May 1st, 1994: the world watches in shock as Ayrton Senna’s Williams-Renault veers off the track and hits the wall at the Tamburello corner of the Imola circuit. Unfortunately, it was an accident that the most charismatic F1 driver of all times wouldn’t survive as his head injuries were too severe. Just one day before another fatality had hit F1 for the first time in 12 years. Roland Ratzenberger’s Simtek wing broke off before the Villeneuve corner and he hit the wall at 196 mph (315 km/h). The cause of death was basal skull fracture.
Fast forward to 2010 and the Hungarian Grand Prix: a loose spring from Rubens Barrichello’s car struck Felipe Massa’s head at great speed, missing his helmet’s visor by inches. Thankfully, Massa was lucky and recovered quickly from the subsequent injury.
The FIA Institute constantly does research on the matter of safety. And in the second issue of its IQ magazine it has published a research about the possible benefits of combining the aviation and motorsport technologies.
One such research concerns the use of jet fighter-like canopies for the protection of the drivers’ heads. Although it is true that since 1994 Formula 1 has made great leaps in terms of safety, resulting in drivers walking unscathed from crashes that in past years might have been fatal, the fact remains that their heads remain exposed as they reach speeds exceeding 300 km/h. At such speeds, any impact would most likely be catastrophic.
Therefore, the FIA institute is conducting research about incorporating canopies in future F1 cars. If you’d like to see what they’d look like, imagine something like the Caparo T1 -probably without the wheel covers.
To see FIA’s tests (and the three aforementioned accidents) just watch the videos after the jump.