Over the past few days, I have been coming across a number of messages safety in motorsport.
Following Dan Wheldon’s recent passing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, that is only natural.
It appears many believe that closed cockpit racing may well be the way forward for motor racing – and in time, they may very well be right.
However demanding safety features be implemented without the numbers to back them up can be equally as dangerous.
Earlier this year, the FIA began investigations into the possibility of using closed cockpit units to protect drivers in case of flying debris.
The test saw two varieties put through their paces – a polycarbonate windscreen and an F-16 fighter jet canopy made from aerospace-specification polycarbonate. The project saw a Formula 1 wheel fired upon each shield from short range at approximately 140 miles per hour.
Where the windscreen shattered upon impact on two occasions, rendering its potential usefulness redundant, the jet canopy merely deflected the errant wheel away, leaving the cockpit area unscathed. This result, however, brought problems of its own.
With the wheel successfully deflected away from the cockpit, it continued to travel through the air, eventually landing several hundred metres away.
The face of the problem changed instantly, as the potential of non-competitor injuries and fatalities became apparent.
Of course, the loss of Dan Wheldon was a black moment for motorsport; however the death of a fan or track worker could destroy the sport forever.
It must not be forgotten that three fans died at the CART US 500 at Michigan in 1998, while another three fans perished at an IRL event in Charlotte the following year. In Formula 1, two trackside marshals died due to injuries caused by flying wheels in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
There is plenty of potential in closed cockpit single-seaters, but as with every safety feature, the positives and negative elements need to be thoroughly investigated before they can be implemented.
Without doubt, this will eventually be done, but it needs to be done in the right way.