The Red Bull Racing team ‘Aeroscreen’ made its debut at the Sochi Autodrom circuit this morning, aboard the RB12 of Daniel Ricciardo, as the Australian took to the track in the first practice session of the 2016 Russian Grand Prix weekend.
The ‘Aeroscreen’ is a windshield mounted on two pillars, which are attached to either side of the cockpit. Prior to its outing here in Sochi, Red Bull Racing conducted static tests last week to see how well their cockpit safety concept could deflect objects hitting it at speed. Two tests were completed during the experimental session.
The first test used a wheel, ballasted to weight 20kg, and fired it at the screen via a ram at a speed of 225km/h, which the screen successfully deflected.
The second test took a 1kg projectile, which was launched at the screen at a speed of 230km/h, and again the object was successfully deflected, with the screen also remaining intact.
Both tests proved promising, with driver visibility now the next concern for the team to overcome, hence the trialling of the screen in the FP1 session this morning.
Red Bull wanted to get this test underway as quickly as possible, as it is vital that the FIA make a decision on which of the cockpit safety devices they will use in the next few weeks. Any delays on this will start to compromise the ability for teams to be ready in time for the start of next season, as the 2017 cars will need to be designed with whichever option is chosen, in mind.
Following the fitting of the screen to his car yesterday, Ricciardo said that there were some concerns over what would happen if oil or dirt got onto the canopy, but added that those issues would be addressed.
“That is something I asked about. A quick one for now is that during pit stops you will have a tear off system – NASCAR has something similar. Then you can get these coatings on the screens, I guess it works a bit like in the rain with the visor, you have the Rain-X or whatever, and the stuff just floats off. So oils and things like these get dispersed quite quickly. There are few short-term things which will be used if needed.”
It is clear from feedback following the session that aesthetically speaking, the Red Bull screen is favoured over the ‘halo’ system, which was designed by Mercedes AMG PETRONAS in conjunction with the FIA, but was tested by the Scuderia Ferrari team during pre-season testing. Lewis Hamilton however, is not a fan of either system. Speaking to BBC Sport the Brit did not see why they were taking the route they have.
“If they’re going to do this, close the cockpit like a fighter jet. Don’t half-arse it. Go one way or the other. That screen looks so bad. It looks like a bloody riot shield. You’ve got this cool, elegant futuristic Formula 1 car, and you’ve got a riot shield sitting on top of it.”
The Brit was outspoken in his criticism of how bad the halo option looked also, adding that although improving safety should always be taken seriously, there should also be an element of danger present in F1, as that is what makes a F1 driver become so admired by fans.
What do you think? In 2016 should drivers still be risking their lives, as they have done throughout the existence of the sport, or is it time to change perceptions? What do you think of the cockpit protection technology? Which version do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.