first_imgMany people consider Formula 1 to be the pinnacle of motor racing, and the 24 drivers that take part are thought to be the best in the world. It’s not just the speed of the cars and the skill of the driver that matters, though, it’s the technology that gets developed and eventually filters down into the road cars we all drive every day (although that technology shift can go in the opposite direction).Anyone who has watched Formula 1 over the past 20 years witnessed how much safer it has become. Drivers now sit in a safety shell that protects them from impacts on all sides, wheels are tethered to ensure they don’t fly across the track or into the crowd when an accident occurs, and the testing each car must go through before being allowed to race ensures most crashes will see the driver walk away with nothing worse than a concussion.AdChoices广告However, there is one weak point in the design of a Formula 1 car when it comes to driver safety: the driver’s head is exposed in an open cockpit. The high sides of the car and use of a helmet offer a lot of protection, but if a wheel does appear on the track, or in the case of Felipe Massa a couple of years ago, a heavy metal spring that made up the suspension of Barrichello’s car bounced across the track and hit his helmet with such a force it knocked him inconscious and caused damage to his skull.The FIA, which governs the racing series, is always looking to improve safety. As the video below shows, open cockpits may be disappearing soon. Instead, drivers would sit under a canopy protecting them from any debris that may fly in their direction.The problem with selecting a canopy design is the impacts it would have to resist limiting suitable materials. A heavy wheel hitting a car doing 200km/h generates a lot of energy and would smash most canopies, but the FIA seems to have found a solution: use the canopy from a fighter jet.As the video below demonstrates, a polycarbonate shield just smashes under the force of a wheel hitting it, but does at least deflect the wheel. A fighter jet full canopy on the other hand, bounces the wheel off and remains intact.While this may seem like a great solution, it does introduce new problems. An open cockpit means it is easier for a driver to exit the car if there’s a fire. Also, if a canopy bounces debris off, where does that debris travel afterwards carrying a lot more energy from the impact?via Autobloglast_img