Aeroscreen takes pole position in safety debate
While the concept of cockpit protection remains divisive, Red Bull’s proposal is the more favoured of the two tested so far
Formula 1 is moving towards adopting Red Bull’s ‘aeroscreen’ as the form of mandatory cockpit head protection for next season.
The FIA is still pushing ahead with plans to introduce this controversial new approach to safety, and the aeroscreen has supplanted the ‘halo’ tested by Ferrari pre-season as the preferred method. The fundamental reason is that the Red Bull concept is considered to be the more aesthetically pleasing of the two options. The aeroscreen pioneered by Red Bull is favoured over the halo due to its greater frontal protection
Both devices are primarily designed to protect a driver from larger pieces of flying debris – for example, a wheel – hitting the car from the front. The driver’s head will remains unprotected from above in both cases, but this is not considered an issue since an F1 car will, by definition, always be moving quickly when any such object strikes – ensuring the trajectory is highly unlikely to be vertical. The aeroscreen has the added benefit of providing extra frontal protection from smaller pieces of debris, which could penetrate between the halo’s structure and the car.
However, a problem has emerged in that the structure of the aeroscreen intrudes on what the FIA refers to as the “free head space” – the area it determines must remain free of bodywork because it marks the extremities of where a driver’s head could move to as it is thrown around in an accident. The areas in question are forward of the driver at an angle of about 45°. FIA race director Charlie Whiting met with Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix to discuss what could be done about this.
Because of these ongoing concerns, the FIA is also still pressing ahead with perfecting the halo for now. A new version of the device, made from titanium rather than the steel used initially, will be trialled in the near future.
None of the issues currently under discussion is considered a potential road block to the adoption of extra head protection, and F1 remains on a path to embrace it for 2017.
• For an in-depth look at the relative merits of halos and aeroscreens, read our feature on p70