Jenson Button calls for closed cockpits

Jenson Button has called for the immediate introduction of closed cockpits in single-seater motor-racing to avoid any further fatalities.

Button was speaking from the Monza paddock ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with the sport mourning another death.

Justin Wilson, who Button competed against in the junior ranks of motor sport as well as in Formula One, died last month after he was struck on his crash helmet by a piece of debris during an IndyCar race in Pennsylvania.

Wilson’s death came only 37 days after Jules Bianchi, the French racer tipped to become a world champion, lost his life following the devastating injuries he sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix in October.

Button said: “It is very sad to see what happened and we are all pretty devastated by it – one because you know the guy and you have raced against him in karting and in Formula One – but also because this should not happen at this time in motor sport. It is not the seventies and we should know better.

“I was always one of many drivers who said this is open-cockpit racing and should stay as open-cockpit racing, but I think we have all had enough now and it is time to do something serious about it.”

Henry Surtees, the son of 1964 world champion John Surtees, was killed six years ago when he was hit on the head by a flying wheel while competing in an F2 race at Brands Hatch.

It is almost four years since British driver Dan Wheldon died following a devastating 15-car pile-up in an IndyCar race at the Las Vegas Speedway.

“You have got to get a canopy on the car of some sort because we can’t have this happening as much as it has over the past few years since Henry Surtees’ accident,” Button said. “There has been a lot of head injuries which have ended up in death so it has to change.”

Closed cockpits have been trialled previously, but with mixed success. A jet-fighter canopy was tested, but, although it proved successful in deflecting debris, other fears were raised – notably that a driver may be restricted from disembarking his cockpit at speed, and the debris could pose a threat to spectators.

The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, is to trial two further concepts at a test later this month, and Button, the most experienced driver on the grid, has called for a change to be made as soon as possible.

“Canopy is probably the way to go but obviously that takes time,” he added. “I can’t see it happening next year in Formula One and I personally feel that it needs to happen sooner rather than later. In IndyCar it has to happen because they seem to have more issues than we do.

“Every accident there is debris because you cannot get away from the banking when you crash, so it will be good if we can see canopies sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile Williams have retained Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for a third season. The announcement on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix ends speculation Jenson Button, whose future at McLaren next season remains in limbo, could link up with the team where he started his Formula One career in 2000.

Bottas had been mooted to drive for Ferrari in 2016, but that link was dashed after the Italian team surprisingly retained Kimi Raikkonen for next season. Bottas, who joined the Williams race set-up in 2012 before making his grand prix bow a year later, said: ‘‘I am really pleased to be staying with the team for a fourth F1 race season.”


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