Alonso’s lucky escape shows urgency for driver cockpit protection
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Sep 2012   |  5:35 pm GMT  |  161 comments

Sometimes the goal of an innovation in F1 is not the pursuit of better performance, but rather of safety. There have been plenty of examples of that and now the F1 teams and the FIA are fairly urgently and closely working together to come up with a solution to the problem of driver vulnerability in the cockpit.

F1 has been lucky in recent years with several accidents which could have harmed or killed the driver due to his exposure in an open cockpit.

We had another on Sunday.

Fernando Alonso’s point of view as Romain Grosjean’s car smashed across the top of his chassis in a violent accident at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, with the car passing less than a metre from his head, makes for terrifying viewing and has redoubled efforts to find a solution which could be engineered into the new generation F1 cars in 2014 without unbalancing the design of the F1 cars.

Alonso was relieved to escape without serious injury, as he turned his car to the right to take the corner and Grosjean’s car hit him amidships,

“I’m lucky that I can be in the car in five days at Monza because looking at the image, we were turning in so you could have a problem with your hands or even your head because the car was so close,” he said. “I think we broke everything on top of the car. It was lucky in that aspect.”

The work on driver protection began in earnest after the incidents in 2009 where Felipe Massa in F1 and Henry Surtees in F2 were struck by objects, fatally in Surtees’ case.

The breakthrough, when it comes, will be adopted across other single seater categories, as the HANS device (which protects the drivers’ next in the event of a head on impact). On Saturday there was a nasty accident in the GP3 race in Belgium, when Robert Cregan, son of Abu Dhabi circuit boss Richard Cregan, was struck on the helmet by his left rear wheel after a heavy impact with a barrier. He has been released from hospital.

Since 2009, the FIA and the F1 Technical Working Group of engineers has been looking at two main options: canopies made of polycarbonate, similar to those used on the F-16 fighter jet and more recently a forward roll structure which is now the main avenue being pursued.

The main problems with canopies are around visibility, (they get dirty), what happens if they jam and weight distribution (they add a lot of weight high up on the car, when low centre of gravity is desirable)

Canopies were extensively tested by the FIA Institute last year, “The aim was simple: to fire a Formula One wheel and tyre, together weighing 20kg, at 225km/h into, first, a polycarbonate windshield and, second, a jet fighter canopy made from aerospace-spec polycarbonate, and measure what happens (all close-up observations being recorded by strategically positioned high-speed film cameras),” said the FIA Institute’s Andy Mellor.

The subject comes up fairly regular in drivers’ meetings and they seem to be reconciled with the fact that some kind of protection will be adopted soon.

The roll structure, like the canopy, has recently been tested with loads being fired at it to simulate an impact. The main challenge for the innovators of F1 will be to produce a structure which sits forward of the driver to protect him, but which allows him unrestricted visibility

One of the leading figures in the F1 Technical Working Group is McLaren’s Paddy Lowe, “Obviously, a driver ideally wants nothing in the way but in the same way we drive a road car with pillars, you just get used to it, don’t you?,” he said after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

“We started the project a year ago. Personally, I think something is inevitable because it is the one big exposure we’ve got. How many times have you looked at things including today and thought, that was lucky? One day it won’t be lucky and we’ll all be sitting there going: ‘We should have done something about that.'”

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Yesterday's crash was a near-miss for F1 and a wake up call. We only have to think back at the terrible Marussia testing accident involving Maria De Villota - had there been a driver-protecting structure she may have just walked away from the incident, or had a better chance to avoid head injury.

F1 will still be great, even if cars have a safety structure or canopy, we just need the engineers to some up with the best/safest possible solution. The sooner the better really.


If Marussia would not have placed a truck 3 meters from the pitbox with the loading ramp down head high Maria De Villota would be fine today.

All F1 drivers have done misjudgements like that this season but fortunately they did not have a sharp ax head high in front of them with a 700kg car pushing them into it on a wet track.

That was not a freak incident. It was a serious lack of judgement from all who was nearby. A 7 year old could see the extreme danger in that placement.


I would put money that every team in the paddock at some point has run an aero test with a transporter in that configuration not far away. Marussia, like Caterham and others in the past were running the test at an airfield that where the car drives past planes with wings, undercarriage etc that could do similar damage.

I'm not saying it shouldn't have happened, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.


??? Never disputed that - only saying it was a case where a protection for the driver would have avoided injury DESPITE all you described. Isnt that the topic we are discussing here? Pros and cons of having extra protection?


What they need to do is add bodywork in front of the rear wheels so you don't get the interlocking wheels which send cars flying into the air.


If I was looking to resolve this I'd go with some kind of roll hoop on each sidepod (so cars can't land on the driver or slide over the cockpit area) and perhaps a small screen at the front to deflect objects from the front. From a non-techy POV that would stop the Massa incident, make Alonsos less of a worry etc. I think if you close the cockpit over you're adding a whole different set of risks in place of those that are solved.


That would prevent SOME, but not all interlocking wheel incidents. The only way to prevent all of them is via 'nerf bars' or full bodies.


Indy did that, but cars still flew this year. I think the whole tyre would have to be covered.


I hope they don't introduce cockpit covers in F1. Open wheel open cockpit racing is part of the excitement of F1. Yes there is an element of danger however many other safety measures have been introduced over the years and as it says on the back of the ticket, "Motor racing is dangerous."

Another way of looking at this is the percentage of injuries to drivers over the years where having a protective cockpit would have prevented or lessened the injury. Since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 where Felipe Massa was very seriously injured by a piece of Barrichello's car hitting him in the head there have been 57 F1 races held. With 24 drivers in each race and an average of around 50-60 laps per race plus qualifying and practice sessions, that's a lot of laps where there's potential for danger to the driver. Statistically the type of injuries that a cockpit cover could prevent have a very minor chance of happening in the first place.

F1 is not the only sport where the drivers are exposed to some degree, think of all the other open cockpit formulas, as well as motorcycle racing. I can't see the likes of Valentino Rossi cruising around on a bike with a roof just as I can't see F1 being F1 with closed cockpits.


“Motor racing is dangerous.”

That's not a good enough excuse. No good enough. Could you imagine if this excuse was used every time? Think of Senna’s death.

After the death of Senna, is 'motor racing is dangerous' good enough reason not to implement new safety features (which since we haven't seen a fatality in F1).


While I agree that there is an element of risk and danger that adds to the excitement, I don't see how you can advocate doing nothing to prevent a serious injury or death, when the technology exists and it has been identified as an issue.


"...I don’t see how you can advocate doing nothing to prevent a serious injury or death, when the technology exists..."

Agreed. We should also totally enclose the wheels, put a roof over the driver's head, given them a windscreen and make sure they have plenty of wiggle room inside. Kind of like tin top racing, only somehow better... While we're at it, we should also speed limit the cars. I think 20 or so km/h should be slow enough to make it safe.

I mean, how could anyone advocate against this when the technology exists to prevent serious injury or death??

Or better yet...

The drivers shouldn't even be in the cars at all! That way there's no way they could get hurt! They could drive the cars remotely, whilst sitting in a nice padded room, with soothing air conditioning and swedish masseurs in case their dainty little shoulders get sore holding the steering wheel!

After all, how could anyone advocate against this when the technology exists and it could prevent serious injury or even death!!


Sarcasm fail.


Agreed. We should also totally enclose the wheels, put a roof over the driver’s head, given them a windscreen

is in fact exactly what should be done.


Granted, nobody holds a gun to the driver's heads to get them in the cars, but what a selfish, thoughtless, load of twaddle. As Paddy Lowe said, "How many times have you looked at things including today and thought, that was lucky? One day it won’t be lucky and we’ll all be sitting there going: ‘We should have done something about that.’”. Not your head on the chopping block is it mate?


