We all know Formula 1 cars are as tough as nails. Their near-indestructible safety cells protect drivers from 200mph shunts, 360-degree backflips and terrifying rolls. But, as tough as these cars are, they have one glaring weakness -- their wide-open cockpits afford drivers little or no protection from flying debris.
In an effort to improve this aspect of F1 safety, the FIA Institute has been probing the feasibility of closed cockpit designs in the most scientific way possible -- by firing a 20kg F1 wheel from a giant canon at 140mph towards the protective canopy of an F-16 fighter jet. Click play on the video below for a glimpse of the tests.
The outcome of the tests provides plenty of food for thought. The jet fighter canopy appeared completely undamaged, flexing only slightly as it deflected the wheel. In a separate test, a polycarbonate windscreen shattered on impact, causing shards to fly everywhere.
Despite the apparently positive outcome, F1 chiefs aren't particularly impressed with the idea of closed cockpits. Many fear closed cockpits could cause debris to ricochet into the crowd of spectators, causing injury. Such cockpits could also restrict a driver's ability to exit their car in the event of an accident, particularly if said vehicle were to overturn and burst into flames.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn expressed his reservation thus: "You can have covers and you can have canopies, but you also have to be able to get at a driver and extract him."
What do you think? Should we continue to push for closed cockpits to help improve safety, or should drivers simply accept the fact that motorsport is dangerous and be content with their helmets and HANS devices? As ever, let us know how you feel in the comments below, or on our Facebook wall.