Whiting: Protected cockpits are required

Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting believes that "there must be a way" for protected cockpits to be introduced to open-wheel racing.

The discussion regarding protected cockpits has once again come to the fore following the tragic death of Justin Wilson on Monday. The Briton passed away as a result of head injuries suffered in an IndyCar race on Sunday when he was struck by debris from another car.

Wilson is not the first to lose his life in such circumstances, with Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees killed by a loose wheel during a race at Brands Hatch in 2009, while Felipe Massa sustained serious injuries after he was struck by a suspension spring that came off the Brawn GP car of Rubens Barrichello. It is also believed by some that Jules Bianchi may have survived his crash at Suzuka last year if his cockpit had been protected.

The idea of introducing a closed cockpit is not a new one, and tests were carried out using fighter jet-like covers, but the idea was shelved due to concerns that drivers could become trapped in the event of an accident.

As such, a protected cockpit rather than a closed one seems more likely, with roll bars being ruled out as they obstructed the driver's view.

Whiting has admitted that there is no easy answer to the problem, but that a solution must be found.

"We have put in a huge amount of time, effort and research into this project, which has not been easy, in fact bloody hard," he told Autosport.

"But I can definitely see the day when this will happen. One day there will be something that will decrease a driver's risk of injury. Whether it will be as good at protecting a driver from an object coming towards him as a fighter jet cockpit, I doubt that, but it will offer him protection.

"We have to persevere. We must make something, even if it's not 100 per cent in terms of protecting the driver under all circumstances. But if it improves the situation it has to be good. There must be a way."

Whiting has revealed that the FIA will be trialing two more options later this month.

"We've been working on this for a few years and come up with a number of solutions to test, some more successfully than others," he explained.

The Briton added: "But we have two other solutions on the table, with the first something from Mercedes.

"It doesn't cover the driver, you can still take the driver out, which is one of the most important things, and it's a hoop above the drivers head and forward of it, but with one central stay.

"We are also looking at another device which is blades of varying heights which will be set on top of the chassis and in front of the driver at angles which will render them nearly invisible to him."

Former Marussia driver Max Chilton believes it is only a matter of time before protected cockpits are introduced.

"That is the one weak area we have left in motorsport and that is the one bit we need to make a little bit more safe," Chilton told Sky Sports.

"There are dangers to having them, because if you are trapped you can't get out, but from what I have seen in the footage they are super strong. I think we just need to find a way of making it so that whatever type of crash you have you can get out 100 per cent.

"You wouldn't even think about being hit by debris if you were covered, you wouldn't even know about it, it probably wouldn't even leave a mark. So it is something I think is definitely the route to go. It might be in five years, it might be in 10 years, but I can guarantee you there will be covers eventually."

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