Commenting on the incident, in which Fernando Alonso’s head was missed by inches, McLaren’s technical director, Paddy Lowe, said, “You see it time and time again and think ‘that was lucky’. One day it won’t be lucky. At the same time it is an open cockpit formula so we have to protect that, but it should be technically possible one way or another.”
According to Lowe such measures could be in place within 18 months. “I think 2014 is intended, as we started the project a year ago,” he added. “Personally I think something is inevitable because it is the one big [safety] exposure that we have got.”
Back in May we showed you an amateur rendering of what a closed-cockpit F1 car could look like. It didn’t look too bad, but Lowe seems to think a completely covered cockpit won’t be the direction taken.
Lowe has been involved with the research undertaken by the FIA Institute which has so far included the testing of a polycarbonate cover and a forward-facing metal roll hoop (shown above). Lowe says the polycarbonate canopy has been scrapped in favour of the roll hoop.
Video footage of the forward-facing roll hoop was released by the FIA Institute in April this year and work on this concept is continuing, “We have made a test piece and it has been tested structurally with various impacts, like firing wheels at it, and that was successful,” said Lowe. “So we understand some of the parameters in terms of the angles that are needed and the strength of the pieces. The work that is currently in progress is assessing its visibility, and we’ve done some work on the simulator with our interpretation.”
Development is focusing on finding an acceptable compromise between protection and visibility. “We have some parameters about pillar size, and now we are looking at making something with that pillar size and to the right strength requirement,” added Lowe.