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FIA determined to introduce F1 cockpit protection in the future

Mark Sutton/Sutton Images

The FIA is continuing to investigate a better way to protect cockpits in single seater racing and is currently analysing two concepts for better head protection that it hopes one day will save lives in Formula One.

The dangers of open cockpit racing were thrust back into the spotlight this week after IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died from head injuries he sustained at Pocono raceway on Sunday. Ever since the death of Henry Surtees in Formula 2 in 2009, the FIA has been working on ways to offer drivers more protection, including a fighter jet-style canopy and a protective roll bar ahead of the driver.

Concerns about visibility and the driver getting trapped in the car following an accident have prevented the concepts become reality, but the FIA's Charlie Whiting says two more ideas are being investigated.

"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," Whiting told Autosport. "We had the fighter jet cockpit approach, but the downsides to that significantly outweighed the upsides.

"We also came up with some fairly ugly looking roll structures in front of the drivers, but they can't drive with it as they can't see through it. So it's been really, really hard to come up with something that is going to do it.

"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."

Whiting admits it is unlikely F1 will ever find a perfect solution, but says that will not stop the FIA investigating cockpit protection with the view of introducing something in the future.

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