Among the F1 drivers, support is growing for the potential introduction of closed or covered cockpits. Jules Bianchi and Indycar's Justin Wilson were the latest head injury-related casualties, but memories of the Henry Surtees fatality of 2009 and what happened to Felipe Massa in the same year are still fresh. "A helmet clearly is not protection enough," said Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz.
Until now, the big resistance to change has been twofold: first, to ensure that the solution is not more dangerous than before, in terms of trapping a stricken driver. And the argument that open cockpits are the 'DNA' of open-wheel racing has also been widely touted. Nico Hulkenberg, for example, said at Monza: "For me, single seaters are open. When we go into the cars, we know the risks. We have to be careful not to over-protect and sterilise everything," he insisted.
Valtteri Bottas, however, does not agree. "I don't really see the difference between a formula one car with a closed cockpit or not. It's still a formula one car," said the Finn. "When it is for safety I am open to anything."
F1 veteran Jenson Button has a similar view, particularly with two of his former karting friends, fellow Britons Wilson and Dan Wheldon, both now dead. "I was always among those who said 'This is open-cockpit racing'. But I think we've all had enough and it's time to do something about it. It's not the 70s. We should know better."
Likewise, Sebastian Vettel is an unabashed motor racing 'purist', but he admits the arguments for change are now growing. "If it would have meant that Justin is still with us, then I don't think anyone could put his hand up and say 'No I don't want that'. It is very sad and even if I'm not a fan of closed cockpits, we do need to look at it," the Ferrari driver added.
Fernando Alonso agrees: "We can see that these solutions are used in (Le Mans) endurance racing and that series is thriving. I'm sure the FIA and everyone is looking into it. I don't know if they will come up with a solution, but we should at least test the various options." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing