In October of 2014, Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery vehicle during the Japanese Grand Prix and suffered a severed head injury. This left the driver in a coma until is passed away in July 2015. Despite the FIA finding that Bianchi’s driving prior to the incident was partly to blame, Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection and the idea of closed cockpits was once again raised.
One month after Bianchi’s death, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was struck on the head by debris at Pocono Raceway and passed away the following day.
Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alexander Wurz told the BBC today that F1 drivers have unanimously agreed on the “swift implementation” of head protection. “The research the FIA experts have done is very thorough and the process has brought forward a clear solution” Wurz is quoted as saying. “Now the drivers feel it’s time to implement the extra protection at the latest in 2017.”
One of the options discussed was a ‘halo” type system which would be fitted to the chassis above the drivers head in a bit to help prevent serious head injury in the event of an accident. The exact details of how this system would operate are sketchy but it is understood than many Formula 1 drivers demand better head protection to be ready for the 2017 season.
A mixed reaction from Formula 1 fans
While it’s safe to say that no one wants to see drivers injured there are many Formula 1 fans who consider the move into covered or closed cockpits as a move away from single-seater motor racing.
On a recent Facebook post some fans were left furious:
“Single seater motor racing is dangerous and this is the risk the drivers take. If they cannot take the heat, get out of the kitchen. As much of a tragedy the recent fatalities were, Formula One will only ever be Formula One with open cockpits“ said one fan.
Another said: “Drivers that want a roof over their heads can drive sports cars, DTM, BTCC, NASCAR – there are plenty of tin top series. Give your F1 seat to someone who accepts the very slim risk.”
However, some fans were more open to the idea of introducing a halo system, such as this gentleman:
“A lot of the comments I’ve read on here are quite frankly disgusting! When the hell did my favourite sport develop as it’s main selling point ‘people can die’? If you don’t want to watch a sport that has been focused on safety for decades, don’t watch F1.”
“F1 has been responsible for, and has had a major input into, so many modern safety innovations; ABS, traction control, improved helmet design, understanding of crash structures and crumple zones, fireproof clothing, I could go on for a while… “