Leading F1 drivers open to the idea of closed cockpits

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Monza
F1 drivers on closed cockpits

Leading drivers have said they are open to the idea of closed cockpits.

Research on the topic has been ongoing for years but the subject has been revived after IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died from head injuries in a crash in August.

World champion Lewis Hamilton said: "I see closed cockpits as potentially the future. We've had too many fatalities."

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso added: "If one closed cockpit saves one life, it is worth doing it."

Wilson's crash, in which the 37-year-old Englishman suffered fatal head injuries after being hit by debris, was the latest in a series of deaths or major injuries in recent years in open-cockpit racing cars.

F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July nine months after colliding with a recovery vehicle in the Japanese Grand Prix.

IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed in 2011 after his head hit debris fencing.

F1 test driver Maria De Villota died a year after colliding with the back of a lorry in a test at an airfield.

And Formula Two driver Henry Surtees - son of 1964 F1 world champion John Surtees - was killed when he was hit on the head by a loose wheel in 2009.

McLaren driver Jenson Button said: "It is time. I am one of the people who have always said it is an open-cockpit formula, but I don't care about that any more.

"It has been too much over the last couple of years. We have lost some amazing talent in the sport and some amazing individuals.

"I raced with Justin when I was nine years old - it was me, Justin, Dan Wheldon and Anthony Davidson - and it was such great racing. And two of them are gone, through injuries that could have been helped by a closed cockpit or canopy.

"It is too much and hopefully it will happen sooner or later."

Hamilton added that he was conflicted on the issue.

Justin Wilson
English IndyCar racer Justin Wilson, who had also raced in F1, died from head injuries after a crash in August

"Growing up, watching, it has always been open-cockpit, but sometimes change is the way forward. We have got to make some changes.

"Drivers have been really unfortunate but maybe it doesn't have to be closed. There are different mechanisms we could have."

However, Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg said he was against the idea.

"Obviously there's pros and cons but I see single-seater racing as open cockpits," the German said.

"When we sign up for this we know there's some risk involved and there could potentially be some danger, but that's in the DNA of racing and motorsport and I think we shouldn't sterilise the whole thing and make everything too clinical and overprotect everything.

"That's not good for the sport and might make things a bit unattractive."

Governing body the FIA is to conduct tests on a series of potential designs later in September, among them a 'halo' design pioneered by Hamilton's Mercedes team.

The FIA has previously rejected a closed jet-fighter-style canopy and a forward roll-hoop structure.

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