Red Bull’s ‘crappy shield’ founded on a flawed concept


We’ve heard a lot in recent times about F1 drivers becoming heroes once again, yet today in Sochi the sport took another step along the road of removing the drivers further from the fans’ view. Red Bull Racing ran their version of the new driver canopy and, despite it being for just one installation lap, we can all now see the impact this will have if implemented.

The reigning world champion, Lewis Hamilton expressed his concerns yesterday about the route the sport is taking, explaining that “the reason you look as a kid at F1, it’s ‘these guys, they’re crazy. They could die at any moment.’ Everyone who comes to me, who’s just started watching F1, they go: ‘it’s so dangerous.’”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo sees things differently. “I’ve been for it, because of the safety things, and if it does save even one life over the next 20 years, you’d take that.”

The latest clamour for ‘closed cockpits’ has been given a boost in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s death, and the FIA apparently feel the need to be seen to be doing something. Yet simultaneously we still have marshal vehicles parked in dangerous places during live sessions (and marshals blissfully wandering around), as Jenson Button observed in China.

So how are the fans reacting to the latest ‘safety’ push having seen Daniel Ricciardo’s lap today? Only time will tell, yet the ‘if only one… is saved’ argument is surely one which should be scrutinised further.

As human beings all activities we partake in have a specific amount of risk. Climbing into a car, walking down the street, eating, drinking… each have a certain amount of risk with the ultimate possibility of death.

In 2013 there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally, which in the pursuit of saving not just ‘one more life’ Wolf [blogger] argues should logically lead us to invoke the doctrine of v’nishmartem m’od l’nafshoseichem and ban all car driving.

The World Health Organisation states, “In 2012, about 3.3 million net deaths, or 5.9% of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption”.


Clearly we need to ban alcohol across planet Earth with immediate effect. This plus the driving ban will save nearly 5 million lives a year.

Except this will not happen. Because the reality of our existence does not logically lead us to the ‘if only one more life can be saved’ kind of decision making.

F1 is in a time of crisis with its supporters. Up to a third fewer people watch the sport today when compared to a few years ago. Hiding the drivers further from view will surely not help this cause.

Let’s give Lewis Hamilton the final word on the matter before you have your say. “That screen looks like something from… It looks like a shield that the police use, a riot shield.

“You’ve got this cool, elegant, futuristic F1 car, and you’ve got a crappy riot shield sitting on top of it.

“The other one [the Halo], carbon fibre, the structure was obviously good, but Fernando wouldn’t have been able to get out of the car potentially in his crash in Melbourne”.

Danger has always been part of the DNA of Formula One and as Lewis concludes, “That’s a large part of why they [the fans] are so in awe of what you do. You take away all that, and that person could do it, almost. What’s the point if anyone can do it?”

You can make the cockpits as safe as houses, but if Jenson Button crashes into a marshal inappropriately trained and positioned on a circuit, then whilst Jenson will live — there will still be another life lost.

48 responses to “Red Bull’s ‘crappy shield’ founded on a flawed concept

  1. I couldn’t possibly disagree with Lewis more on this subject. F1s attraction is not the danger in my opinion, it’s the speed, the noise (yeah that needs sorting) and the fact you’ve got the best drivers on the planet racing each other at some awesome locations. Standing at the end of the straight at Monza is fairly impressive, standing at Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone during qualifying is a whole new world awe in comparison though. It’s not the open cockpit element that makes racing exciting, LMP1 proves that quite readily.

    Having watched numerous accidents in F1, I don’t want drivers dying over what is a posh sport. In my time watching F1 I can recall all kinds of nasty incidents, Wendlinger, Berger, Senna, Barrichello, Hakkinen, Ratzenburger, Brundle, Donnelly, Massa, Bianchi, Alonso etc etc. I don’t want to see anyone else die in the sport I love.

    F1 should be the pinnacle of everything it can be and safety is one of those areas. As Ricciardo says, if it saves one life over 20 years it’s worth it.

    • But it still doesn’t have to be fugly. Lmp1’s look beautiful closed. F1 half open doesn’t. Make it a jet fighter cockpit which is integrated in the design rather than some screwed on solution.

    • If speed and the best drivers is all you are looking for, why don’t you just watch iRacing. The skill of a driver also should include the risks they are willing to take. That is what can determine what is the best driver. The one who is best at riding the line of danger and winning. While I agree that F1 should be at the forefront of safety as well as other things, I still feel like the closed cockpit is not ideal in terms of safety. The open cockpit design was around in the first place for safety. Back then, it was safer to be thrown out of your car. And even now, it can often be safer to have a quick escape route. The real thing that is unsafe right now that needs to get fixed, and the one thing that everyone is talking about, and the one thing that caused Bianchi’s death, is better track management and stuff.

      Once again, the FIA goes about “fixing” something by changing something else completely irrelevant.

      Problem: Cars cant pass.
      FIA solution: Lets make the cars louder then!

      • Sorry that’s drivel. The skills of playing a PC game are is vastly different to real driving, and basically that’s nothing to do with risk.

        F1 has many safety issues it could do with addressing. Just because we’ve not had anyone killed by flying debris doesn’t make it any less valid.

