Are closed cockpits right for F1? Felix da Costa says no

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Are closed cockpits a good idea for Formula 1? From a safety standpoint, how can you argue against making drivers safer? Are you against safety? In a short answer, Felix da Costa is:

“Everything that F1 does in three, four or five years will be in every other open-wheel series,” the Portuguese racer told Motorsport.com. “So I think that is the main idea, that F1 serves an example to the other championships.

“It’s good that everything is much safer today, we have almost no deaths and that’s a big deal. But as a driver I believe that there has to be an element of danger.

“I know it might not be fair to say, but it’s a very dangerous sport and that’s why there’s only around 20 drivers in a category, rather than 100,000. And we have to keep it like that.”

Felix may be one of the few who are arguing against the closed cockpit concept in F1, at least publicly. There are other who feel the same but they are not quite a s vocal about it in public.

The logistics of closing the cockpit is not easy but Mercedes has offered a system called the Halo which F1 has tested. The series looks to 2017 as the year to bring the new system into the sport.

I am no F1 driver and have no voice in the matter but the one thing that concerns me is not that the risks are there and drivers know the risks, it’s the logistics of extricating a driver in an emergency situation through the halo device. If the Halo system is damaged or deformed it would create even a tougher situation or is there a quick release system to remove it so stewards can swiftly take it off in order to get to the driver more closely.

Pulling a driver out of the cockpit is one thing but pulling them even further upward and out of the Halo’s top is more difficult so surely there is a way to release it? The problem I am having with it is the lack of information—or at least my ineptitude at finding the information—on how the system will actually work in an emergency situation if the car is on fire or damaged or upside down.

The Felix da Costa argument is really back to the core DNA of the sport as an open-wheel, open cockpit series and if you were to close it up, it becomes more like endurance racing. Look at the levels Indycar has gone to in order to enclose the wheels in body work in order to prevent wheel-to-wheel contact launching the car. The reality is, are open-wheel cars simply moving toward WEC endurance cars with fenders and canopies? If so, why not just hang it up and we’ll all watch Le Mans?

Felix has a point in that the more F1 soul searches, the more they seem to want to incorporate WEC’s LMP class tech with hybrids, canopies and wheel guards etc. Mitigating risk is critical in F1 but where is the fine line of saying we’ve done enough to prevent deaths such as Justin Wilson’s tragedy and yet remain an open-wheel series that is markedly different than WEC’s LMP class racing?

Hat Tip: Motorsport

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Paul KieferJr

I wasn’t a fan of the proposed Halo system, but that was because of the sight lines that are blocked. I proposed the idea of a sort of wide windshield where the window was attached to a half-circular support so that the driver can still have enough of a view.

Either way, for the purpose of getting a driver out of a car quickly, I would propose explosive bolts, or perhaps a latch system that can quickly slide outward and release the cover in question.

Negative Camber

Yeah, I also have issues with site lines but I’m not a pro driver so maybe this doesn’t bother them but it would me. I guess in short, the FIA could do a better job of explaining how it would work because at this point, there’s a lot of questions the fans have.

Paul KieferJr

A thought occurs to me: If you’ve ever used those pop-up canopies/tents, you know that there are small spring-loaded knobs that go inside holes built in the poles. They slide in, the pole is secure. Push the knobs in, compress the pole, and you’re ready to go. Perhaps the cockpit cover (for lack of a better term) could be secured and quickly removed that way.

Tom Firth

The FIA could do a better job explaining something to the fans… never.

Van Dieu

And yet everyone marvels and yearns for a downpour that limits driver visibility to one level above zero.

Van Dieu

Is it really such a big deal? Cockpit sides have been raised over the years, and I just see this as the next extension of that policy. Once you let the camel’s nose under the tent then you can’t stop the “progress”.

Negative Camber

that’s basically what I am asking…is this a big deal? What if the Halo was deformed or obstructive in a fire situation? Also, how do you see up Eau Rogue with that just above your eyes?

Van Dieu

Not such a big deal at all. =) We all remember the glory days when F1 cars were little more than a tank of gasoline with a motor and gearbox disguised as a packet of cigarettes, but F1 changes and evolves continually. Even if they took steps to start covering the wheels I would not be against that – I don’t agree with purists who say “F1’s essence is open cockpit/open wheel racing.” For me, F1 is simply about the pinnacle of marrying technology with the fastest drivers in the world, and pitting them against one another. Replacing the drivers… Read more »

Schmorbraten

So basically Da Costa says he is in single seater racing because he thinks he is one of the few who dare to face the danger? And that because of that, he thinks it might protect his place if the danger stays? That’s ridiculous, but then again maybe he’s got the same press agent as a certain Bernard Charles E.

gsprings

I am sure they have equipment that would be able to cut away any obstruction to the driver if he’s get’s trapped in the wreckage,looks like that halo would be pretty easy to move or cut away

The Sarcastic SOB

This halo nonsense is just about the stupidest-looking thing I have ever seen on a car.

