FIA to carry out more closed cockpit tests

2015-08-25 21:39
FIA race director Charlie Whiting (AFP)

London - Formula One's governing body is to carry out more tests on devices that could protect drivers' heads from flying debris of the sort that killed British IndyCar racer Justin Wilson.

Former F1 driver Wilson suffered severe head injuries at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania on Sunday and died in hospital on Monday.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has tested various solutions, including cockpits enclosed by a fighter jet-style canopy, since Brazilian Felipe Massa was hit on the helmet by a bouncing spring in Hungary in 2009.

While none have produced anything where the benefits clearly outweigh the disadvantages, new ideas have been put forward that might protect the driver without obstructing his vision or trapping him in the event of the car overturning.

An FIA spokesperson said the new tests were planned before Wilson's accident and would take time.

Two new ideas, one from world champions Mercedes and comprising a 'halo' or hoop positioned above the driver's head, would be tried out.

Formula One race director Charlie Whiting, the FIA technical head who is in charge of safety, said some sort of cockpit protection would be introduced eventually.

"We have to persevere," he said. "We must make something, even if it's not 100 percent in terms of protecting the driver under all circumstances.

"If it improves the situation, it has to be good. There must be a way."

The debate on how to protect drivers' exposed heads has been going on for years, and was revived after the death in July of Frenchman Jules Bianchi who suffered severe injuries when he crashed into a recovery tractor at Suzuka last October.

Brazilian former F1 driver Lucas di Grassi said on Twitter that IndyCar had to consider closed cockpits in the light of Wilson's death.

"Canopies will be used in every single formula (open-wheel) series in the future. Not only for safety, but for aerodynamic improvement," he said.

Bianchi's former Marussia team-mate Max Chilton, who has raced most recently in the U.S. Indy Lights series, agreed cockpits should be made safer in IndyCars.

"There is definitely room for making them closed cockpits," the Briton told Sky Sports television.

"I think we can come around and design something where we are safer from debris and head-on collisions into tyre walls or whatever it may be and we can still get out. I think this (Wilson's death) is definitely going to push that forward."

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