As you most likely know, the topic of adding additional head protection for the world two premier open-wheeler categories — Formula 1 and the IndyCar Series — has been a hot button topic for the last 12 months or so.
Whispers about the subject first gained momentum after the incident that eventually claimed the life of Jules Bianchi. Those whispers then became shouts when Justin Wilson died last year. And that's before you even consider the recent fatal crash that claimed the life of Bryan Clauson.
Several non-fatal incidents have happened over that period that have pushed the topic out into the spotlight, but none of them have been quite as terrifying as today's crash between Charlie Kimball, Alexander Rossi, and Helio Castroneves.
Taking place in pit lane at lower speeds, the crash was caused when the exiting Rossi made wheel-to-wheel contact with the entering Kimball; sending Rossi skywards. Up in the air and obviously just a passenger at this point, Rossi landed on top of the Penske Racing entry of Castroneves — the front wheel appearing to hit Castroneves' head with the rest of the car skims over the former series champ.
Thankfully Castroneves and the other drivers all exited unscathed, but it once again thrusts the issue of safety into focus. And the crash couldn't be more timely, as the sport prepares to pay tribute to Justin Wilson in two days time on the one-year anniversary of his death.
We've already seen Ferrari's Formula 1 squad create the controversial ‘halo’ concept, panned by some because of how it looks and how it still leaves the driver relatively open. Red Bull have also created their own solution in the form of the ‘aeroscreen’ concept, that loosely resembles some of the windscreens of Indy and F1 cars of old. Others have simply pushed the case for employing full canopies, World Endurance Championship style.
You would think that there would be unanimous support for such things, given that they wouldn't impact the quality of racing while at the same time making things safer for competitors. But you'd be wrong, as many 'purist' fans continue to rally against these concepts because of this idea that the sport must retain an intrinsic high level of danger.
The sport will always be dangerous — among the most dangerous in the world — but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't aim to reduce obvious holes in safety procedure and regulation. Sure the Formula 1 and IndyCars of old didn't have these measures in place, but similarly they weren't capable of the same speeds or driven regularly to the same limits. The game has changed, and will only continue to change.
Years ago Felippe Massa showed us what would happen if a driver was struck by an errand piece of debris. Bianchi then showed us what could happen in a finite worst-case scenario. Then we lost Justin Wilson, in a set of circumstances that could have been prevented. It is time to do something.