Racing under investigation- Closed Cockpit Canopies

With Felipe Massa’s nearly fatal accident in 2009, the death of Henry Surtees in 2010 and the recent death of Dan Wheldon in 2011, the issue of open-wheel safety in formula car has come under intense scrutiny.

Regulation motorsport organizations, like the FIA, have been investigating whether formula cars would benefit from having closed cockpits in order to protect drivers from incoming debris- much like a fighter jet canopy.

Opinions fall on both sides, raising issues on visibility in poor conditions, and the driver’s ability to exit the vehicle quickly in the event of an accident.

Below is an experiment from the FIA, testing the durability of a F-16 fighter canopy against a Formula 1 wheel being launched at speed. It’s clear to see how the wheel was deflected away from the canopy upon impact.

It’s clear that without the canopy, such a force would be fatal. So do the ‘pros’ outweight the ‘cons’?

The other question would be, if closed canopies were to be implemented in open-wheel formulas, how does that change the essence of the sport?

Would sports like Formula 1 have a different flavor to you, if the driver’s head was protected?

FIA Institute Jet Canopy Test from FIA Institute on Vimeo.

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