Massa and Alonso open to closed cockpit trials in F1

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In the wake of Jules Bianchi’s accident at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have both come out in support of a possible test for closed cockpits in Formula 1 to improve driver safety.

Bianchi sustained severe head injuries at Suzuka after crashing into a recovery vehicle in the final few laps of the race. He remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital in Japan.

The accident has left the paddock in a state of shock and sadness, with all of its thoughts and support going to Bianchi and his family at this difficult time.

It has also raised the question about closed cockpits being introduced to Formula 1, which has traditionally been an open-canopy series throughout its history.

Williams technical chief Rob Smedley explained to Autosport earlier this week that could easily be implemented in F1 to try and improve safety standards, and both Alonso and Massa backed a trial of the innovation.

“I probably tend to agree to at least check and try or test the idea,” Alonso said. “We are in 2014, we have the technology, we have aeroplanes, we have had many other samples that they use in a successful way so why not think about it?

“All the biggest accidents in motor sport over the last couple of years have been head injuries so it’s probably one part where we are not at the top of safety.

“Even in my case, in 2012 at Spa, I could probably have died there in corner one if it had been 10 centimetres closer to my head. If the technology is there and available, and there is the possibility, I would not exclude it, for sure.”

Massa was just as receptive, having himself suffered a severe head injury after being struck by a suspension spring during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

“I totally agree with what Fernando said, so I think it would be interesting to try, it would be interesting to work on that possibility,” Massa explained. “Definitely, for my accident it would have been perfect. Maybe for Jules, I don’t know.

“But I think maybe it could have been interesting for so many different types of accident, including the one I had, but I totally agree with Fernando.

“I think it could be an option and we will see when we could try something or see something to understand if it’s positive or not, but I totally agree with him.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”