Sep.4 (GMM/ Sunday’s terrifying first-corner crash at Spa Francorchamps has reopened the debate about whether the sport’s days of open cockpits are numbered.

Paddy Lowe, McLaren’s technical director, thinks Fernando Alonso’s lucky escape after Romain Grosjean’s flying Lotus only narrowly missed the Spaniard’s hands and head on Sunday means that action is now “inevitable”.

He is quoted by the Herald Sun as acknowledging that the drivers’ exposed head is the last “big” safety issue for formula one.

Lowe is part of the working group that is looking into whether closed cockpits, shields, forward roll-hoops or canopies are the right solution to the problem.

“I think 2014 is intended (for introduction), as we started the project a year ago,” he said.

However, it has been suggested the FIA might have to admit that the benefits of better head protection might be outweighed by its disadvantages, such as reduced driver visibility.

“Ideally a driver wants nothing in the way,” said Lowe, “but in the same way as you drive a road car or even the old VW camper van with the centre pillar, you just get used to it, don’t you?

“We found that as long as the pillars don’t get too big it is something you can get used to.”