BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen briefly used a prototype of the new head protection device during Formula One preseason testing on Thursday.
The Finnish driver did an installation lap with the device fitted to his Ferrari SF16-H before it was removed and he continued testing without it.
The sport is looking at ways of improving cockpit security to leave drivers less exposed to the risk of head injuries after French driver Jules Bianchi and British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died last year.
Ferrari's mechanics show a prototype of the new head protection device during Formula One preseason testing at the the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo just outside of Barcelona this week. Picture/AP.
The “halo” design works by forming a kind of semi-circular barrier around the driver’s head and is the concept most favored as it offers protection against flying debris without completely closing the cockpit.
Although approved in principle, the concept still needs to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council by April 30 in time for the 2017 season.
Governing body FIA still needs to run more tests and the design itself also needs to be finalized to ensure, for example, that the halo does not impair visibility.
“First impression on the visibility test is positive,” Raikkonen said.
“The structure does not hamper (visibility).”
Last July, Bianchi died from head injuries sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014.
Bianchi’s accident at Suzuka occurred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy conditions, when his Marussia car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.
Wilson died on Aug. 23, a day after being hit in the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.
“My opinion is it really is a massive step in safety,” Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg said of the halo device.
“This would have saved those people, so it’s a huge step, definitely needed.”