F1 cockpit protection device Halo is now in its second season in F1, and no longer facing a barrage of criticism and outrage, as it did ahead of its mandatory introduction to all cars from 2018.
… with that year’s Belgian Grand Prix proving its effectiveness. The halo protecting Charles Leclerc, then with Sauber after McLaren’s Fernando Alonso flew over the top of him in multi-car smash at Turn 1, La Source.
F1 governing body the FIA, gave halo the green light after extensive tests found the wishbone-shaped carbon-fibre-wrapped titanium frame can help to deflect large debris away from the drivers’ head. And in 17 case studies of serious accidents the halo would have limited damage in 15.
But American series IndyCar is moving forward with Red Bull’s alternative device aeroscreen…one the FIA dismissed after it struggled in the testing phase, with further development needed.
Development that’s now being done in the USA after IndyCar announced its partnership with Red Bull Technologies in May ahead of aeroscreen’s introduction in 2020. The system said to be capable of deflecting a range of debris, not just large objects as per halo’s remit.
SOUNDBITE (English) JAY FRYE,
“The plan is to… we’ll have a prototype in probably 30 days, we’ll have real pieces in another 60 days. Get them on cars this summer to test. And then at some point or going into the off-season around November we’ll have one for each entry. So the plan is to put this on all the cars in 2020.”
And the technical challenges have been many and varied.
SOUNDBITE (English) ED COLLINGS,
RED BULL ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES:
“We’ve had to design around just the simple things, [like] towing and lifting the vehicles, but also [we’ve done] more scientific work in terms of preventing reflections that could distract the driver. We have to make sure we don’t have any fogging occurring in any damper, more humid environments.”
And another step was taken last week with an aeroscreen prototype taken to Dallara’s simulator in Speedway, Indiana, for a more representative test… Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon behind the wheel.
The New Zealander confident in progress made, with no visibility issues.
SOUNDBITE (English) SCOTT DIXON,
INDYCAR DRIVER, CHIP GANASSI:
“It’s been very good from the initial part to seeing the drawings to having the hard piece right now and to being on track in a few weeks I think has gone very good.”
Aeroscreen’s impending introduction in Indycar is something F1 will watch with interest despite being advanced with halo’s development for the 2021 season. But whether it’s as effective remains to be seen.