+1 My sentiments exactly


Utilizing stats like that is totally disingenuous. Obviously the likelihood on any one lap is very low but these are the type of accidents that need to only occur once to ruin a career or a life.

A much more appropriate stat would be to look at the likelihood of a serious accident over the lifetime of each driver. How many near-misses have there been in F1 alone over the last 5 years across the limited rotating cast? A 1 in 40 chance every 5 years would be too high for most racers, given the trade-offs.

At the very least leave the decision up to the racers. Fans should have no say in this.


Another way to look at this is that, despite the line about this being worked on for a year, F1 is demonstrating itself to be totally reactive once again.

The type of incident Alonso experienced on Sunday is not new to F1. The risk has been amply demonstrated by the likes of Derek Daly's crash at Monaco in 1980, Tambay's crash at Monaco in 1986 and countless others. The accidents to Massa in '09 and Alonso this week just put it on public display.

Is it wrong to be reactive? Not necessarily, but they must balance the need to be 'seeing to do the right thing' and to cover themselves accountability-wise, with the danger of changing one of the fundamental things that make F1 what it is.


Good point. Are they going to ban MotoGP at the same time they introduce cockpit shrouds? Should be fun in a sweltering race in Malaysia.


Air conditioning?


It would be much simpler to shroud the tyres - and they could probably do that next year rather than 2014.

Cars don't usually get airborne unless they touch tyres.


It would be easier to get rid of Maldonado


Except that Grosjean's car wasnt launched because he and Lewis crossed wheels, but because he rode over the back of Perez Sauber. Shroudes wouldnt do a thing in that instance.

IndyCar is proving that though it helps, enclosing the wheels isnt a fool proof method of keeping the cars on the ground.


It's not open wheeler racing then, is it?


But that would be sports prototypes, wouldn't it?

The LeMans cars look not unlike F1 cars with their clothes off.

I don't think the public will wear it.


You are right, Nigel. I posted on the Grosjean penalty article that Indycar have gone a long way towards this and some of the designs look very good.

I still think F1 needs more driver protection. A single horizontal hoop above the driver's head that could retract into the airbox would protect against flying wheels and It wouldn't matter that much if the sides of the cockpit come high enough to fully protect the driver's head from side impacts. it's about time F1 switched to electronic LCD mirrors with images from various cameras on the car brought up on screen automatically by proximity and motion sensors. That would remove the need for the driver or have side vision.


Or a Head up Display (HUD) built into the visor of the helmet, showing all the necessary information required by the driver. This could be the future in a decade or so.


It is not just airborne cars though is it? There are wheels and pieces of bodywork all of which become projectiles during an accident and are all potential threats to a drivers head.

Enclosing the wheels will not prevent the cars becoming airborne. Ant Davidson's Le Mans car still managed to get airborne at this years Le Mans. Both of the cars which collided in that accident were close wheeled.


You reminded me of the 30 minutes runup to the Belgian GP. Ant Davidson was explaining a short video of how pieces from a damaged car running in front took out the right mirror and a nose winglet of JB's car in a particular race.

I have no doubt that these objects and carbon fibre shards could puncture race suit and skin.


When you consider what the fatality rate used to be, the modern F1 car is incredibly safe. A difficult decision for the powers that be.

If you don't go down the canopy route, what's the likelyhood of a repeat accident similar to Massa's, which could have been fatal.

It's all about probabilities.

I agree with alot of the comments about the lack of discipline and penalties applied in the lower formulae. With the exception of Monaco, you can only lose a race at the first corner.


Did you see how many wheels came off and were bouncing around despite wheel tethers this weekend? No matter what the probabilities are, if you see a potentially fatal situation and you do nothing about it you're being completely negligent. And I'm not talking about this in a litigious sense, but rather a moral one.


I noticed the same thing with the wheels coming off. Does the FIA ever investigate why the tethers failed - were they 'to spec' or are some of the teams fudging thing here?


I agree but I wasn't suggesting doing nothing. My view was that if you go for the roll hoop rather than the canopy, the head can still be hit, as happened to Massa.


OK, make the cockpit's a safety environment for drivers then call it the F1 saloon class. Then you'll find drivers exploiting that safety zone and driving as if they were in dodgem's more so then they do at present.

Thing is, road's cars and traffic management in an everyday situation has removed the obligation of ordinary drivers to think at all and accidents/deaths still occur. Experiments in the Netherlands on removal of the boundaries between cars and pedistrians show that both parties modify their behaviour when the certainties are removed and neither can have confidence of having a absolute right to any part of a thoroughfare. Resulting in far fewer accidents then before.

So what is required in F1 isn't more safety measures but increased vulnerability so the madcap manoeuvres and aggression behind the wheel is replaced by skill and a sense of one's own mortality coupled with a sensor that cuts out the ECU in the event of a minot impact leaving drivers that can't race without contact fuming in the runoff's.


The difference between the study you identify and F1 is that the study is performed on the public roads, where people are not racing to get across a finish line in first place and in doing so taking risks.

If you want to look at a study into "increased vulnerability" in F1 you should maybe look up the number of fatalities that occurred in F1 in the 50's, 60's and 70's.


I don't think you'd see more reckless driving. 'To finish first, first you must finish.'


Tell that to Grosjean or Maldo


I'm all for safety innovations in the sport; I saw my hero Ayrton Senna die and I have no wish to see another driver killed.

But playing devil's advocate for a moment here, won't canopies and covering the wheels just turn the F1 machines into Le Man cars?


I would actually be in favour of that. One of the things I have come to dislike about F1 is that there really isn't any migration of technology form F1 cars to road cars like what used to happen in the past. All the attention is on fiddly little aero dynamic pieces that have no equivalent on a road car.


Just look at Red Bull X2010 for an example of well executed canopy design! Honestly, I think canopies might look very attractive - after all, they come from fighting jets and F1 cars are considered ground jets.


Here's another way of looking at the issue. Currently it is very difficult to appreciate what the driver is actually doing because he is pratically buried under protective covers already. What if a canopy could be devised such that it would instead reveal driver activity? See for example


A bit different there, Newey designed that car a bit like a prototype, so the screen is an integrated part of the monocoque. Here it'll be an add on and required to take a certain load.


yes! despite the Red Bull X2010/1 concept being closer to an LMP than an out-and-out Formula race car, the canopy is and was the best feature that I can see would be easily implemented into modern F1.

For those who've not seen it, google the car ( it was a future no holes barred F1 concept for the GT5 Videogame designed by Adrian Newey), as the canopy from what I remember had been designed to emulate those of fighter jets, with special anti-mist/fog properties, quick bolt release and the same deformation properties as those found on Fighter jets.


With all this research, and the proposed roll structure, I'm curious as to whether or not F1 has examined the USAC Sprint, Silver Crown and Midget racers. They're not going slow in those cars, they're in close quarters and the structures used are demonstrably effective - you can't watch one of those races and not see a significant car-on-car impact, even cars cartwheeling over the catch fence, and drivers emerging unscathed.

I know that the F1 world would have strong esthetic and aerodynamic concerns in adopting USAC practice, but, like the HANS, safety solutions don't all start in F1.


I think the larger problem is that they're not dealing with un-safe driving habits. Prior to Spa, Grosjean had 6 or 7 1st lap incidents this year. That they were not dealt with is the real problem, and they still haven't been dealt with. A one-race ban is nothing in comparison with 7 incidents in 12 races. He should have been banned for the rest of the season.



Like how I've said as well in other posts.


