The contingent of teams that make up the Formula One Strategy Group recently shelved plans to introduce a head-protecting device around the cars’ cockpits until at least 2018. Fortunately, the FIA followed up that news with a commitment to research the idea further. Here’s as complete a solution as it gets: close the damn the cockpit.
Have a windshield that prevents debris from striking a driver’s exposed upper body and head. Have a roof so that nothing falls in from above. Add doors on each side for easy entry and exit.
But for the drivers’ sake, let’s stop this farce of arguing that any other, less complete solution is somehow preferable.
Racing can never be one hundred percent safe. By its very nature, it involves moving at speeds the human body wasn’t meant to handle. An enclosed cockpit likely wouldn’t have saved Jules Bianchi due to the nature of his impact, but it certainly would have helped deflect debris in incidents like the one that killed IndyCar’s Justin Wilson, or the one that severely injured Felipe Massa.
At this point, let’s call the “keep the cockpit open” argument what is is: if you don’t want to protect a driver’s exposed head and body, you just don’t care.
Don’t hide behind tradition, don’t argue that “this is how it’s always been done.” Being at the peak of engineering is a tradition in F1. Losing and hurting drivers for stupid reasons has been an unfortunate byproduct of adhering to tradition, and now this means that the so-called “pinnacle of motorsport” has been eclipsed in ingenuity by the numerous sports car series who’ve figured out how to engineer simple doors.
Some argue this creates other safety concerns; that is nonsense. Every other series with closed cockpits has figured out a way around this, and Formula One has some of the most brilliant engineering minds in the world at its disposal.
Do you honestly believe that F1's top talent couldn’t figure out how to make doors that are removable after an accident? An enclosed safety cell capable of deflecting debris away from a driver, or at least lessening the force of impact if it does break through? I sure don’t. To argue otherwise is to shortchange the immense amount of design talent in and around F1.
Drivers may know and accept the risks when they agree to race in the series, but an antiquated open cockpit shouldn’t be one of them in the most technologically advanced series on the planet.
Arguing aesthetics in regards to the series known for surprisingly phallic noses a couple seasons ago is a joke. If you value how a car looks over how it protects the drivers inside who are risking their lives for your entertainment when you know something better can be done, you shouldn’t be talking.
At this point, not wanting to close the cockpit takes a blatant disregard for driver safety, facts and reason. The open cockpit is a relic, and it’s one that needs to change.
Other professional series have already started to move away from open-cockpit cars. Endurance racing, for example, has a few grandfathered-in open chassis, but new ones approved for competition are nearly always closed. IndyCar also wants to adopt some sort of helmet strike protection by 2018, per Racer, most likely in the form of a Red Bull-style aeroscreen.
Yet some F1 fans and figureheads argue as if it’s taking away something if they don’t have open cockpits. Why?
Having the cockpit open doesn’t add to the racing. I don’t get anything extra out of seeing drivers’ exposed helmets. It doesn’t make the cars more competitive with each other; it doesn’t make the drivers more daring.
All leaving the cockpit open does is lessen the chance of survival should a heavy piece of debris fly into the driver’s cockpit. We know better.
Let’s not cling to tradition over sanity. Take the extra year to close F1's cockpit.