        I’ve heard all this rubbish before when F1 wanted to raise head protection and change crash structures etc. F1 needs to progress, even if some people would still prefer no seat belts and very open cockpits.

        • Like I said. Open wheels are the actual biggest risk of causing crashes at present. They have to go, close up the cockpits and hey presto – you have WEC racing.

  2. So what about the spectators when that tire ricochets off the car? There are also pictures showing that the tire still impacts the top of the drivers head.

    • Send the link to the photos. The video here does not have the tire touching the head. Ricciardo’s helmet from driving with this windscreen appears to sit lower than the helmet shown here. One thing this does that the Mercedes thong doesn’t do is protect from a small foreign object striking the driver’s face. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better than a thong.

  3. Suggesting that the FIA should forget the cockpit safety thing because there are other track safety issues in play already is barely a high school level argument.

    Here’s an idea: just do both. There’s no either / or. There’s no crippling shortage of resources. Leaving aside aspersions regarding the FIA’s overall competence, the idea that they can’t manage two projects at once is just nonsense.

  4. We’re talking about driver safety in F1. What do road accidents have to do with it? What does alcohol have to do with it? Weak arguments to push your position forward that a canopy or halo or whatever else is not needed.
    But let me use these arguments. Can you imagine the technology that could go into that canopy? How more effective it can make it? Wouldn’t that technology then transfer onto road cars and their windscreens? Wouldn’t make road cars even safer?

    In any case, I disagree with this article and with Lewis too, despite being a big fan of his. Should we find an elegant protection panel for drivers? YES! Because we haven’t got one now, should we just not bother? NO!

    • The article questions the ‘one more life must be saved’ argument. Is this the goal of humanity? We can of course provide ultimate safety for F1 drivers and remote drive the cars – a la drones. And if the drivers become more and more invisible, does that affect F1’s appeal?

      • The ‘one more life must be saved’ was a quote by a driver. I thought the article was a debate about the usefulness of canopy/halo ideas.
        But in any case, I do not think we should try and read the future or try and equate these present ways of improving driver safety to having drones or video game championships in the future. Look at LMP1 cars, they’re fine as they are, drivers protected to the degree they are and still on track actually driving real cars.

        • You seem to forget that there was big protest when they said Lmp1’s are forbidden to be open. And as of this year (I believe but my mind may be incorrect ) lmp2 isn’t open either anymore. But the manufacturers didn’t like that either.

      • That is a rubbish response. the whole exercise was to devise a system that helped to protect a drivers head from being hit in extreme should stay with the concept. the RB screen did just that and did it well. it looks good and once completely integrated will look even better. the drivers helmet can still be quite easily seen, although why that is such a requisite i don’t know!! as for hamilton’s derogatory comments, that is simply ignorance on his behalf however we will wait and see what he does, afterall he did say that he wouldn’t be racing with anything on his car!!! actions speak louder than words.

        • Well that’s not actually what he said, or is that you making up your own statement?

          He actually said, “i hope we have the option as to whether we race with it on our car or not, because if we do, then i don’t want it on mine”…..

          Now that’s not really the same thing as you’ve mentioned, right?

          As for the screen works, the video with the tire being fired straight on, shows the tire still hitting the top of the test dummy’s head.

  5. The *closer scrutiny* of the “if only one … Zisa saved” argument is pretty poor as well, even allowing for rather ham-fisted application of the hyperbole machine – let’s ban everything!

    Drinking alcohol and driving cars are certainly risky endeavours but largely because the users are not heeding advice or using devices or following practices that would reduce the risk to acceptable levels. There’s no mystery there. Personal choices. Personal consequences.

    Ideally the use of cockpit protection in F1 would be a personal choice for each driver. It can’t be, of course, because of the aerodynamic penalty that comes with running one.

    When I hear Lewis sounding off about safety and risk in motorsport, I can’t help but think of Dale Earnhardt Snr and his refusal to wear a HANS device.

    FWIW, I run an aeroscreen on my kitcar, which is a pretty good facsimile of a Caterham R500. I have no ABS, ASC or air-bags. My chassis is a one-off, so no crash test. I’ve made my choices. I’m fully aware of the risks. No hyperbole. It’s fine with me.

  6. Yes I did and am convinced that he never managed to get rid of his old infection called foot-in-mouth-disease.

    • Maybe you should’ve read with more understanding, but then again this is Lewis i’m talking about, reading with understanding doesn’t apply.

    • He was just saying something to look and sound smart.
      Clearly it hasn’t worked. He does not look nor sound smart.
      A lot of work to be done there.

      • What, like what you’re attempting to do now?……

        Sadly it didn’t work, and i’m afraid that you’ve got lot more work to do there…….

          • How do you know? I want the money, the jet and his fly ass cars…

            Aww don’t be mad though.

            But your attempt to sound and look smart, still needs work. Come back when you’ve improved it

          • And you think by being Lewis’ “guard dog” on this site makes you sound smart?
            Just because your agenda here is to defend him at all costs, as long as people have a high opinion of him
            is all fine, as as soon as someone disagrees with your beloved, then your responses are those of an offended virgin.
            Go and get laid and get a life…

          • Guard dog, better than being called a parrot.

