Ferrari today tested a Formula 1 car equipped with a "halo" type cockpit protection concept. The move comes shortly after the FIA announced that F1 must employ cockpit protection for the 2017 season in an effort to improve driver safety.
According to Motorsport.com, Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen tested a vehicle with the halo protector at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Driver Sebastian Vettel sat in the car Wednesday night, but didn't have an opportunity to drive it on the track.
The halo protector, pioneered by Mercedes-Benz, consists of a U-shaped frame situated above the driver's head and is supported by a center-mounted column in front of the driver, though far enough away as to not impede visibility.
"First impression on the visibility test is positive," Raikkonen said to ABC News following the test run. "The structure does not hamper (visibility)."
For now, the cockpit is a fixed-mounted system, though it's likely a quick-release setup will eventually be employed. The report claims Ferrari's prototype weighs 13.2 pounds, which is about 9 pounds lighter than the company's original prototype.
The halo-style design is favored over other proposals. Previous reports suggested that a fully-enclosed cockpit canopy was possible, but it was deemed too expensive, heavy, and cumbersome.
The inclusion of cockpit protection was influenced by the death of IndyCar racer Justin Wilson, who was involved in a crash during a race last year. Wilson was struck in the head by debris and died from his injuries.
F1 will also implement other changes to widen the series' appeal. New chassis and tire specifications should make cars faster and shorten lap times, while an elimination-style qualifying system will also be put in place. Additionally, F1 will award a "Driver of the Day" after each race, while fans will be given the opportunity to vote on their favorite racer.