Former F1 driver and television pundit Martin Brundle is concerned cockpit protection is inevitable in F1 and will reduce the appeal of the sport.
Red Bull tested its version of cockpit protection - dubbed the Aeroscreen - during FP1 for the Russian Grand Prix last week, following on from Ferrari’s test of the Halo concept in pre-season testing. Speaking to F1i’s Eric Silbermann during the Russian Grand Prix weekend, Brundle says he is not a fan of the direction F1 is going with regards to head protection.
“I’m not comfortable with the way it’s heading really,” Brundle said. “You don't want to see unnecessary injury or death, but part and parcel of why people give up their time and hard earned cash to stand at the side of the track is because they are watching people doing something they couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do themselves. And a large part of that, apart from the speed and the skill is the danger.
“And now of course it should not be unnecessarily dangerous, but for me a single-seater racing car is open wheel and open cockpit as a core fact. If not we should go sports car racing, but even those cars have their risks. You look at the latest sports cars with their energy recovery systems and the drivers cannot get out of the passenger door: if they’re upside down, they’re horrible things to get out of.
“I see these canopies or halos and I think there will be a situation where a driver doesn’t see something, can’t see a marshal’s flag or post, can’t see the start lights, can’t get out of the car fast enough. Like Fernando probably wouldn't have got out of the car with either of those two devices because truth be told, like me when I had my Australian GP crash, he fell out of a tiny gap between the front of the cockpit and what was left from the angle of the rollover bars.
“But it’s irrelevant what I think about this, because now we’ve shown we’ve got it, the sport’s legal beagles will insist it gets put on because now, if somebody gets killed or seriously injured then the sport will be in for the high jump because the claim will be made that, ‘you had a solution, but you didn’t fit it.’ So it will be going on [the cars] and it’s a horror story.”
And Brundle says he sides with Lewis Hamilton’s views that the drivers accept the risks they are facing when racing in F1.
“You can’t see the driver. I love MotoGP because I can see the riders ride their bikes, you can see them work and slide the bike around. Very few people are aware that around the same Silverstone track layout, Valentino Rossi is 29 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton. You’re comparing two great champions but Valentino is 29 seconds a lap slower because they don’t have downforce on motorbikes.
“I absolutely echo Lewis’s comments [in Russia], saying there needs to be an element of risk in this business. Risk is part and parcel of the sport and if you’re not prepared to take that risk, don’t get in the car.”