Keeping Track #46: ‘Jet fighter’ cockpits coming to F1, says Wurz

Mercedes haloFormula One cars will feature canopies in the not-too-distant future – that’s the view of Alex Wurz, the Austrian former F1 racer and Le Mans 24 Hour winner who is now chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, the body that represents drivers in the sport.

F1 is set to move away from traditional open-cockpit cars in 2017, when a ‘halo’ head protection device pioneered by Mercedes will become mandatory on all cars. The move comes in the wake of the deaths of Marussia F1 driver Jules Bianchi and former F1 driver and Indycar racer Justin Wilson in the past 12 months, both of whom suffered fatal head injuries from racing incidents.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Wurz says he foresees the ‘halo’ system being replaced by something that offers drivers even more protection against potential head injuries before too long.

“In a few years’ time we’re going to move to jet fighter canopies, which for my taste is going to look really cool,” he said.

“It’s even maybe a safer option, but it’s not as implementable in the shorter-term as the halo system.

“All of the teams have 100 per cent agreed that the halo system is the one that is the fastest in its implementation and it doesn’t have any drawbacks. That’s maybe going to make the cars 7-8kg heavier, but it’s definitely a big step towards further safety in F1.”

Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has been a vocal advocate of greater head protection for drivers, and Wurz said the Red Bull Racing ace isn’t alone in his views.

“In a meeting, we asked the drivers specifically who is against head protection and who is in favour of it, and of the 95 per cent of drivers who were at this meeting said ‘yes, we have to go and make Formula One safer and go with the extra head protection’,” Wurz said.

“At no point do I see that the racing must be dangerous to be attractive. Racing must be competitive, it must be exciting, but I don’t see any aspect that danger has to be present in F1.”

Wurz also spoke of the adjustment period drivers will face getting accustomed to the new ‘halo’ system for 2017, while ‘Keeping Track’ also reviewed last week’s pre-season test in Spain, and assessed the fledgling days of the new American Haas F1 Team, which will make its debut in Melbourne this month.

Listen here – and leave your feedback.

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