A slightly unnoticed and significant event that happened during the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix was a particular interview with Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner who stated that his team may use a canopy cockpit as early as the next round in Russia.
The source of this interview was Sky Sports F1 pit lane reporter, Ted Kravtiz who himself was quite stunned when Horner mentioned that his team could run the closed canopy solution at the 2016 Russian Grand Prix if it passed all safety requirements. The interview took place in the pre-race show around 30 minutes from the race as Kravitz caught Horner on his way to the pit wall.
After an extremely eventful Grand Prix for Red Bull they released a tweet on Monday the 18th of April which seems to tease an upcoming event of some sort involving both Toro Rosso and Red Bull. It could be just a promotional video of some sort but, it could be a reveal of the first closed cockpit Formula One car as well!
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 18, 2016
Whether or not Formula One cars should develop into closed cockpit has been a much debated topic recently due to the sudden and unexpected deaths of Jules Bianchi after his accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and Justin Wilson at the Pocono round of the 2015 Indycar season.
Another proposed solution to the debate is to run with a “halo” device which protects drivers heads from a direct impact. However the Halo does have certain downsides and it doesn’t fully protect a driver the top of their head is exposed and would only stop debris from directly in front of the drivers head.
Ferrari opted to test this solution at the 2nd pre season test in Barcelona. Both drivers ran with the Halo design and many fans backlashed over the “ugly” design of it. Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen commented on the device saying: “the difference to the usual driving was surprisingly small. The visibility is just a little bit limited at the front but I donâ€™t think this is the final version of the device, so it can be improved further”McLaren-Honda were another team that looked into closed cockpits by creating the MP4-X, a futuristic closed cockpit concept car. McLaren’s brand manger John Allert explained the reasoning of designing the car “With the futuristic McLaren MP4-X concept race car, we wanted to peer into the future and imagine the art of the possible.”
The argument against closed cockpits is that they add another barrier for a driver if he becomes trapped in the car. A cockpit would be something the driver would have to manually open and those couple of seconds it takes could be the difference between life and death in any situation.
I have contacted Red Bull asking to comment on the situation and thus far I have heard nothing from them, presumably they wish not to comment on whether or not a plan is in action to implement a closed cockpit.
It is still unconfirmed if Red Bull will run with the canopy solution in Russia later this month and this is all based on a single comment from Christian Horner. It would see the sport take one of its biggest leaps in Formula One safety in the massive 65 year history.