Palmer no fan of closed F1 cockpits
Briton Jolyon Palmer fears the introduction of driver head protection will go against the traditional values of Formula One.
The FIA, the sport’s governing body, recently announced that improved cockpit protection is due to be introduced in 2017 with the ‘Halo’, their preferred option.
The Halo, first pioneered by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team, is designed to shield drivers from flying debris.
British driver Justin Wilson was killed in August after he was fatally struck on the crash helmet by a nose cone from another car during an IndyCar race in America.
“I think we need to be careful not to go away from what Formula One has always been, which is an open cockpit,” said Palmer, who will make his grand prix debut for Renault at the season opener in Australia on March 20.
“It is important to being able to identify the driver, and I think that is a nice touch from the sporting side.
“Rather than just seeing a car go round you can at least see the driver in it, so we have to be careful on that. I am not unhappy with how it is at the moment.”
The FIA has explored a number of designs aimed at protecting drivers from flying debris after Felipe Massa was struck by a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Henry Surtees, the son of 1964 world champion John Surtees, was killed in the same summer after he was hit on the crash helmet by an errant tyre while competing in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch.
Jules Bianchi also succumbed to the devastating injuries he sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix in July, although it is not believed improved head protection would have saved the Frenchman.
But while most drivers are for pushing for improved driver head protection, Nico Hulkenberg reiterated his objections to the Halo concept at last week’s test in Barcelona.
The Force India driver said: “It’s a personal thing. I just don’t like it [a closed cockpit]. For me it should be open.”
Palmer, the former GP2 champion, added: “You have the Felipe Massa situation which could happen any minute and it was incredibly unlucky.
“For me, safety is obviously on the agenda, but it is not a massive concern. I think IndyCar is quite different to Formula One in that point of view.
“We see very few accidents where drivers are injured. Obviously the head is now the focal point, but I think safety in the barriers is better, the run-off is big, and an accident that happened to Justin is quite different circumstances to what you get in Formula One a lot of the time because it is on an oval track.
“A car hits the wall on the outside and all the debris has nowhere to go apart from back on the circuit. If you have an accident in Formula One – of course there is the occasional place that could happen – but by and large if you hit a wall you are quite a long way from the track.”