Bill Pappas, IndyCar’s VP of competition and race engineering, says the series is examining ways to better protect its drivers, including retro-fitting a deflector on the current Dallara tub.
Speaking at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis, Pappas said: “Some sort of windscreen is currently the one we’re researching the most. We think if we can get something that gets the driver’s head below whatever we have in front of them – a windscreen – that should act as a deflector.
“If you think about Justin [Wilson]’s accident, it was such a one-in-a-how-many-millions chance, but then you look back at Felipe Massa’s accident [in practice for the 2009 Hungarian GP], if he would have had some sort of screen in front of him, it probably would have deflected the spring. So, we’re looking at that as a more likely solution.”
Regarding the possibility of fitting them to the DW12 Dallaras, Pappas said: “There’s been a quite long discussion about that and studies to ensure we don’t make a mistake (by putting) something on just to say we’ve done something,” he said. “It can’t be the wrong thing to do. It has to be well-researched and analyzed and then make the decision to go forward.”
Regarding the materials used, Pappas said: “We’re looking at what jet fighters have because they’re obviously at 600-plus miles per hour and flying into debris like birds. “There are materials out there, but it’s [a question of] how do you integrate that into a racing car and not make it cumbersome?”
Pappas said that full canopies were not being considered.
“First off, these are open-wheel, open-cockpit race cars and there’s a history about that,” he said. “When you talk to teams and drivers, they want it to remain an open cockpit."
“The other side is – and this is most important – there’s the safety aspect. You need to be able to extricate a driver if he has an accident. If you have a canopy, you can imagine the time it takes to open it and get the driver out could be life-threatening.”