Finaly someone uses a brain, well said mate and i would just add that no ammount of safety gear will stop Grosjean or Maldonado being uterly stupid and reckless what they need to do is cut this behaviour of certain drivers with penalties that will makae them stop doing such things after all run to the first corner is the most dangerous part of the f1 race. He did the very same thing in Monaco when he pushed Shumi in the wall and penalty was nill what is even more frightening is his attitude afterwords, in his interviews he seams incapable to comprehend the fact that what he did is wrong and unnaceptable yet the FIA chose not to punish him so in the end they should be held accountable for luck of consistency in dishing out penalties and for not recognising dangerous driving...


Grosjean accepted responsibitlity for the Spa crash, it's Maldonado who never admits when he's wrong.

Why must people always over react. Such startline accidents have been far fewer for quite a few years now when they used to be more common. A 1 race ban is appropriate and for a driver there is nothing more poiniant than sitting on the sidelines watching someone else in your car.


I remember Schumacher-Liuzzi in Abu Dhabi last year.

That was also close to a fatal accident.

After Senna's tragic accident the sport became much safer but I believe racing is still dangerous and will always be despite of all the efforts made by the FIA.


As I said, USAC has long dealt with this issue. This is the latest version, on the newest generation car. Google will bring up many more examples.

To me, the question is, what happens in a fire situation. But, as can be seen here, the concept, crude as it may seem, is effective.

Of course, no system can be 100 percent effective.


Most of those crashes looked like they were due to the cars high center of gravity.


"To me, the question is, what happens in a fire situation."

Exactly. Even if they come up with a system that will allow the drivers to escape from a fire safely in, say, 99% or all conceivable situations, they going to look very silly if that one freak accident occurs and a driver is unable to escape in time from the covered car.


I can remember in the 60s when both road car drivers and racing drivers thought that wearing seat belts was more dangerous because they might get stuck in the car. Seriously, at that time, many racers thought it was safer to be thrown clear in a crash than be trapped in a car.


Maybe its time to move away from F1 cars using road car fuel and onto maybe ethanol which is used in many other formulas these days - they don't have the same problem of spontaneous fire balls when fuel tanks rupture with that stuff.


When was the last time a fuel tank ruptured in F1? We've seen many incidents over the last 20+ years where cars have been domolished without a tank problem, which these days is situated inside the monocoque. Besides, I've seen plenty of fireballs in IndyCar from their ethanol fuel.

As someone that considers current cars underpowered (I want those 950hp V10's back!) I really dont want to see a switch to a fuel that would reduce power further.


It is inevitable that a structure around the drivers head will be introduced in the near future. Anyone who works in industry must be aware of the Heinrich Near Miss Pyramid. F1 has had a number of near misses and with Massa in Hungary a serious injury. Somewhere in the future there will be a fatality.


The difference is that in industry you want to eliminate the risk entirely, or at the very least minimise it to the greatest possible degree.

Think about this question carefully - do you actually want to do that in motor racing?


Yes - you want to eliminate the risk of death or injury as much as possible. Drivers will continue to take risks - but the most they should lose is their car. I don't think any of todays F1 drivers are racing and considering risks along the line of "either I get past, or I die".


That's pretty dramatic and I'm sure no drivers think that way.

Mario Andretti once said in the 1970's that if you could eliminate all dangers from the sport then most drivers would retire. It stands to reason doesn't it? Why to people skydive, basejump, downhill ski, or compete in the Isle of Man TT? Danger is part of the appeal, and that's where it differs from industry.

I'm certainly not against safety advancements, but they shouldn't change the fabric of what F1 is.


One idea would be to extend the air intake/roll cage forward to cover the top of

the drivers head. The drivers head would be protected from side inpacts fairly well also and there would be no interference with visability.


How would you get into the car then?


By leaning forward. The remaining space between the air intake and

stearing bulkhead should be enough.

And / or having the forward extension of the air intake detachable.


They're Grand Prix drivers, not contortionists. They'd have to bend right over to stand any chance of getting in to the car, and the taller guys like Button would have a real struggle. Non starter this.


you put them in as babies and then they grow up (eg. Lewis!) haha only kidding, please don't hate me! 🙂


This is always going to be an emotive subject, but I just can't stomach the thought of seeing another serious injury or fatality broadcast live on TV to the whole world. If the governing body and designers can help to lessen this possibility then it's their duty to do so.

Yes, motorsport is dangerous and that's part of the allure for some, but I've seen people die right in front of my eyes. Too many to mention in too many formulas. For the ill-informed who claim that the prospect of injury is exciting, I can only assume you've not had to face tragedy in your lives or have become so hardened to it that you do not represent normal opinions. Danger of death is not entertainment or good business, both of which F1 claims to excel at.

I for one will be pleased to see F1 leading the way yet again for driver safety. And anyway, F1 cars with canopies could look way cool 🙂


I don't think anyone enjoys seeing an injury, but they do enjoy seeing risk. Would a totally risk-free F1 be as exciting to watch? Would the drivers even find it satisfying?

Think of the amazing history of F1 - Fangio, Clark, Stewart and Villeneuve, and the amazing story of the comeback of Niki Lauda. Could you honestly say their legends are completely and inseparably intertwined with the risk they were exposed to and the bravery they had?


I understand your sentiment, but times and attitudes change. As you know, a couple of the drivers you mentioned died on the track. Another nearly did. The other two had some horrific accidents.

Do people enjoy seeing risk? I'm not sure that most actually do. I think they like to feel amazed, impressed, in awe, get a feeling of watching something that they would never be capable of doing. Risk is certainly a part of this, but skill and commitment are much larger factors.

Drive anything at 200mph and you're taking a risk, no doubt, but we are - or should be - morally obliged to do what we can to send these men (and women) home safely to their families every weekend.

What I'm saying is, risk is a symptom, not a cause.


Well, now you come to mention it, I speak from experience. I'm an ex-racing driver and I have travelled very quickly round Eau Rouge and countless other classic corners. Not quite at F1 speeds, granted, but quickly, arguably bravely, definitely riskfully, whatever.

I cannot speak for everyone who chooses to do this type of thing, but I will assert that for me and my fellow drivers, for most by far the overriding driving force was to be the quickest and/or the winner (subtly different goals). Risk was a necessary element of achieving success, but it was not the reason for doing it.

In fact and somewhat incongruously, quite the opposite is true. It is all about exerting control at the very edge of feasibility. Managing risk, not flaunting it.

I think we're sort of agreeing in most respects, but I maintain that now is the time for canopies. As Paddy Lowe articulately pointed out, too many times in recent years have we seen a driver's head in a close call and said, "Ohh, that was lucky..." but one day it won't be lucky.


I very much do believe people enjoy seeing risk, and I think the amazement you describe comes from the combination of skill and bravery (ie risk).

Speed is only part of the story - no doubt you've traveled down a runway at close to 200mph, or been on a bullet train, and not felt the same as a driver hurtling towards Eau Rouge at the same speed.

Why do people talk about Webber's pass on Alonso last year with such amazement? Because going side by side into a corner like that is fraught with danger. It exhibited skill, certainly, but it's the potential consequences of it going wrong that is undeniably part of why people look upon moves like that with such awe.

Please don't forget - it's motor racing. We are morally obliged to send workers home from their jobs safely to their families. F1 drivers have chosen to do what they do, with risk being part of the appeal - just as in an adrenaline sport. The FIA need to eliminate needless risk, and they have done a great job at that. But surely there's a point when things go too far? For me, that point is when you change what F1 is all about.


