST be able to get out of the car within something like 5seconds in an emergency.
The removable surround is nothing like a canopy18th October 2011, 14:03 at 2:03 pm #183153
@matt90 I felt like that till I started watching GT1, partly I guess because of the in cockpit camera’s the connection was still there, and you can always spot your favourites.
But I do know exactly what you mean and totally agree, all I’m saying is, if it prevents a death or a life changing accident I’m not sure it’s whats most important.
@W-K very good points. I wonder what would happen if the cockpit were to partially break mid race. I’m sure thats the sort of thing for the technical group to consider. Maybe wipers and fairy liquid compartment ;) or pure space fairy liquid to keep F1 “at the pinacle”.
I just don’t know, helmets certainly have their advantages.18th October 2011, 14:04 at 2:04 pm #183154
Sorry, I forgot to add that the surround is removable to enable medics to get a driver out of the car without removing him from his seat where there is the risk of spinal injury.18th October 2011, 14:09 at 2:09 pm #183155
@Asanator, fair enough, but if canopy’s were to be mandated I assume they’d come under the same strict regulation, with multiple release mechanisms.
The two big issue’s I think canopy’s have is what happens when the car lands upside down, and the visibility issue with dirt and distortion as mentioned by W-K.18th October 2011, 14:34 at 2:34 pm #183156
I sketched out my view on this in 2009 after Surtees’ death:
Unfortunately, Massa’s accident happened three days later.18th October 2011, 16:40 at 4:40 pm #183157
Fires that could burn the drivers are very rare now in F1 and other motorsport, more rare than moments that put the driver’s head at risk.
If you count the near misses like
Liuzzi vs Schumacher @ Abu Dhabi
Trulli vs Chandhok @ Monaco
They would not be near misses if there was a strong canopy over the drivers, and surely that’s a good thing.
The need to get out of a car quick is not as important these days.
Also on the subject of fire, but not really F1 anymore, in Brazil 2009 Kimi got a face full of fire from a fuel hose. A conopy like a jet fighter would have protected him, and indeed any racing where could be fuel flying about.
Weighing things up, I think fighter canopies are the next step forward in safety.18th October 2011, 17:22 at 5:22 pm #183158
I don’t think the risk of fire is too bad. How often do we see cars burst into flames on an impact?
Of cause Heidfeld have been on fire a couple of times this year, but they are still relatively slowly spreading. A canopy on a fighterjet is shot into the air in milliseconds, of cause we can’t do that in F1, but you could have a quick release mechanism the driver engage and just like on a fighterplane instantly releases the canopy from the cockpit, without shooting it into the air, so the driver can simply push it straight off the car.
Of cause there is the trouble if the car is upside down, but if the canopy is blocked how would the driver get out of the car anyway? He would have to be a cat to twist him self out.
Of cause it would distance the driver from the fans, but lets look at the opportunities.
They could mount a camera on the inside of the cockpit besides the drivers head, to make what is very close to a helmet cam.
Some things they also need to solve, is visibility and cleaning.
If they can make it safer, I won’t mind.
Open cockpits are better for the fans, but I would rather have to deal with watching my favourite drivers through a canopy then to see them die on the race track.
I think we have seen enough near misses in the recent years to safely say that it is a question of when, rather then if a driver will be killed by being hit in the head.
Of cause the helmets develop a lot, and some day they might be safe enough to expose them to F1 cars flying through the air at 300km/h, but until we are sure, I think it would be better to close the cockpit.
If they can of cause make sure that they don’t introduce new and greater risks by doing so.18th October 2011, 22:26 at 10:26 pm #183159
Oh, an they might even wear different, or reduced helments under a fighterjet style canopy. Imagine seeing Alonso’s pudgy face contorted with fury at another backmarker holding him up.
We could have in cockpit camera’s.
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