Red Bull is set to run its Aeroscreen for further tests at the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix, with a July 1 deadline having been agreed to decide on a potential Formula 1 introduction for 2017.
Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull's alternative to the Halo cockpit protection device its first track test in Russia on Friday, and said early indications were positive about visibility and cockpit access.
F1 race director Charlie Whiting said that the FIA was open-minded about whether the Aeroscreen or Halo would offer the best safety step for the sport – but confirmed that a decision would be made by July 1 about whether or not one would be introduced in 2017.
“The deadline that we mentioned last week was July 1,” he said at the Russian Grand Prix. “It would be unreasonable if we didn’t have a clear path by that time.
“Their chassis design is normally fixed by this time. It’s only a small part of the chassis and it’s not going to affect things like fuel volume and those big things, but it’s still part of a complex design.”
Whiting explained that the Barcelona and Monaco tests would be about testing coatings for the Red Bull screen to reduce glare and help repel rain and other potential liquids.
“Red Bull are going to run it again in free practice in Spain and Monaco,” said Whiting. “This time we hope they will have sourced, and they are optimistic they can, some anti glare coating for the inside – as we understand it can be quite difficult where you have tall buildings, trees, low sun, and those sorts of effects that you will probably get in Monaco and Monza, where there are natural features.
“And there will also be a coating for the outside that will repel rain and prevent things sticking to it. “
Whiting explained that one of the biggest hurdles that needs to be overcome was in ensuring that the top structures on both the Halo and Aeroscreen were far enough away from the driver so that there was no risk of his head hitting them in the event of a crash.
“We have something called the free head volume,” continued Whiting. “That is the space that has to be free to give movement for the drivers' head in order that it doesn't make contact with it.
“At the moment this area is quite big and is causing a few problems, so what we are doing is some sled work with a dummy to try to simulate more precisely just how much room you need in order to make sure that the drivers' head doesn't make contact with it – as they are both substantial structures. The last thing you want is the drivers' head to make contact with it.
“So that is the next phase of work, which I am told should be completed within two weeks. Both the Halo and Aeroscreen need to satisfy the free head volume requirement, so we need to wait and see how that works first.
“It is too difficult at this stage to know which one, if any, will be impacted the most. So we will have to wait and see on that one.”
Although in theory the FIA could impose a cockpit head protection device for 2017 on safety grounds, Whiting said that it was more likely the matter would go to the teams and other F1 chiefs to decide what happens.
Under the current governance structure, that would therefore require a unanimous vote to be introduced for next year.
“Ultimately, if they both reach the same [safety] level – then it will be up to the F1 Commission to decide which way to go,” he said.
When asked about the potential risk, therefore, of one of the options not being picked because Red Bull would prefer the Aeroscreen and Mercedes/Ferrari the Halo, Whiting said: “This is a separate discussion.
“Everyone's aware that we want to press ahead with this. We are not expecting any teams to object simply because it is a matter of safety. We are not expecting to have to invoke the safety card.”