Of course I meant 'aren't' in the last paragraph


To me putting a canopy on an F1 is akin to saying F1 cars will from now on be three wheelers. It just isn’t F1. I’m sure all the F1 drivers know the risks they take and if they want overhead protection they can move to other formulae. Yes I think safety is very important, crucial even, but I would not like F1 to be changed in this way. Can you imagine MotoGP with bikes that have four wheels or that have an all-round canopy protecting the rider? I can’t – at least not without laughing. And I can’t imagine F1 cars without an open cockpit. Racing will always have an element of risk, it is one of the many reasons it is exciting to watch. Overhead protection cannot keep a driver perfectly safe. Look at what happened to Robert Kubika, look at what happened to Anthony Davidson who could have become paralyzed. What happens if a F1 car has a canopy and ends up upside down and on fire? How is the driver going to escape? Ejector seat? Escape hatch at the bottom of the car? Where would the safety design stop? When the driver is sitting at a sofa and remote controlling the car? I hope canopies will never be a part of F1.


This is the reaction that I cringe about... To ME and lots of others, F1 is an open wheel and open cockpit formula and would NOT be "F1" with wheel guards or canopies..... It would be well...

Bottom line is that they need to stop the out of line moves from all drivers - including more senior drivers :-). The penalties are trivial for the most part in F1.


If you check the propensity of accidents it is not the "senior" drivers who are doing it. It's guys like Grosjean and Maldonado.

On the contrary Schumacher, Raikkonen, and Vettel seemed able to challenge and fight for places with nary an incident occurring.


I was trying to keep specific names out of it because someone picks a drivers side and the point is lost in fan debate but with that risk 🙂 .....

Yeah and while I generally agree (that dice between Kimi and Vettle was good, hard and still in control) - experience avoids a lot of the bad scenarios but not always....

Michael's move against Rubin's a little while ago with the pit wall was a classic example of what I mean that deserved a FAR greater penalty to me (and before someone says it... I'm a long time Shu fan okay). I agree that Maldonado is someone that needs a serious slap and I'm glad they ban Grosjean for that stupid move.


Garbage! While I'm the level sure of respect between drivers would improve (though some drivers already behave impeccably in my opinion), I'm sure such a level existed back in the 60s and 70s, yet that didn't stop the multiple deaths a year on average.

You want to make things more vulnerable (with today's increased speeds as well) and then when there's a mechanical failure or freak accident and a driver dies, you'll just shrug your shoulders and go, oh well?! And especially given that we now have the technology and social and political development to already have such safety in place, which didn't exist decades past.

And your case study of road users in the Netherlands can't compare to motor racing. You're comparing dopey drivers and pedestrians, not paying attention, drunk etc, with professional racing drivers who's aim is to push the limits and have much greater awareness (well most of them!) and reaction skills than Mr Smith in his Focus.


This post was meant to be in response to comment no.6.


Regarding the notion that extra margins of safety lead to carelessness, that might be true in the world of pedestrians and street cars but this is F1, and it is an

entirely different situation. The speeds alone are so much higher that parts which

come off cars can become a lethal projectile. So the idea that it would be best not to improve safety is misguided and simply wrong.

Regarding the idea that the experience for the spectator will be somehow degraded if the driver is given head protection, this is not necessarily true; if a

clear canopy is used the spectator will still be able to see as much of the driver as can be seen today, which is not a lot. Denying the drivers protection for the

reason that spectating will be marginally less enjoyable indicates a lack of concern for one's fellow man ( the driver ) which I find profoundly disturbing

at a minimum. One more dead or horribly injured driver is one too many,

and that is the only position a civilized human being can take when the relative merits of spectator enjoyment vs. horrible injury to a driver are compared.

Frankly some of you people seem not to value human life, and that is something you need to sit down and think about for a long time, until you realize your



If you honestly believe that then I assume you must also agree that all forms of racing be stopped and road cars ban? As would most forms of transportation due to the risk - planes crash at regular frequency and the road deaths each year are HUGE in all countries.

If not then I would argue we just have different views of the risk But please, spare us the moral outrage.


Once again F1 shows us it is the pinnacle of... crashing out a gabillion dollars-worth of hi-tech machinery at the 1st corner!

And its luckily for them that all those 'other', low-tech, lesser formulas can learn from F1.

All those lesser series - like IndyCars, LMP, NASCAR, and so forth - really need to learn how to avoid all those 1st corner crashes they have.

Err... wait, when *was the last one any of those had?

Yeah, F1 is the "pinnacle" alright; the pinnacle of hubris!


It would be cool if drivers had audio feedback giving them better spatial awareness outside their field of vision. Would be an excellent technology for road cars too.


I remember Sato used to have an Indy style spotter telling him who was ware around him while he drove at BAR. He seemed OK on the first lap, it was later on he used to have the incidents.


Proximity arrows incorporated into a Head Up Display within the visor.


Interesting idea.


Hi James,

In all the impact testing that is done on the cars, is a crash test dummy used? Or is Maldonado contracted exclusively to Williams?

No, but seriously, do they use dummies to assess driver damage?


Is a forward roll hoop the answer? If, as in Spa, the "incoming object" is oblique from the rear, couldn't the hoop direct the "incoming object" into the cockpit rather than stopping it.

And on that basis it would seem, only a full canopy is the answer. With all the associated problems like cockpot temperature, getting in and out, and releasing the canopy when inverted. What happens in a "Kimi - Kers battery" situation that results in an internal cockpit fire?

I'm still not convinced that idea's submitted so far would mean greater safety.


I think it is fine as it is.

If they would have used a canopy Alonso might been out for the season or worse. You cannot design a canopy to prevent a full car carshing into it with no damage.

It would have struck the canopy and then the canopy would smash Alonso with all the weight of the car.

That would be serious and lifethreatening.

Also say goodbye to wet races.

Motorsport is inherently unsafe.

There is a limit to what you can do and they have suceeded to make it extremally safe but one day something bad will happen.

It freaks out F1 people just due to the long safety streak.

Watch Moto GP and they have drivers leaving mid season every year and they are okay with it. It comes with racing.

If they can find a good safe solution I am 100% for it but I cannot see any workable solution. Jet fighters needs it for birds not crashes with 700kg structures.

If it feels safe doesn't make it so.

Is there less major injuries in closed vehicle racing?

Not at all. Kubica is one example. There are hundreds.

We should be lucky F1 have escaped those accidents.

Imagine Webbers car flying into the public instead of landing before when he hit Heikki. Should we ban floors or should we accept that freak incidents always will happen in motorsport.

Knee jerk decisions tends to be wrong most of the time otherwise the decisions would have been made already.


Why would wet races be over? Prototypes and GT's do fine as they have tear off strips on the screen and their coated with somehting that makes the water slide off easier.

Also, dont compare sundays accident with Kubicas, we're talking about the protection of a drivers head from objects landing on/ ramming it. A barrel roll in rallying, where most cars hold up extremely well, or a back flip in LMP's (Webber walked away fine from that back in '99) would be a much better comparison.


Agree to ErikW.F1 needsafer drivers instead of safer cockpits...The canopy could be the end of F1.

Are we really convinced that Maldonado,Petrov or Grosjean are capable of driving fast and safely a F1 car?Or is it just money and more money what you need to become a F1 racer?Money is spoiling this fantastic sport,not lack of safety.Robert Kubica is out of F1 because a rally accident,but in Canada he suffered an impressing accident that would have beeen fatal some years ago.Why shouldnt we focus in security of DRIVING ?


excellent comment!


Teams and drivers will have to make a choice...

Stay with F1 'as is' or move to LMP1...

Any compromise would look ridiculous.


James, any link to a picture/mockup of what the cars would look like?


