Red Bull Invents a Windscreen for F1 Cars
It’s hideous, but prettier than Ferrari’s solution.
Red Bull may manufacture sports drinks and Ferrari, cars, but in one arena, the two are vicious peers: Formula One racing. One particular aspect of their competition—beyond the fiery, lightning-fast, wheel-to-wheel racing—is the work both teams are doing to further driver safety. Two months ago, Ferrari unveiled what it's calling the "halo" head protection system: two bars circling the driver's helmeted head in a design that recalls nothing so much as the split "thong" design of a flip-flop. It's definitely effective at blocking the dangerous, hurtling debris that can spring a racetrack during a race, but fans and drivers alike expressed ambivalence. (Lewis Hamilton, himself part of Mercedes AMG Petronas, captioned an Instagram to the effect that the halo was the "worst looking mod in Formula 1 history" before cooler heads in public relations had the post removed.)
Now, Red Bull has shown its own version of an external head protection device, nicknamed the "aeroscreen," leading up to the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. The Aeroscreen is much like an enveloping windshield, replacing the halo's bars with a circular upper-girding and glass. It's an improvement, in our opinion, but aesthetics aside, all F1 cars will be required to have such protective gear by the 2017 racing season. Tensions between looks, performance, safety and emissions have roiled fans, administrators and drivers alike, as all try to reconcile the adrenaline-pumping speed and sounds of racing with cars that pollute at a reasonable level and protect drivers in crashes at up to 200 mph.
While everyone likes a pretty shape and sleek lines, accidents like Jules Bianchi's 2014 crash at the Japanese Grand Prix make it clear that a safer F1 car is a better F1 car, warts and all.