With the most recent outcry for closed cockpits the FIA have taken action, announcing on that they will be running closed cockpit tests in the near future.
This is a subject I have some fairly strong opinions about so I have taken a look at the pro’s and cons of both open cockpit race cars and closed cockpit race cars as well as what suggestions have been made to implement closed cockpits.
For many the idea of a closed cockpit is far safer than traditional open cockpits by limiting the risk of debris connecting with the drivers helmet whilst providing extra protection if the car was to roll.
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However, closed cockpits do come with their own risks, the speed at which a driver can exit their vehicle after a collision is greatly increased.
Currently a driver must prove that they can exit the vehicle in no more than 8 seconds or he/she will not be allowed to race, this is due to the risk of fire, as we have seen over the years often after a serious collision the car can end up in flames.
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This eight-second window can be the difference between the life and death of a driver after an accident, adding the extra time needed to remove a canopy could result in the death of a driver. We saw with Lewis Hamilton in 2014 when his Mercedes burst into flames without warning, he was up and out of the car almost immediately, with a canopy fitted that could have been a much more dangerous and possibly fatal incident.
Also the time in which support and medical personnel could release a driver from the vehicle if he/she was unconscious or unable to move would be far longer than we currently see on a weekly basis.
Combine the already slower process with the risk of a failure in the canopy release mechanism and we could be left with the driver trapped inside the car with no escape.
As advanced as motor racing has become, parts still fail, the cockpit canopy would be no exception, what if it was to fail whilst driving round the track releasing and flying off the car towards other drivers, spectators or marshals, this type of object hurtling towards someone would cause serious harm and maybe even death.
As I have mentioned, the canopy would offer the driver more protection should the car flip, but if the car was to land on its roof the car canopy would be pinned to the floor with the driver now stuck inside, no access for personnel to tend to the driver and no way for the driver to release himself. It would be left for marshals to lift the car in order to get the driver medical attention, which itself adds further safety problems.
Then you have further issues faced if the car ends up deep inside the tyre barriers, as we witnessed at Spa earlier this season when in the GP2 race Daniel De Jong hurtled into the tire barrier resulting in the entire front end and cockpit being covered in tyres, thankfully he was pulled through them to safety. Had there been a canopy fitted, the car would have had to been pulled free before they would be able to release him.
In my opinion, the addition of canopies/closed cockpits to Formula One would result in more risks than it would solve. Taking this into consideration a new design has been floated that the FIA are set to test, this design consist of several different height blades fitted vertically around the front of the cockpit which would protect the driver from debris but would not hamper their escape.
So the debate rages on whether the sport should really adopt a change of cockpit design, I have my own opinions and thoughts which I have made clear, I now look forward to hearing what the FIA decide.
We Adapt We Accept But We Never Forget.