Aero­screen takes pole po­si­tion in safety de­bate

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

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

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