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FIA AND TEAMS
SPRINT CUP RACE
BE CAREFUL WHAT
YOU WISH FOR
TO BE RENEWED?
More than virtual reality? The closed cockpit of red Bull’s X1 flight of fancy for Gran Turismo 5 might just prove to be a postcard from F1’s future.
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PUTTING A LID ON IT?
The FIA offers a jet-fighter solution to the problem flying debris poses to Formula 1
drivers, but some fear it would pose more challenges than it would resolve
Open cockpits have been an identifying characteristic
of grand prix cars from the very beginning, but that
might be changing in the not-too-distant future. The
FIA Safety Institute is experimenting with racecar applications
of jet fighter canopy technology to protect drivers from flying
debris and airborne cars, and says the results are promising.
The FIA Institute tested the effectiveness of a polycarbonate
canopy from an F- 16 fighter when struck by a 40lb Formula 1
wheel assembly at 140mph. The test demonstrated that the
canopy could absorb the impact and deflect the wheel. A
windshield fashioned from the same material was given a
similar test, and while it also deflected the wheel, it was
shattered by the impact.
“Visually, it was possible to see that the windshield did
manage to deflect the wheel over the space that would have
been occupied by the driver’s helmet, but in so doing it
sustained significant damage,” explained FIA technical
advisor Andy Mellor.
6 SEPTEMBER 2011 racer.com
The research was prompted by
incidents such as the head injury suffered
by Felipe Massa when struck by debris at
Hungary in 2009, and the Abu Dhabi
crash last year in which Tonio Liuzzi’s
Force India rode over the top of Michael
Schumacher’s Mercedes. While the
sport’s technical chiefs were reluctant to
dismiss the idea, they pointed out that it
could create some safety issues of its own.
It protects the driver, but
what happens if you have
to extract the driver?
“From a safety perspective, there are
big pros because it protects the driver,
but what happens if you have to extract
the driver?” asked Sauber’s James Key.
“It’s a difficult nut to crack. You have to
look at the compromises that such a
thing introduces – and a closed canopy
does pose some. Perhaps some halfway-
house structure is the better option.”
Liuzzi said he and other F1 drivers he
had spoken with on the subject were
lukewarm to the idea: “It would be very
good in terms of safety, but it would
change the whole face of F1,” he said. “I
struggle to see an F1 car that looks like an
F- 16 jet fighter. It would change the
whole style of a single-seater car. Safety
is important, but F1 still needs to be F1.”