The FIA has revealed more details about the tests it will conduct to increase cockpit safety in motorsport following the death of IndyCar racer Justin Wilson in August, including a continuation of Mercedes' 'halo' proposal.
According to FIA safety director Laurent Mekies, three cockpit solutions have been identified as being of particular interest for further evaluation – a front roll hoop concept, a centreline roll hoop extending from the roll hoop to the front of the cockpit and Mercedes' much discussed 'halo'.
These proposals come after the FIA carried out its own tests in the wake of the late Jules Bianchi's accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, with these options yet to be ruled out either as the governing body explores all of its options.
Significantly, should the tests prove successful, there is a chance elements could be applied as early as 2017, while the FIA is eager to provide a solution that works across different single-seater series'.
“We are trying to first find something that does the job, then we will find a way to deal with other matters [visibility and extraction]. We are looking at a broad range of solutions and trying to learn from each test. It will be an impact test mainly, but with different impact angles and impact speeds and so on.”
“Obviously it's at the research stage. Nevertheless we have shown some steps that are already done for 2016 if you look at the cockpit side reinforcement. Obviously anything before 2017 is not doable but probably something in 2017 could already be introduced if we get good results. If we don't get good results then we think the solution could be further delayed.”
Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman and former F1 driver Alex Wurz says he has a particular preference for the canopy solution, but while he accepts there are other issues to overcome, he is pleased to see the FIA forging ahead with ideas.
“Personally I prefer the canopy solution,” the Toyota WEC driver said. “All of them are evaluated. I think you have to then also see the practical approach of what are you able to do in which timeframe. Obviously the idea would be that the driver is 100% safe which potentially if you just think of flying objects the canopy would be the best solution.
“There would then be other issues to deal with like extraction, fire and all these things which are the next step. That then leads in to this road of solution or that road of solution. So in any case the good thing is that we are here and we all agree that we are doing something and something will be done but like usual you first have to look in to it with research and development.
“Then together the teams, the FIA - including the drivers - have to come up with the steps to a solution, ideally coming to a higher safety point.”
Wilson passed away on August 24th August, two days after being struck by an errant piece of debris from a collision further up the road at the Pocono Raceway. Discussions over closed cockpits was first raised in 2009 in the wake of Felipe Massa's serious accident at the Hungaroring, when he suffered head injuries after being struck by debris.