Jack Flash

No way. The DNA of open wheel racing, also has open cockpit in its genome. We have lost enough of the elements of fundamental character of Formula Racing. Enough already. Yeah… I am all for safer motorsport, but some parts of the Formula are so intrinsic to the sports appeal and history and driver challenges; that taking it away or dilluting it to psuedo-sportscar feel is just WRONG.

Jack Flash

Hey… why doesn’t my WordPress login and avatar not work any more? Jack Flash (Aust). What have you been dicking around with since I have been gone?

Jack Flash (Australia)

Never mind. Got the DISQUS LOGIN and Profile up and running.
Still… why would WordPress allow F1B site LOGIN like old days, but not allow Comment Option? Huh?

geeyore

Halo, canopy, whatever. All will eventually demonstrate unintended consequences. You cannot put some kind of device (whatever it may be) around the driver’s head and then expect that it will always function 100 percent predictably in 100 percent UNpredictable racing impacts. It really makes no sense. Those of us who drive fast on racetracks (even HPDE) know the risks. So do the amply-compensated drivers of Formula 1, and of every other racing series. It’s an inherently risky sport, and we’d all be better off running iRacing from our virtual desktops. But the bottom line is that enclosed cockpits in F1… Read more »

MIE

The unintended consequences are what worries me, what happens if the car turns over, or if they decide on a canopy what happens when it rains. Great efforts have been made in lining the edge of the cockpit with compliant foam padding to prevent the driver’s helmet hitting something hard in the event of an accident. This seems to be reintroducing a hard surface very close to the driver’s head. It can be done, but the canopy on a sports car is much larger than any of the proposals that I have seen for F1. Sports ars also have doors… Read more »

Tom Firth

Presumably they’d have to mandate that the Halo is a spec part, in the same way do with other safety parts?

Joe Mama

Let’s get past the arguments about why canopies are such a bad idea in a crash, dealing with rain, sun glare, etc. Most other motorsport series have figured out transparencies, so surely F1 can. Also, championing the idea that F1 must be open cockpit, open wheel, open whatever is just a pedantic approach to resisting change. We change engine spec, tires formulations, aero rules, and geometry restrictions with the frequency of dirty diapers, and these are all things that actually affect the racing. Canopies will not ruin F1. In fact, developing effective single seater racing canopies in the name of… Read more »

Rob

To me it’s about the spirit of F1 as an open wheel/cockpit series……… If you want to do this for “safety” then remove the open wheels or any number of other more effective options… Hell there is no need for drivers in the cars as F1 cars can easily run remotely (see the promo a few years ago when they ran a car from a phone) or we could run the “race” in a simulator (which would have the benefit of real cost savings). We already have to watch the top part of the drivers head thru steel fences from… Read more »

longshot

I’m a bit late commenting on this, but I’m not a fan of the Halo. Firstly, what exactly is it supposed to do? Would it have prevented the serious injuries and deaths in recent F1 history? Would it have stopped the spring from hitting Massa? Probably not. Would it have saved Bianchi or Ratzenberger, both of whom hit hard barriers at very high speed? No – and high-speed impacts account for most injuries and deaths in F1. There is one death that could have been prevented (possibly), that of María de Villota who sustained terrible head injuries in a mysterious… Read more »

Joe Mama

That’s a really good illustrative clip, but the what it best illustrates is perhaps “What if that floor plate finds its way from where we see it in front of the cockpit rearward along the top of the cockpit?” or, “What if the leading corner of the floor plate came across the top of the cockpit instead of in front of it?” It’s not hard to envision; a carbon fiber plate backed by the full weight and momentum of a moving F1 car transits a plane all the way back to the roll structure, interrupted by only the driver’s head… Read more »

longshot

Yeah to me the Halo is simply a half-arsed measure that won’t solve the problem. Its a placebo, nothing more. Though I don’t know of any canopy that would have been strong enough to save a driver from the weight of a car sliding across the cockpit, as almost happened with the Alonso/Raikkonen accident. Most F1 accidents occur at speeds which would be beyond the ability of a canopy or Halo to sustain. The only thing a canopy would be useful for is deflecting light objects from hitting the driver, as as most of these would be approaching from the… Read more »

Negative Camber

That’s ultimately my point as well, the FIA should get out in front of this concept and explain how it works, how it will help and how it will be a safety device that doesn’t create safety concerns because it sure the hell is changing the way F1 looks and that will impact fans and their opinions. Don’t let it snowball.

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