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F1: Kimi Raikkonen tests ‘halo’ cockpit protection concept
Ferrari driver says visibility is “ok” through Italian team’s carbon fibre design
Kimi Raikkonen completed a short run underneath a Ferrari-built ‘halo’ concept in Barcelona this morning, with the Finn later reporting that the “structure does not hamper [visibility]”.
The 2007 world champion did two installation laps with the device attached to the car before starting his planned programme on the penultimate day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The main objective was to assess whether or not the halo – designed to protect drivers from flying debris – would introduce a new element of danger by adding blind spots within the cockpit.
Based on Raikkonen’s feedback, it sounds as though the drivers won’t have to spend too much time adjusting, as and when the designs become part of the sport.
Research into head protection has been stepped up in recent years after a number of catastrophic incidents throughout motorsport.
Henry Surtees – son of the legendary John Surtees – lost his life when he was hit by a rogue wheel during a Formula Two race in 2009, and British driver Justin Wilson was killed after being struck by fragments in an IndyCar race last year.
F1 suffered a fatality of its own after Jules Bianchi collided with a recovery tractor at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014, although it’s not thought that any sort of canopy would have prevented the injuries he sustained in the accident.
FIA Safety Director Laurent Mekies says officials “are pushing very hard to integrate” the halo as quickly as possible, while accepting that more work on visibility and driver extraction needed to be done.
“The good news is that the three structures we tested performed as expected or better than expected,” he continued.
“On top of that we have received great guidance from Charlie [Whiting] from the beginning of the project, and a lot of support from the teams who provided us with all their calculations and design power, which has made this step forward possible.”
While few can argue that additional protection isn’t long overdue, there will surely be those who are concerned that the aesthetics of the cars are suffering yet another blow.
McLaren released images of a futuristic F1 concept called the MP4-X last December, which included a full canopy, and it was generally well received by fans.
With the qualifying format up in the air and the 2017 regulations still being refined, it could be said the sport is on the verge of adopting another half-measure.