O Paddy Lowecsain only that they look 'ugly' at the moment in prototype


I think whatever they come up with it won't be much uglier than stepped noses. As long as we have close and exciting racing the public will get used to it. It will still be some of the best drivers in the world driving some of the most technologically interesting race cars.


Risk of injury to drivers needs to be tackled by enforcing driver discipline rather than closing the drivers in. If you close F1 drivers in with a high tech cockpit, what happens to other open cockpit formulae? There are thousands of open cockpit race cars in action throughout the world and it would be unrealistic to extend new closed cockpit safety regulations to all of them; it would kill motorsport.


As much as yes there is an issue with regards to safety, we have to be careful here. There are plenty of cons that come with the "two main ideas" come up with to protect drivers in such an instance i.e. the canopy or some sort of cage.

The canopy has somewhat already been flogged to extremes: heat containment issues. What about if smoke got into the cockpit? Even if that is minimal and unlikely...Nonetheless so have been such incidences like at Spa and the Coulthard-Wurz incident at Oz 07. Then what happens when the car is in a crash or rolls? The canopies would surely need some sort of quick release mechanism to make it nearly as quick and easy to rescue or allow the driver to evacuate the scene of the accident.

Mind you the additional pros alongside the protection from foreign objects would be some additional roll protection and the aerodynamicists would like it as would some of the cooling guys in the engine department.

Based on those kinds of cons, the cage idea perhaps seems a bit better, but then again aerodynamicists may try to get some aerofoil profiles involved somehow (again an extreme scenario, but have to prepare for any possible eventuality). As Domenicali mentioned in the autosport article, they'd have to put in stringest regulations on it and additionally, what if the cage buckled into the cockpit area in a crash? Nasty result surely...

Whatever is decided if there is to be some sort of "additional" driver protection, the regulations need to be very clear and the working groups need to be completely satisfied with them. Conversely: is there any way the bodies can be shaped in such a way that it tries to "deflect" away from the driver much like how the current head protections work now or possibly something additional or similar to the roll hoop?


I fully agree with Erik W!

F1 is dangerous and everyone should accept that, there's only so much that you can do. They've improved the safety aspect massively, but they should just accept that such things are inherent to the sport. Why go cry about it now? Alonso is fine and a cockpit would've made things much worse. Part of the appeal of motorsport is the aspect of danger, we see the drivers as heroes, cause they risk their lives every race. I'll go even further and say that f1 has become too safe. Not the cars, but the circuits. By creating kilometer long asphalt run off areas you ruin some of the excitement. In the old days, if you went off track at Blanchimont or Pouhon, you ended up in the gravel and you lost serious time or a DNF, nowadays they go faster if they leave the track (Vettel overtook 2 people by going wide in Blanchimont) The margin for error is too big in my opinion.

Watching cars go around the old Nurburgring was nothing less then awesomeness.

Nobody cares seeing these cars go around a wide Herman Tilke circuit (the only good track he created is Turkey, all others are massively boring)

All the real fans get extra excited to see these cars at Spa, Suzuka, Monaco, the old Silverstone track, all other are just boring!!!

So I hope they won't go further with ruining this fantastic sport...!


The big thing about the Tilke tracks is that they don't have any consequences for going off track any more. You can drive up in the stands, go out in the parking lot, drive into town and get a bite. No consequences. That isn't road racing. I'm not asking for drivers to be hurt but I would have no problem with sensors that killed the engine if you went entirely off track. The gravel pits at least used to trap a lot of cars.


Whilst it is good that there is talk of improving driver safety, is this not a bit of a knee-jerk reaction? Whilst this could have been a very serious incident, I do not recall there being a similar response to the incident involving David Coulthard and Alexander Wurz at Melbourne 2007 (which was a much closer call than yesterday's crash The only possible reason that I can fathom, and this may upset a few a people, is that yesterday's crash nearly resulted in the loss/serious injury of a double world champion, and currently the best driver on the grid. I have recently been reading David Tremayne's book the Science of Safety, where he states that at Imola 1994, if Roland Ratzenberger's accident had occurred in isolation, it would have been put down to an unfortunate incident, and would not have resulted in the quick intervention by the FIA to improve safety measures (although it did result in the reformation of the GPDA). However, when Ayrton Senna was killed the following day, it was then felt that the regulations had to be changed in order to improve driver safety; with this being compounded by the subsequent the incidents involving Karl Wendlinger at Monaco, Roberto Moreno at Barcelona and Pedro Lamy at Silverstone.

With regard to enclosed canopies, I agree that will result in visibility issues, particularly in wet conditions. Baring this in mind, I feel the best solution, is to have two bars that are attached above the driver’s headrest, which slope down and are attached to the front aperture of the cockpit (similar to a roll cage). Although this would create a blind spot, it is a compromise. Also, this type of system could have resulted in preventing other type fatal incidents when a car is turned upside down; such as the one that befell Dan Wheldon in IRL last year.


It's hardly a knee jerk reaction when the work the FIA technical group has been doing in this area has been going on for years. There has been a lot of public interest in this area since Massa's incident with the spring and the loss of one of the GP2 drivers when an errant tyre bounced off his helmet and killed him.

Suggesting it is just because of the weekend's incident involving Alonso is ignoring the facts.


One more thing that I forgot to state, is that it would be far better to educate driver's better in the junior formulae, in order to prevent the kind of incidents that occurred on Sunday in the first place. There is a danger that if cars are made too safe, that drivers may drive with impunity knowing that they are going to walk away from an accident.


I am not complaining about change of aesthetics of Formula One cars, and am not disagreeing that the sport should not be made safer. However, having a canopy fitted to Alonso's car car would not have prevented serious injury, as current tests involve the use of a 20 kg wheel; which is much less than a 600 kg Formula One car This is why I believe that a form of roll cage, which would be an integral part of the chassis, would be a much better solution.

With regard to Henry Surtees' Formula 2 incident and Felipe Massa's at Budapest; these were two very unfortunate and unlucky events where debris from another car entered the cockpit. Bearing in mind that these incidents occurred over 3 years ago (a long in terms of R&D), if it were that imperative, measures to mitigate these unfortunate events would already have been introduced. I was merely citing 1994, as multiple incidents had occurred, resulting in death and serious injury (most notably Senna's), which resulted in immediate intervention by the FIA.


I'm not talking about the work going on.

I'm referring to fans complaining on this site about the cars' appearance possibly changing. The complaints are a knee jerk reaction.


Pity I wasn't responding to you.


The cockpit sides were extended after the Coulthard/Wurz incident.

Given that they've been working on this since the Surtees/Massa incidents of 2009, I think we can be pretty certain that this isn't a knee jerk reaction.


Yes, you are right regarding the Coulthard/Wurz incident; that somewhat slip me by


Sports cars in Le Mans, etc. have canopies. Last time I looked they raced in the rain too. In the rain at night. I'm afraid a lot of the complaining are knee jerk reactions to change.


What happens when it rains if F1 cars have some sort of fully enclosed transparent canopy? Windscreen wipers? Dunno about that....

I think they are trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. Massa's accident was one in a million, Alonso DID NOT get hurt at Spa.

What's next - cover the wheels and call them sports cars? To me if they introduce canopies not only will they be introducing all sorts of practical problems raised by others in this forum, but they will be corrupting the heritage of Grand prix racing.


F1 cars once didn't have all the aero gadgets. F1 cars once didn't have ECUs. F1 cars once didn't have HANS devices. Years ago you could see the driver's torso. A couple of years ago people were saying the 'snowplough' look of the new front/rear wings was the end of F1, and this year the platypus nose was the end of F1 (both for aesthetic reasons). And yet we're still here because we watch it for the best racers with the best technology (and probably for a bit of political intrigue thrown in).

