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Drivers pushing for cockpit protection by 2017

The FIA should be looking at intrdoucing cockpit protection as soon as next season if it is serious about its desire to improve safety, says Alex Wurz.
Drivers want to see increased cockpit protection introduced to motorsport by next year in an effort to take the sport into a new era of driver safety, according to Grand Prix Drivers' Association president Alex Wurz.

The topic of closed, or protected, cockpits has been on the agenda for some years, but the topic has gained more prominence in recent years following the deaths of Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson.

Though it was considered Bianchi, who died nine months after striking a recovery vehicle during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, would not have been saved by cockpit protection, it is felt Wilson's death - when he was struck by errant debris during an IndyCar race at Pocono - could have been avoided.

Since Bianchi's death, the FIA has looked into several methods of cockpit safety, though this was brought further to the fore after Wilson's death in August 2015, with drivers raising their voice about the need for increased cockpit protection.

Ex-McLaren and Williams driver Wurz, who retired from racing in November 2014 to focus on his GPDA role, says he has been impressed by the 'thorough' research done on this, but feels the time to take the plans from concept to reality as early as 2017.

"The research the FIA experts have done is very thorough and the process has brought forward a clear solution," he told the BBC. "Now the drivers feel it's time to implement the extra protection at the latest in 2017."

"Obviously structural changes are required to the chassis but, with almost a one-year lead time, I don't see any technical person speaking against such substantial safety improvements, especially given the last big accidents in open-wheel racing involved head injuries. So all the drivers, and I, hope that passing the additional head protection will be a formality."

It is believed the 'halo' concept, which sees a ring above and ahead of the driver with a central supporting strut ahead of the eye-line is considered the most favourable solution amongst drivers. It is feared an entirely closed cockpit presents others risks to drivers in terms of post-crash recovery.

A number of drivers have aired their support for such a move, with Jenson Button admitting he has changed his opinion towards the use of closed cockpits in the wake of Wilson's tragic death.
by Ollie Barstow

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January 25, 2016 3:36 PM

vincero. i agree. jules' injuries were NOT caused by any intrusion. they were as a result of the massive decelleration, so the cockpit protection would have been absolutely no benefit to him


January 25, 2016 3:10 PM
Last Edited 450 days ago

Bianchi's accident would no doubt have been worse if some form of crash structure had been in place as it could have ended up crushing or causing a penetrating injury as it would have no doubt broken apart when faced with a multi-ton digger. The biggest issue will always be how the driver gets out in an emergency, especially if the car is not upright. This can only end in compromise (e.g. driver cant get out if car upside down in gravel seen as an acceptable risk) - but then the danger is where the compromise exists causing someone to be killed. I think Justin Wilson's and Massa's '09 accident could have been prevented in some way. Surtees son would require a fairly strong structure to handle a wheel/tire weight (and that was in a lower formula where such protection will take a while to filter down - what safety do the juniors get?).

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