The open debate on closed cockpits

Should F1 move to closed cockpits?

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Ferrari Closed Cockpit.jpg

In the aftermath of Jules Bianchi's crash at Suzuka the debate of whether Formula One should switch to closed cockpit racing has once again blown open.

For a few years now the question of whether Formula One should be a closed cockpit formula keeps making an appearance. Before the Bianchi incident the other most notable time in which the safety of the cars has come into question was in the wake of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix when Romain Grosjean infamously flew over the top of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari only narrowly missing the Spaniard's head.

A major positive of a closed cockpit car is obviously the fact the driver's head would be protected at all times rather than it being vulnerable as demonstrated in the Alonso-Grosjean incident.

However, on the whole the negatives of having a closed cockpit massively outweigh the positives. Firstly, the screen itself would get dirty throughout the race due to rain (if a wet race), bugs and dirt landing on the screen; due to the nature of a Formula One can and Grand Prix racing it would just not be feasible to have windscreen wipers on the cars. A further reason is that due to temperature increases within the cockpit would make it very hot inside which may subsequently lead to the screen fogging up - visibility may also be hindered by the supports required to keep the structure in place.The major issue of a closed cockpit would be the issue of exiting the car in case of an emergency such as a result of a crash or fire. In the case of Bianchi's crash if a closed cockpit was already in place it would've made his extraction even longer and more difficult.

This debate will rage on for many years as drivers, teams and the heads of Formula One push to continually improve the safety sport, but whether a decision is ever to be made is another question.
So for wet races there will be windscreen wipers then heaters to stop fogging .. its not F1 they know its dangerous. did they want a roof in the 50's, 60's, 70's when deaths were more common.... no its a freak accident.


Staff Emeritus | Motorsport Engineer
I went with yes, and I believe it's going to happen within 20 years. It should have happened after Surtees died. The argument for 'this is F1, it's always been open wheel and canopy' doesn't stand - there's been closed canopy and closed wheel cars. Open wheels I understand, but that's not a safety issue. Just because it's inherently dangerous doesn't mean we shouldn't make it safer!
I don't really see why the most recent crash brings this question up... if it was brought up from other crashes yeah sure but the crash last week was avoidable far more easily than a major redesign to the cars... all they need to do is put a safety car out when there are recovery vehicles out on track. you don't see roads being left fully open when there are car parts strewn across the road and recovery vehicles doing work do you? they do it in nascar so why don't they do it in F1?


Nice apex, I'll take it!
The cars don't need windscreen wipers due to the speed F1 vehicles are generating.

I voted for yes. The last big accidents in F1 since the death of Senna were all massive head-injuries (Massa, Villotta and Bianchi) and all of them could have been avoided with a closed cockpit.
Plus Burti and (to a lesser extent) Kovalainen. All the other bits are well protected, but heads are the exposed bit.

However, I voted not sure. F1 is F1, an open wheeled, open cockpit sport, and that's how it should stay. Better protection is needed yes, but I dunno yet how much I feel about them.
No... on closed cockpits.
Those would have done absolutely nothing for Jules and possibly Massa.
That crane weighs a massive amount. The energy it took to move it that high... and that far, would most certainly have shattered any closeout... possibly pushing it down and injuring the driver more.
As for Massa's accident, that spring once it got launched, had an enormous amount of energy. You'd have to build a super stout window to arrest it at those speeds.
The only option to try protecting drivers, is not having those kinds of vehicles in speed zones during recovery.
hmm, in my opinion it seems like a bit off panic at the moment, don't get my wrong I feel sorry for Bianchi and hope he will get better soon. but he new racing will be dangerous, as well as attending a race. you can get killed watching a race we see this all the time.
the danger of making things this save will make them even more believe nothing bad can happen and will push them to take more risks.
further more what about fire with closed cockpit and fumes etc
No kind of windshield/canopy would have protected Jules in crash as heavy as he had-probably would have made it even worse. In those 25 years I've followed F1 series there's been three head contact injuries: Senna, Massa and Bianchi. Canopy would have helped in only Massa's incident. At the same time there's been multiple incidents every year where car has caught fire. Any kind of canopy over a driver is one more obstacle to getting out of the car as fast as possible. And, what if a car hits a wall or something, catches fire and canopy's opening system is damaged in the contact so it won't open? Even if there's no fire, the jammed canopy would be hindrance to medical personnel to treat injured driver.

Racing is never safe, but it can be made more safe. I just don't see closed cockpit as a solution. It brings more problems than it solves.
I would say yes, because if I could choose between an open and a closed cockpit, I would choose the closed cockpit, because if I would drive a F1 car, I would feel much safer in a closed cockpit than in an open one. And it totally is much safer.
My opinion! :)



Nice apex, I'll take it!
The thing that hit Massa was just bouncing along and slowing down, what gave ot energy was the speed Massa was doing. A closed cockpit would have helped massively there, as it would probably have taken the full force.


2D God
Regarding to Biachi's Crash, there were no damage to his helmet, so what hurt him was the high deceleration, causing a 50g force, so I cockpit wouldn't do much there.
Closed cockpits will make F1 MUCH more safe, but no cockpit is part of F1 history
I have no formed opinion, Biachi would still be severely damaged with a cockpit, but for the extra safety I think it should be implemented.
@Terry Rock, the object that hit Massa in the head would certainly have bounced of the windscreen the FIA tested a couple of years back. Not sure about Bianchi.

I've seen that test from a few years ago.
It's not really a conclusive test...unless you fire smaller more dense objects (like the spring) at the canopy.
How many time have you seen somebody throw a brick at a window and had it bounce off... then fire a bullet and it go right through.
It's not just the size of the object, it also about the density and mass.
Jules basically went under the crane.
The ultra slo-mo shows his head hitting the side and extremely rapidly careening to the right. It was very painful to watch for analysis. No cockpit cover would survive that much energy.
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not sure .. as someone mentioned ... fire in cosed cockpit vs head injuries in open one .. even if they could probably manage to keep fire out of cockpit in most cases, there is still heat and complications in getting out of a car .. reminds me how F1 drivers used to drive without seatbelts on so there was nothing in the way of escaping the car ... and cosed cockpit is not gonna solve diffuse axonal injury ... so I`m leaning towards No .. yet voted for Not sure ..
Well, a closed cockpit would reduce drag therefore enhancing the aerodynamics as well as it would be safer for the driver considering him hitting his head during an accident, but as mentioned earlier by Chloe extracting the driver wouldn't be easier in addition to the decreasing visibility are two facts that actually increase the danger that the driver get exposed to. So, in my opinion closed cockpits shouldn't be introduced sooner or later since accidents are getting more rare and I would add, even though it's not a good argument, that aesthetically a close cockpit Formula One car doesn't look good.


Right on Brother, I hear ya, it's all good.
I'm a big fan of unlimited hydroplane racing. I remember the same debate before they switched to f16 fighter cockpits. They save lives and the sport survived.
Even with closed cockpits, never can 100% safety be guaranteed.
Issues with exiting the car in an emergency, temperature, visibility and depriving the driver of his senses for other cars are around him are standing against closed cockpits.
Motorracing is inherently dangerous and the divers know full well that they are risking their lifes every time they're stepping into the car.

In the end, this point is not going to be decided by popular opinion anyway. The FIA, driver association, teams, drivers and maybe even the sponsors will.
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I don't think a cannopy would've helped Bianchi, but it would've protected Massa and Senna surely...

I say yes, it improves safety and the "problems" it brings are fairly easy to solve.