We all accepted (maybe reluctantly) the changes to the F1 formula since the 50's, and the racing is better now than it has been for a very long time. Trust me, you will enjoy the new formula too.


No to cockpits... I don't say that for effect but rather that is part of open wheel racing. Drivers have always been exposed, it is what it is... I really hope they do not over react, we have seen lots of cars airborne through the years


My thoughts:

1. A larger roll hoop would not have prevented Massa's accident.

2. The weight issue of the canopy is irrelevant if all cars have it. If anything it would create competition amongst the teams to provide lighter, stronger materials. This might see benefits for other industries.

3. This would need to be extended across all open wheel categories to have a meaningful effect.

4. I can't help but think that the ridiculously small mirrors are also playing a part. If Grosjean in this instance had been able to see that Hamilton was being squeezed, then he may not have moved across as far has he did.


I think that there are three crucial questions to be answered.

1. Are we willing to accept in the future another serious injury or even a fatality in F1, because of the driver's head being exposed? For this is definitely going to happen some day, sooner or later. In such an occasion, would the F1-world be in the position to stand the pressure from the press, the internet community, the fans and the critics, who would point out that nothing were done to improve safety?

Most importantly, is it ethical to accept such a danger without doing anything about it, although we can, because "this is just the nature of racing"?

2. Would the proposed solutions (canopy, roll structure) offer really better protection in total (that means an improvement of safety resulting by comparing the benefits of each solution to the inherent additional dangers that brings with it)?

In order to answer this question, it would be better in my view to conduct an analysis of all the accidents that have occurred during the recent years and led to an injury (or could have led to one), to see the outcome (that means an analysis of the injuries/fatalities that would/could have been avoided due to the safety measure taken, in comparison to the additional injuries that might have occurred because of issues being inherent with it - more about this matter later).

3. Could there not be any other alternative solutions that would also improve safety without the hassles of the two proposed solutions? For example (and without being an expert or a mechanic), what about an extendible (retractable) roll bar (like the one used in convertibles), that would activate if certain parameters were met (g/gyroscopic forces, object closing fast to the driver etc.)?

At this point, let's take a separate look at the two proposed solutions (canopy-roll cage) and their inherent issues in my opinion (apart from the problems described in the article).

First of all the canopy.

The positives: Would in all probability have protected Massa, Maria de Villota and Henry Surtees from being seriously injured/killed, not so sure though about Alonso in case of an impact from Grosjean's car.

Additional issues to be considered:

What if the damage to car were extensive, like in Alonso's case, leading to damage to the structure of the canopy and it not being possible to be released? Unless the cockpit were totally separated from the rest of the car (but then the driver needs to get air to breath as well!), in such a case Alonso would have been trapped inside the car with extremely dangerous fumes getting inside the cockpit. In addition, what if a car turns upside-down and the driver needs promptly to get out? How could he escape as quickly as possible in case of fire, dangerous position of the car etc., or how could the rescuers safely extract him in case of injury?

Then let's take a look at the roll structure.

The positives: Would have in all probability protected de Villota/Surtees, not so sure though about Massa. Also not sure if - just like the canopy - it would have protected Alonso, were had he been hit by another car.

Issues that need to be resolved.

The driver might once again get trapped in case of a roll-over (unless no side bars exist).

Moreover, we have to take into consideration the additional accidents that may occur because of the loss of driver's visibility.

This is not a risk to be underestimated in my view. Visibility while driving is crucial (let's not forget that a lot of accidents in public roads are caused because of lack of it), all the more in high speed racing like F1, where centimetres of difference in the position of cars can result to a huge accident.

In conclusion, it is impossible to have a win-win situation (that means only benefits without any drawbacks) in my opinion. If improving safety is of top priority, no matter how different the cars might look, then a careful analysis of the benefits-losses in relation to safety (and extended testing of course) would make the situation clearer. Additionally, alternative solutions (like retractable roll-bars) should also be examined.


No. It's not Driver Protection that is the issue but Driver Education.

In all the years hence guys like Hakkinen, Frentzen, Alesi, and others raced pretty close wherever they were on the grid but it was rare to see collisions with the same frequency as for the likes of Hamilton, Grosjean, or Maldonado.

Even Ricardo Zonta usually did a good job of things.

They don't need cockpits. Drivers just need to be more aware of things and keep others in mind.

With guys like Maldonado, the 3-way pass on Camel Straight (MSC, HAK, ZON) would have resulted in a strike out for all three cars.

It's the drivers, not the cars.


*Totally* agree NJ.


Slightly off-topic here, but thought people might find this article interesting -

We may see "wooden" Formula 1 cars someday.


They were so lucky to walk out of it. The time has clearly come to protect the drivers heads. Will the death of a driver be the catalyst for really making the step or will the sport get to it first?


Qualified engineers already know that a canopy can work on an F1 car. It is not a hard technical problem. Given the deaths of Senna and John Surtees' son, and the terrible injury to Massa, implementing canopies would not be a knee jerk decision, or anything close to it. Rather it would be a decision of the "better late than never" variety.


Imagine the roll hoop/air intake above the drivers head was wider (helmet width) and protruded towards the front of the car, say 15 inches. This would still be classed as open seater racing but would provide a safer area where the drivers head is exposed........this sort of design may not have prevented massas accident but may have provided a different outcome for surtees jr. The head would still be exposed to a certain degree but would have much better protection with no compromise to driver visibilatyand also as people were raising their concerns about escape from canopy on an upside down car..........this solution i am talking about would create a larger void for drivers to crawl out of. I personally dont think canopies are the answer but im in agreement that the drivers head needs more protection.


"Canopies were extensively tested by the FIA Institute last year, “The aim was simple: to fire a Formula One wheel and tyre, together weighing 20kg, at 225km/h into, first, a polycarbonate windshield and, second, a jet fighter canopy made from aerospace-spec polycarbonate, and measure what happens"

Well from what happened at Spa '12, I don't think firing a tyre at the canopy is enough. They now need to throw an entire car at the canopy to test it. O__O

Personally I don't like the idea of roll bars, the cars are ugly enough as they are already. However, I'd imagine bringing forward the sidepods to strengthen the area around the drivers, a wide canopy design (the current one they are testing seem like it'd closely wrapped around driver, a wider one would give more room before it hits the driver) may help the issue.

Not to mention of course heavily penalise drivers who make the most idiotic mistakes or overly aggressively driving causing unnecessary errors and carnage (i.e. Grosjean at Spa, Malconardo for every single incident he's caused).


If you are not going to enclose the driver's cockpit, then there will also be a threat (however small) to the driver's head from penetrating objects. So...

Why not also make the driver's helmet thicker? Add another 3-4cm in material around the head? Also you could make the driver's helmet shaped more triangular (wider at the bottom, slimmer at the top) which makes for an angular surface and may help glance objects (well, smaller lighter objects admittedly) off the helmet rather than penetrate - much like Felippe's accident.


As an ex-bike and kart racer I can say that competitors naturally believe it won't happen to them. If you make it too safe then it loses some of the excitement and allure. The competitors thrive on the excitement - living on the edge - doing things that others recoil in horror at the thought of doing. This is one issue that the fans should not have a say in. Leave this one to the competitors and the governing body. How many have been killed in rallying around the world this year in fully enclosed cars? An F1 track is an inherently safer environment as it is so strictly controlled without trees, houses, telegraph poles or cliffs directly in the line of fire. Admittedly, you have multiple cars trying to access the same piece of tarmac so the risks and hazards are different but the reality is that there will ALWAYS be a particular unique combination of unforseen events and consequences that create accidents. That's just a part of living.


ultimate safety - don't go racing....

