By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The prototype "halo" head protection device, aimed at shielding Formula One drivers from flying debris, is on track to be adopted for the 2017 season pending a safety review, race director Charlie Whiting said on Friday.
The halo, which is fixed to the cockpit at three points including a central pillar right in front of the driver, made its debut in Spain earlier this month.
F1 outfit Red Bull, whose team principal Christian Horner has expressed misgivings over the halo's design, are developing a separate device but Whiting said it was unlikely to be ready in time for 2017.
"I think (the halo's) going pretty well," Whiting told reporters at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
"It's been tested quite extensively now, and I think it will offer very good protection for a flying wheel, for example, that's the main way it's been tested so far.
"We need to do a thorough risk assessment on it, we need to look at a number of other related things like extrication. We've got to talk to the medical crews about it. But I think it's going quite well."
Improving head protection became a priority after the deaths last year of Briton Justin Wilson, a former F1 racer who suffered head injuries from debris in an IndyCar crash, and Frenchman Jules Bianchi.
A working group led by Mercedes and Ferrari hoped to set standard specifications for the halo by the end of May to allow teams to incorporate it into their designs for next year's cars, Whiting said.
Most drivers favor the halo, but some have reservations about how quickly they could get out of their cars after an accident.
Whiting had few concerns about that, though, pointing to Ferrari's test of the device in Spain.
"One team did put a halo on their car, and did get the driver to see how quickly they could get out, and it looked perfectly simple, and arguably easier, because the driver can get hold of this thing and lift himself out much easier," he said.
"It looked very simple, I must say."
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)