MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Jenson Button has called for Formula One to introduce closed cockpits as soon as possible after the death in America of British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson.
Once a strong supporter of cockpits remaining open, the 2009 world champion said Wilson’s fatal crash last month had forced a change of mind.
“This (death) just shouldn’t happen at this time in motorsport. It’s not the 70s, you know, we should know better,” the McLaren driver told reporters at the Italian Grand Prix on Thursday.
“I was one of many drivers that said ‘This is open cockpit racing, it should stay as open cockpit racing’. But I think we’ve all had enough now.
“It’s time to do something serious about it, not just changing the headrest on the cars and things. I think you’ve got to get a canopy on the car of some sort. We can’t have this happening as much as it has.”
Button grew up racing go-karts against Wilson and Dan Wheldon, the double Indy 500 champion who was killed at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011, and said he was ‘pretty devastated’ by the latest fatality.
Wilson’s death came only a month after many Formula One drivers had attended the funeral of Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who died in July of serious head injuries suffered in a Japanese Grand Prix crash last October.
“Since Henry Surtees, there have been a lot of head injuries that have ended up with death, so it’s got to be changed,” said Button.
The son of Britain’s 1964 world champion John Surtees died in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch in 2009 when he was hit on the helmet by a loose wheel bouncing across the track.
Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), is to carry out more tests this month on devices that could protect drivers’ heads.
However previous tests have failed to get around obstructed vision and the difficulty of extracting a driver in an emergency from a closed cockpit.
Button said a canopy was probably the way to go.
“I personally feel that it needs to happen sooner rather than later and I think in Indycar it needs to happen because they seem to have a lot more issues than we do,” he said,
Double world champion and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton agreed something had to be done.
“Sometimes change is the way forward,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d like it. It would feel really strange if you had a canopy or a window over your head. But...we’ve had too many fatalities.
“Whilst there have been a lot less than 20 years ago, its still too many, we shouldn’t have any.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer