McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says the teams will make the safety canopy work if that is the direction the sport goes in.
Red Bull Racing introduced their alternative to Ferrari's controversial 'halo' design' during Friday morning practice at the Russian Grand Prix last week and, although it only got a single lap in the hands of Daniel Ricciardo, the 'aeroscreen' cockpit protection initially got a cautious thumbs-up.
“There is not much to say,” Boullier replied, when asked about the negative aspects of the 'aeroscreen', “it is part of the evolution of F1. I think safety is very important and obviously we are blessed, after that Australian accident [with Fernando Alonso], to see that all the safety rules are in place now and the cars are as safe as possible but if we can improve safety, we have to do it and the canopy is trending in there now.
“It is one solution but won't be implemented if there is some other downside destroying the safety in some conditions like rain or dirt or whatever, and I guess further work will be done by Red Bull in different conditions to understand what are the downsides – or upsides – of this.”
Quizzed on how to marry the late introduction of a safety canopy when the 2017 designs are already done, Boullier adds that while it is not ideal, the potential benefits make it worthwhile.
“It is not going to work, but we are going to have to deal with it somehow – it is the same for everybody. I think we have fixed a date now to take the decisions before we go too far into the car development. I think we all agree about a date which is not too far into the summer to make sure that it doesn't affect too much the finer development of the aero,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Alonso and team-mate Jenson Button both emphasised that improving head cockpit protection is a must.
“I haven't looked into it [the problems with the aeroscreen], I only saw it on the [TV] screen [in the garage], but I used to watch F1 powerboats in Bristol Dock about 20, or 30 years ago actually, and they had open cockpits which was the norm – and suddenly they had closed cockpits, and I thought they looked pretty cool,” Button noted. “And it's the same sort of thing – you get used to it.
“You can still see the crash helmet, you can still tell which driver is which and, if it's doing what we hope it is, which is safety, and improving safety to the head, it's definitely the way forward. Whether that is the right design for safety, we have to go in the direction of safety, but if we can make it look good as well, that's important in F1 – that fans want the cars to look good, to sound good, they want sparks… It works for me as well, I'm a fan of F1 so it's moving in the right direction.
“There are always negatives – how are you going to clean the windscreen? Are you going to have a moving tear-off or something else?
“It's good that teams are trying things out and we'll see what the end result is at the end of the year.”
“My views are quite similar I guess,” Alonso continued. “It is just about safety first and now making the right call and finding the right solutions. We have already seen two and hopefully there are more coming and the FIA will decide which is the most convenient.
“There is some advantage and disadvantage in all of them so we just need to make sure we choose the good one. It is something that has to come in F1 especially after the last years and some big injuries so we are just now investigating and I agree with Jenson that the Red Bull one looks a little bit nicer from the outside but we don't really know the implications on that one and the FIA will look.”