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More driver head protection 'inevitable'

The horrifying in-car footage from Spa of F1 cars flying just inches away from the drivers' exposed helmets has meant a renewed focus on head protection - and even closed cockpits.
From casual fans to F1 professionals, there are few people who will have been able to watch the in-car footage of the start of the 2012 F1 Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday and seen cars flying over the top of drivers' exposed heads without physically flinching in response.

"We were lucky because nothing hit Fernando [Alonso] on the head," said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali afterwards.

"It was a very risky situation and seeing one car fly over his, a few centimetres above his helmet, left us with our hearts in our mouths for a few tenths of a second," agreed the team's technical director Pat Fry.

"It looked scary," added McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, whose own driver Lewis Hamilton was also involved in the wreck. "It's fortunate that we got away with the accident today [without injuries.]"

Unsurprisingly, it's reopened the debate about how much more needs to be done in the sport to protect drivers' heads in the sport - even if it means abandoning the long-cherished design principle of open cockpits in F1.

"I think we've become slightly nonchalant," admitted Whitmarsh. "We see so many big enormous shunts and we're used to the driver just popping out, but you realise that they can come inches from not popping out of the car."

"We've had a number of near misses in the last three or four years," agreed McLaren's technical director Paddy Lowe, pointing to Felipa Massa's accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix when flying debris hit him on the head and fractured his skull.

The son of former world champion John Surtees was killed in a similar incident where his head was struck by a tyre that had come off another car in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch the same year. And Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon died in an accident last October when he suffered fatal head injuries after striking the posts supporting the safety fences around Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"How many times have you looked at things including today and thought, that was lucky?" asked Lowe of the situation in F1. While there has been no race fatality since that of Aryton Senna in 1994, everyone in the sport knows that there can be no complacency. "One day it won't be lucky and we'll all be sitting there going: we should have done something about that," Lowe said.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Felipe Massa - Ferrari F60
23.06.2012- Bernie Ecclestone (GBR), President and CEO of Formula One Management  and Stefano Domenicali (ITA), Team Principal
27.07.2012- Free Practice 2, Martin Whitmarsh (GBR), Chief Executive Officer Mclaren and Stefano Domenicali (ITA), Team Principal
22.07.2012 - Race,   Paddy Lowe (GBR) McLaren Technical Director with Charlie Whiting (GBR) FIA Delegate on the grid
28.07.2012- Qualifying, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 pole position and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4-27
Fernando Alonso arrives in style to officially open the museum complex devoted to his racing career
Fernando Alonso - McLaren-Honda MP4-30
Antonio Fuoco - Ferrari SF15-T
21.06.2015- Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T
21.06.2015- Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T
21.06.2015- Race, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T come back to the paddock after the crash with a marshall
21.06.2015- Race,  Safety Car lead the group
21.06.2015- Race, Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Honda MP4-30
21.06.2015- Race, Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Honda MP4-30 car on a tow truck after the race
21.06.2015- Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T
21.06.2015- Race,  The Safety Car
21.06.2015- Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T
21.06.2015- Race, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T

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Si - Unregistered

September 03, 2012 3:55 PM

Either its open seat racing or it isnt , Nobody want to see any injury's, But you might as well put F1 drivers in GT cars as there will be little difference ..

Caroline - Unregistered

September 03, 2012 2:57 PM

There is of course the argument that the safer you make the racing, the more risks a driver will take, leading to more frequent, and more dramatic accidents, leading on to more safety measures, until the only remaining safety measure is to stop the racing altogether.

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