More head protection likely for 2014
McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe believes some kind of driver head protection will be added to Formula One cars in time for the next major regulation change in 2014.
A first corner accident at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday highlighted the dangers of open-cockpit racing in Formula One, as Romain Grosjean's flying Lotus came perilously close to Fernando Alonso's head. Lowe, who is a member of a group of Formula One engineers working on cockpit safety, said some kind of action will likely be taken in 2014.
"I think 2014 has been the intended time frame as we started the project a year ago. We'll see," he was quoted by the BBC. "Personally, I think something is inevitable because it is the one big exposure we've got. How many times have you looked at things including today and thought, that was lucky? One day it won't be lucky and we'll all be sitting there going: we should have done something about that. But at the same time it is an open-cockpit formula so you want to preserve that, but technically that should be achievable one way or another."
One suggestion has been cockpit canopies, but some kind of forward roll structure is more likely and has already been tested by the FIA.
"We have made a test piece which has been tested structurally with various impacts, firing wheels at it," he said. "That was successful so we have understood some of the parameters in terms of the angles that are needed and the strengths of the pieces. The next bit of work in progress is assessing the visibility.
"Obviously a driver ideally wants nothing in the way but in the same way we drive a road car with pillars or an old VW bus with centre pillar, you just get used to it, don't you? Your mind works out a way around it, and that's what we found in our simulator, provided the pillars don't get too big it is something they can get used to. So we now have some parameters around acceptable pillar size and the next bit is to try to produce a more optimal design. The current test piece looks very ugly but it's really a very early prototype to assess forces."