I don't want anyone killed, but motor racing is a dangerous sport and FIA, etc need to accept that and work with it - not try to make is "safe" to the detriment of the sport.

As for human psychology - if the offenders were not feeling "safe" they would not be pulling these truly daft stunts. In the heat of battle they forget the logic of "to win you must finish". That's not instictive in a rookie, but look at the measured attitudes of the seasoned racers who have absorbed the lessons well.


I think a canopy about 10-12 inches high all the way round that locks into or is even part of the chassis would be good. Im sure self cleansing system can be installed with very little weight.That Re-enforced poly carbonate material is incredible. Okay for the sceptics it's not going to stop a car at speed but it increases dramatically the survival chances of the driver. This is the best solution in my opinion as it gives protection from flying debris, as well reducing possibility of head & upper body injury.Where as a hoop does not protect small debris and the driver is still exposed.

I'm sure with Collective Brain power in F1 that not only can they make them stronger, but also add to the aero of the car within months of implementation. Even a combination of both is feasible !. Either way a solution is absolutely necessary and any detractors from this are plain callous! - its not their lives on the line, they can bury their heads in the sand nobody really wants to see a fatality without doing something about it


I don’t want anyone killed, but motor racing is a dangerous sport and FIA, etc need to accept that and work with it – not try to make is “safe” to the detriment of the sport.

If you make it too safe then it loses some of the excitement and allure then F1 will slowly die out...

Totally agree with the above, also they don't have to race in F1, they can always go and race in Touring Cars if they want cover.

Also some of the drivers, are always looking to cement their drive for the following season so will take risks, theirs always more drivers looking for teams, rather than teams looking at different drivers(if you get my point I am trying to make).



Personally, I'd rather see a canopy on an F1 car than see another driver killed or injured with career ending injuries. My two cents...

And to those that go on about how that you rather don't see a safety innovation like a canopy because it's "just not F1", will you say the same thing to the family of a driver that gets killed because of that?

I thought so...


While I don't want to see deaths.... to answer your question - Yes - but I don't think any racing family really needs to have that conversation after the fact because it's part of the deal. Some families it's no doubt discussed and others it's no doubt under the covers and not mentioned but still known. It's racing...

Let me ask the question the other way... What is the canopy causes a death (a canopy is not a zero risk item)?


Let me ask the same question again in another way... What if a canopy saves a life?

I expressed my opinion here. That is how I feel. Your argument has merit, I agree, but so does mine.

I do not want to see another driver die in an accident.


Chapor, with respect, that's a conversation that should have already taken place in advance between the driver and their loved ones.

No one is forcing them to be there.


I think you have missed the point I tried to make.

Let's just leave it at that.


My immediate thought here is this, kneejerk reaction!

F1 was very lucky on sunday, it dodged a bullet really but no matter what kind of canopy they introduce there will always be one accident that it cannot prevent.

People like Paddy Lowe seem to think they can make F1 completely safe and that is just not possible. Safer yes but not safe.

I'm all for safety introductions and agree bigger sidepods and headrests would be a good place to start. However a rollcage or canopy....well to me thats no longer Formula One.

Open wheel racing will always be the pinnacle of motorsport, F1 can either be this still or become the next LMP class racing


I really do hope neither canopy nor roll structure will be introduced.

From my point of view, if it is inevitable to create some form of protection, then the changes must be made to the roll hoop, it should be made to extend (and cover) above driver's head. That way any impacts (like in Spa with Alonso, or like flying wheels) will be mitigated by this extended roll hoop.

The main advantage of that:

it won't constrain driver's view in any way albeit providing sufficient protection.

Other advantages include - nearly unaltered center of gravity, cost efficiency (compared to some super-duper glass canopy), aesthetically it won't be very "beautiful", but anyway way better than canopy or any other solution.

The main disadvantage - it won't be able to protect against "jumping springs"... but actually, as I understand, forward roll structure also won't protect against such "things".

The biggest unresolved question of such structure:

How it should be made not to obscure driver's extraction from the cockpit in case of accident (and actually driver's initial getting in the cockpit).

My idea is to make it detachable or movable without losing structural strength... I am not an engineer, but I think it's quite possible.


James allow me to go a little way off topic

Is it OK that we look at the lap time trace that Hamilton put on twitter on sunday? I would love your input as to how to make sense of it.

the links for anyone interested:


No canopies.

No dangerous drivers.

If a driver acts dangerous, he is dangerous, there should be no place for him.


What about mechanical failure, car clips another or launched off kerb whatever completely unexpected- what then it's just forgotten and someone dies without any action or even attempt just because a few F1 fans don't want see a small protective shield around a race... I mean common are you people for real.we ate not just talking about reckless drivers , penalties need to be tougher but this is the entire safety improvement in the sport!


[We've moderated out one of your other comments due to bad language and abusive behaviour towards a fellow poster. Please don't do this again, otherwise all comments may be moderated out - Mod]


Agreed. If a driver is dangerous, deal with him.

I think it's a joke that Maldernardo has still escaped a ban.


I can see there being multiple benefits to a full canopy option. On the one hand you get added protection for the driver but on the other, some of the existing protection could be reduced, e.g. the helmet could be lighter with a wider, clearer visor and possibly the sides of the cockpit could be lowered a bit. This could give the driver much greater visibility of what is going on around him and hence avoid some collisions.

Lastly, there is that ever present issue of rain, an aerodynamically shaped cockpit could provide a clearer view of the track than a helmet visor does.


Removing the amount of flying debris on the track caused by broken front wings would decrease the chances of a head injury I think.

These huge complicated wings are always getting broken and sending debris flying into other cars.

The pre-2009 wings were not so bad IIRC.


I've read the first few comments - time does not permit me to read them all.

They should leave the cockpits, wheels, etc open. This is open wheel racing.

Sure there is a risk and sure, there is danger. But this is motor racing. No one is forcing the drivers to be there, or the spectators.

The modern world in general is becoming too PC and nanny-ish. I don't want to see any more of this creep into F1.


I am sorry this generates a lot of emotions for me.

Been watching F1 since the 70's. The sport is infinitelty safer since then.

While I respect the desire for safety. F1 is in my opinion open wheel and cockpit period. Everyones messed with the tracks (taddy) and now we want to mess with the cars?

I think if we want to change F1 safety wise - then Gordon Murray's concepts should be reviewed and considered.


It is amazing how many people are so willing to attack Grosjean and Maldonado. They have made mistakes. They don't sit there on the grid and think 'who should I try and kill today?'. There is no malicious intent.

Ayrton Senna caused many incidents due to careless, dangerous driving, but because he was a triple world champion it seems that it makes it OK. Rubbish! Senna was probably the only driver in F1 history who deliberately and unapologetically caused a crash.

If Maldonado or Grosjean were triple world champions with the same personality status as Senna, but still caused all the incidents that they have, I think peoples opinions of them would be much more forgiving.


Can't we have wind shields instead of canopies? Like the ones we used to have in F1 during the early eighties. Notice the upper nose part of those cars. They are rounded and designed with a steep angle. They look like a better solution than the stepped nose.


The issue with that design is that it places the driver too far forward in the car. His legs are ahead of the front axle and extremely vulnerable in a crash. Several drivers have had terrible injuries as a result (Johnny Herbert and Alex Zinardi spring readily to mind). So the current design ensures the legs and feet are protected in a survival cell style of cockpit. However, a windscreen that wraps around the cockpit slightly and incorporates a roll-over hoop might be a good solution that still allows for driver extraction in the event of a crash.


For anyone who believes driver cockpit protection is unnecessary in F1 take a look at this video from the 2007 Australian GP..


