Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo believes moves to offer drivers greater head protection won’t upset loyal Formula One supporters.
The sport has traditionally been an ‘open-wheel’ event with drivers’ heads, albeit protected by a helmet, and upper body exposed to the elements.
But a series of high-profile incidents in both Formula One and other motorsport events have led to calls for drivers to be given greater protection.
It is understood that the International Motorsport Federation (FIA) wants Grand Prix teams to run with a new ‘Halo’ design on their cars.
By contrast, Christian Horner — Ricciardo’s boss at Red Bull — believes his team’s plan for a canopy will offer racers a “safer option”.
But there is increasing agreement that a helmet alone is not enough to protect drivers from potentially fatal head injuries.
British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was killed in August after being struck on the crash helmet by a nose cone from another car during a race, while Brazil’s Felipe Massa was struck by a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
That same year, 2009, witnessed the death of Henry Surtees — the son of Britain’s 1964 Formula One world champion John Surtees — after he was struck on the head by a stray tyre during a Formula Two event at the Brands Hatch track in south-east England.
“There’s been quite a bit of dialogue in the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) with a lot of emails going back and forth in the last month or so,” said Ricciardo at the Red Bull livery launch in London on Wednesday. “Our head is the only really vulnerable thing at the moment.
“It’s not taking away anything from the driver in terms of courage or anything like that, it’s a simple little benefit that we can all gain from and no one wants to see another fatality, so if we can minimise the risk then why not?
“I honestly don’t think anyone is against it.”
The issue of head safety became all too prominent for many within Formula One after Jules Bianchi eventually died of the severe injuries he suffered at the Japanese Grand Prix in July, although there are doubts as to whether greater protection could have saved the life of the Frenchman in this case.
The ‘Halo’ would be attached to the car on each side of the rear of the cockpit, with a single strut in front of the driver.
“With Jules and then Justin it just seems like a bit of tradition for what in the end?,” said Ricciardo.
“If this is just a little Halo, within a race or two people will think it looks normal.”
Horner, however, favours a canopy device similar to that found of fighter jet aircraft.
“Red Bull is making another submission for a canopy that we believe will be a safer option,” he said.
“It’s more of a canopy than a Halo, but it needs to be tested, which hopefully can be done very quickly.”