Daniel Ricciardo expects to be the centre of attention at the Russian Grand Prix on Friday, if only fleetingly, when he tries out a new ‘aeroscreen’ head protection device fitted to the cockpit of his Red Bull Formula One car.
“I’m sure I will get a lot of TV time in the first two minutes of the session,” the Australian told reporters after confirming he would do a lap with it at the start of free practice.
The screen, curving around like those used on powerboats, is designed to protect the driver from potentially lethal flying debris.
Ferrari have already tested a ‘halo’ design which is fixed to the cockpit at three points including a central pillar in front of the driver but does not have a screen.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) has said a head protection device could be introduced next year.
“The first impression seems OK,” said Ricciardo of the Red Bull version. “It doesn’t really block any more vision than what we do have already.
“The front is pretty open. You’ve got the structure at the top but that’s pretty high and out of your eyeline. You definitely want to put it on track (and test it) because things change when you move.”
Ricciardo said the screen would be removed after one installation lap and he would then continue with the regular practice programme.
Formula One has been weighing up the pros and cons of various devices compared with completely closed canopies, an option that some fear could trap the driver in the event of a crash.
Improving head protection became a priority after the deaths last year of Briton Justin Wilson, a former F1 racer who suffered head injuries from debris in an IndyCar crash, and Frenchman Jules Bianchi.
Bianchi, Formula One’s first driver fatality in 21 years, died in July, nine months after suffering severe head injuries at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when his car hit a recovery tractor.
Ricciardo said he was a firm believer in the need for a device like the ‘aeroscreen’.
“If it saves even one life over the next 20 years then you’re going to take it,” he said.