Protection for Formula 1 drivers’ heads will become mandatory from 2017 and Red Bull Racing has presented the idea it’s been working on, dubbed ‘aeroscreen’.
It looks like a wrap-around visor and is designed to deflect objects away from the driver’s head. In testing it passed impact tests with a tyre and a 1kg metal projectile – watch the tests here.
The ‘screen will be seen on track for the first time today on Daniel Ricciardo’s car during practice for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Ricciardo was positive about the design after an initial static test. He said: “So far the impression is that it should be OK, visibility-wise. It’s pretty open at the front and it doesn’t really block the vision.”
Lewis Hamilton wasn’t keen, saying it looked like “a riot shield.” Neither was the reigning champion keen on Ferrari’s three-point ‘halo’ concept that was trialled during pre-season testing. He called it “the worst looking mod in F1 history” in an Instagram post that was subsequently deleted.
The issue of head protection on F1 cars – indeed, open-cockpit race cars generally – has been a hot topic for many years. But the need for action of some sort was brought into sharp focus by Jules Bianchi’s crash during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. The Frenchman’s Marussia left the circuit and impacted with a recovery vehicle, leaving him with severe head injuries. He remained in a coma until he succumbed to his injuries last July, becoming the first fatality in F1 since Ayrton Senna died at Imola in 1994.
Just a few weeks later, British IndyCar racer Justin Wilson was killed after being struck on the head by debris – as Senna was – during a crash at Pocono Raceway. Add in the incident in which Felipe Massa was hit by debris during the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix and several very close calls – notably when Romain Grosjean’s Lotus went over the top of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari at the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix – and it’s hard to argue that something shouldn’t be done.
Inevitably, whichever head protection solution is chosen, it won’t be popular with everyone. But it is necessary.
By Only Motors