The future of cabin safety in Formula 1 racecars gets an early preview after Red Bull Racing recently revealed the Aeroscreen; their take on a partially closed cockpit for the 2017 Formula season.
Red Bull Racing recently tested the Aeroscreen during the practice session of the 2016 Formula 1 Russian GP. It was placed on Daniel Ricciardo's car which he took to the track for his installation lap. According to Red Bull Racing, they wanted Ricciardo to test visibility through the screen while behind the wheel.
In terms of design, it surrounds the cockpit and stretches about 180 degrees in front of the driver. Red Bull Racing also appeared to have designed it in such a way that drivers can look at the side mirrors without difficulty.
Apart from showing it to the public, Red Bull Racing also conducted several tests as a way of ensuring drivers will be protected from outside projectiles. First, there was the tire test where the rubber material was rammed against the Aeroscreen at 225 km/h. The test was successful as the tire bounced off and the screen remained intact. Next was the ballistic test wherein a 1kg projectile was fired at the screen at 230 km/h. The screen did its job and deflected the object away from the driver.
The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has been considering making partially closed cockpit designs standard by 2017 after the deaths of Marussia's Jules Bianchi and Indycar's Justin Wilson. At the Qualifying session of the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa (then with Ferrari) was struck by a spring that fell from the car of Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello, sustaining serious head injuries. Earlier that month, John Surtees' son Henry was killed when a wheel from another car struck him at a Formula 2 race.
The FIA is still assessing what type of design will be used as Mercedes-AMG Petronas also came up with a halo-bar style of protection. The FIA is also studying whether deflected debris may bounce off to other cars or onto watching spectators.
According to Motorsport.com, recent halo-style cockpit tests proved to be successful and may become standardized for next year's season.
Featured below are Red Bull Racing's tests on the new Aeroscreen.