Smedley: F1 cockpits must be designed properly

F1 canopy concept

Williams technical guru Rob Smedley admits that, while the safety benefits of covered F1 cockpits cannot be denied, there is equal concern that fitting canopies will also have negative safety implications unless done correctly.

The enclosed cockpit debate has been in full swing since Justin Wilson succumbed to head injuries sustained when he was hit by a piece of Sage Karam's nosecone during an IndyCar Series race at Pocono last month and, coming so soon after F1 talent Jules Bianchi lost his battle with critical head injuries sustained in a collision with a recovery vehicle last October, there has been a noticeable upswing in support for the modifications amongst drivers in the top flight.

Jenson Button admitted that Wilson's death was the turning point in his opinion, while Daniel Ricciardo insisted at Monza that covering the cockpit was the 'last piece of the [safety] puzzle'. Smedley, however, points out that, while he accepts the drivers' view, fitting a canopy to an open-wheel racer has its own design and safety implications.

“One of the main considerations for a closed canopy is that we must not lose sight of what we're doing it for, which is safety," he noted, "First and foremost, it's driver's safety and one of the aspects of a closed cockpit is that the driver still has to be able to exit from the car in all cases. That probably is the biggest engineering challenge.

"Putting a closed cockpit on the car itself doesn't pose a particular headache from an engineering point of view. Where the more lateral thinking comes in is that the driver still has to be able to escape, he still has to be able to get out of the car – and that includes when the car rolls over. You have to make sure that, in that situation, the driver can still exit, that there is still some mechanism that you can still get out of the car.

"Equally, we have to ensure that the medical team can still get inside a cockpit, that they're still able to access a driver very, very quickly. So covering the cockpit will throw up engineering and technical questions which will need innovative and lateral thinking.

"But that shouldn't stop us doing it."

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