            Awe why are you getting so upset? Was it something I said? Ok, I’m sorry, I really really really didn’t mean to hurt your feelings….

      • And here’s a good time to mention this: James Allen said, “The greatest trick Lewis ever pulled was convincing lots of people he’s stupid.”

        Looks like he got you, too.

        • James Allen didn’t say that despite the fact it’s all over his site in various comment sections. Probably the same commenter. 😉

          I can’t wait to see why that fact doesn’t actually matter – like the Nico pics that don’t actually exist. Sorry, the Nico pics that were “scrubbed.” Loooong muscle-flex comment comin’ up. 😀

          Anyhow, when you’re furiously googling in order to prove something, type in “Will Buxton” and the saying. Bit of a difference between the two. Though, again, I’m sure I’ll be told how that’s irrelevant or semantics – like data analysis.

          I’m still surprised it only struck me now, this ghost thing.

          Peace out…


  7. What’s strange to me is that Lewis says these things while he has the biggest example of why safety is important running around in his garage. Sure a halo wouldn’t have helped lauda in his case. But I am quite positive he would have loved it when it was safer when he still drove f1

  8. So what’s so wrong with Lewis giving his opinion? I didn’t see anyone giving Hulkenberg a hard time when he rubbished the Ferrari concept. I don’t hear anyone giving Kvyat a hard time with him saying he’s still in 2 minds about it when asked about his own teams concept today or how about Brundle and Herbert who also thinks it should not be on the car?

    • Shhhh. That’s not the point Fortis. It’s time to shift the conversation to Hamilton’s lack of intelligence and commit one’s self to making childish comments to you.

      Let the churlish behavior continue with commencing!… continuously.

  9. TJ- Thanks for giving the “other side” of the protective shield argument. My first thought when I saw Ric driving down the pit lane… what about rain? Will the screen have a moisture-wicking surface? If so, will it alter the reliability of the shield? And then, of course, driver removal after an accident where the car does not finish upright.

    On Sky either Croft or Kravitz pointed out that the RB mechanic helping Ric with his seat belts had an incredibly difficult time maneuvering around the shield; more food for accident thought (and, perhaps the most important as, even if a car is upright, how much longer will it take to find someone with adequate arm length to unfasten the seat belt apparatus?

    For now, at least (or, as it presently stands), the idea is a crock… a poorly-thought out crock.

    (Is it possible the shield is being introduced this weekend because it’s the first race to take place on May 1 since “Tamburello,” 1994???)

  10. Lets face it, motor racing is an inherently dangerous sport. It reminds people of that on every entrance ticket sold at a circuit. The drivers know the risks involved in racing, the teams know the risks and the spectators, whether at home watching on the tv, or at the circuit, know the risks. That is why the drivers get paid such huge salaries. Plus, I am sure the pit crew/mechanics are not on minimum wage! The only people not getting any money are the marshals, because Bernie doesn’t think it is necessary. *cough… tight bastard… cough*
    The circuits have been neutered to a certain extent, having vast run off areas, to make them safer, that hardly penalise mistakes. A lot of people think that has made the sport less entertaining. At least this was only done after careful consideration. The “Halo” is another knee jerk reaction from the FIA. As has pointed out by Brundle and others, nobody has considered the reduced visiblity in the rain, or from a car in front spraying oil, or even to see the start lights. This is before we get to whether Alonso could have easily escaped his car in Australia if his car had been fitted with it.
    I want Formula 1 to be as safe as possible but without destroying the very essence of the sport.

    • You can argue until the cows come home about what makes up the essence of F1. I see a lot of arguments about fuel saving, it’s nothing new in F1. Perhaps it’s a bit more extreme due to no refuelling during the race and the fuel flow limit, but it’s always been part of the art of F1 for a driver – managing fuel, tyres and brakes to A>Go fast and B>Finish a race cos if you don’t do that fast lap times mean nothing. I think the biggest problem in F1 is the aerodynamics of the cars, making it difficult to follow a car in front, thus reducing overtaking. If you want excitement back in F1 ? Increase overtaking without the gimmicks.
      The Halo is not a kneejerk reaction, it’s been on the FIA’s drawing board for quite some time now.
      All of the problems mentioned in regards to the halo ? They are not insurmountable ones. You can make just about any material hydrophobic to varying degrees these days. Given 5-10 years (if the sport survives that long), I think we’ll see fully enclosed cockpits with HUD displays for the drivers. I’m sure there’s some aero gains to be had out of window wipers.

      I’m resigned to the Halo becoming a reality, unless all F1 fans pitch in to buy the Sport off CVC nothing we say will make a whole lot of difference.

  11. The large black marks across the helmet suggest the concept is indeed flawed….unless a dead driver was the desired result.

  12. I’m with Lewis, if a driver is afraid of the risk of dying for the sport he’s doing, then he shouldn’t be in F1 period!!

    • And oil and insects. They will need to include some massive windscreen tear-offs, or an extra member of pit crew with a bucket of soapy water and a squeegee

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