I think everyone should take a Valium on this one. There are many other high speed pro sports where the participant has virtually no protection. Stop meddling, otherwise an F-1 race will be held in front of computer displays ! As long as due diligence is being exercised then lets just sit on the edge of our armchair and enjoy it.


Had Grosjean's car landed on Alonso's face, I can't see a canopy saving his life. They might deflect a wheel head on, but the body of a car(or 2)impacting side on?

Harsher penalties would be a step in the right direction...for the team as well as the driver, if the driver is banned, the car should be banned as well.


James I realize that this is off topic, but I noticed that Martin Whitmarsh looks in very good shape for a man in his fifties.

I began looking for more healthy living now in my thirties.

I would appreciate if you could write something about nutrition and training for people in formula one,

not the drivers because they are super humans,but more about traveling and eating habits and training for normal f1 people . sorry for English(google translate).


This discussion should also include proposals for structures around the rear tires to prevent tire-tread to tire-tread contact (as opposed to sidewalls), and designs at the rear of the cars to prevent them from ramping over one another in a collision.

These structures would help prevent the contact between Grosjean and Hamilton's tire treads at the very least. The accident would likely still have happened, of course, but had Grosjean's car not launched over the back of a Sauber, Alonso would have been t-boned at ground level rather than at head-level.


I don't mind canopies personally but lets sort out the simple things first. The quality of the driving in F1 is quite often absolutely appalling. Actions like what Rosberg did in Bahrain (twice!) should be race bans in my opinion. With all the increased safety (and drivers saying they want more safety) the actual behaviour of the drivers on the track has become increasingly wreckless. It seems to be perfectly accepted in F1 that drivers can run each other off the road.

They all do it, weaving aggressively to defend position and showing a complete lack of respect for the risks involved in the sport. I might bang the drum about this too much, but if you watch Indycar you generally see drivers all too aware of the risks and they show each other much more respect on the track where they don't risk running into each other. This is not just enforced by mutual respect but covered in the rules and regulations of the sport. Indycar has many fatalities of course, but you are far less likely to see them from actions like Grosjean in Spa.

By all means add canopies, but unless you clamp down on driver behaviour then expect these "risks" to increase further as drivers push the boundaries.


It looks like the cowardice will prevail, and make no mistake, this is all about cowardice, and greed. The drivers are being paid more than ever, the cars are safer more than ever, the risk of cockpit intrusion is lower than ever, there has been no death from cockpit intrusion for decades, and barely any ever in history, and only one injury from a freakish flying bit of metal, in decades, yet the powers to be and drivers are pushing for enclosed cockpits.

Just think about that logic for a moment. The small amount of close calls in recent years, are nothing new, they have been occurring for 80 years, its always been an accepted risk but not anymore. Why? Because they are all cowards, there is no other reason.

This is all in accordance with the overall sanitation of the sport, where all walls on the outside of corners have been removed, curbs have been shrunk and gravel traps have been removed on the outsides of all corners, so the poor drivers dont have to worry about actually suffering consequences from mistakes, like in the past 80 years. Now they just run wide onto tarmac, and back on the track often making up time. Tracks are effectively becoming wide open car parks. Its not stopping its getting worse, because everyone is a coward, and allowing agendas and selfishness to undermine the essence of the sport which is the most important thing.

If they close the cockpits the sport is finished forever, and can never be taken seriously along with the drivers that allowed that. They are not heros, they will become over paid cowards.

The other issue is money because the money men of the sport are deadly scared of the negative publicity and hit to the bottom line if a driver was ever killed.


I would agree that drivers coming up from the F-1 feeder series drive like a bunch of lunatics, banging and chopping in front of one another. I've seen some horrendous wrecks in GP2, with cars upside down sliding along a saftey fence, and the like. This is due to youth and enthusiasm and lack of discipline on the part of the teams and the officials. Exceptional safety or not I think they'd still be driving like there was no tomorrow if all they had along the track were trees, cliffs and bales of hay, because they're young inexperienced and they think they can do anything and live to tell about it.


These days I am still more worried about the pit crews than I am the drivers.


Full-length side pods as seen during the 1970s would resolve a great many problems, not least by massively reducing the number of wheel-wheel interlock interactions. Such a design would have prevented Grosjean's accident, would have prevented Coulthard-Wurz, would have prevented in fact most of the airborne incidents I can recall over the last few years.

More than that, I see no reason why the mirrors ought not to be structural pylons; there is no engineering reason why they shouldn't be. They aralready there, could usefully be a little larger, and would have saved Alonso's head had Grosjean's car been a little closer

What of a Massa or Surtees incident?

I'm not all that convinced that anything much would have deflected the spring in Massa's case and, frankly, designing-out a 0.00001% probability risk seems a touch pointless to me - there will always be freak accidents, whatever happens.

In terms of a loose wheel, these have always been a problem. But one doesn't need all that much - a couple of vertical 'blades' of 2cm thick Lucite mounted either side of the Driver's head on the removable cockpit coping would in all likelihood suffice.

All this talk of canopies seems, to me, as if somebody has a desire for a technologically over-complex solution to the problem.?


Wonder what Sid Watkins might have to say about this? A canopy or inproved windscreen would protect against intrusions of smaller objects, but to protect against a flying car? That would take an extended rollcage or protective hoop. I remember after Felipe was injured that Rubens commented 'there are no accidents in Formula 1, everything happens for a reason.' I'm a long time fan, and a purist at heart but I don't want to see anyone have a traumatic brain injury or worse because it might offend the purists. The lives of the drivers and the teams in the pits comes first end of story.


Sit a driver in the seat with his helmet on, strapped in as if he is racing. Map his full field of vision, including turning his head. Now build whatever crash-resistant structure you like outside that field of vision. The protection would be considerable, especially above the drivers head because he never looks up. Just make sure he can see the reds go out from the front row of the grid !! 😉


I feel that there are dangers in incorporating a closed canopy ontop of a F1 car.

It was touched upon earlier but what happens if there is smoke or worse a fire in the cocpit area and the driver becomes traped inside. From memory, the major cause of F1 fatalities in the past were sadly the result of fire. Also an enclosed space, mixed with flamable gasses is a recipe for an explosion, so whilst there may be some form of impact protection, the driver may be as risk of fire/combustion related injuries.

I dare say that there is not quick release solution for a canopy that can take an impact whilst having safety measures to break off or be removed rapidly after a roll over or serious crash. What if the release mechanisms fail? Canopy technology derived from fighter planes is partially irrelivent in crash situation for a formula 1 car as the pilot is able to be ejected via his/her seat through the canopies orafice ater it blows off. the driver however need to exit the car from one way and one axis only.

What also comes to mid is what happens if the top decides to fracture? This protective barrier may form a sharp blade only centermetres from the driver, I fear the injuries could potentiall be quite severe.

Im all for increased safety but im sure there are some avenues yet to be explored. The enclosed canopy, could create more safety issues in the long run for the driver.

Being dangerous for the sake of entertainment is plain stupid and im sure any F1 fan, casual or not will still appreciate the thrill and specticle regardless of how safe the car is.



I wonder how it is possible that Formula 1 for 50 years now, and only in the last 3 years they intensified works on the protection of the driver's head .... Why is it ?


Has anyone seen this? Sorry if it was posted before.


How about using military tech to help driver protection... like tanks that have active armour! you can detect flying objects coming towards you - we have the tech for that , all you need then is to deploy a barrier/aribag/net/deflector or whatever - these things can react in milli seconds even before a driver is aware of something coming his way - could also be the same for colliding with barriers - bring in ithe airbag!?

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