Looking ahead to a hot and humid double-header from Detroit, Sebastien Bourdais has opened up about just how much the extra heat of IndyCar’s Aeroscreen affects him behind the wheel.
While Bourdais acknowledges that the extra protection afforded by the safety device is positive on Superspeedways, he feels the windshield portion should be removed on slower circuits in the name of driver safety.
The Aeroscreen, which was introduced to IndyCar at the start of 2020, has produced a side-effect in the form of a constant battle to keep the drivers cool behind the wheel.
The problem is considerably worse on slow street courses, which have concrete barriers to trap the heat on the circuit and do not allow the cars to run the speeds needed to move the hot air out of the cockpit.
Instead of air circulating throughout the cockpit, the Aeroscreen forces air over the top of the driver’s head, leaving them to sit in stagnant air that becomes unbearably hot over time.
Ahead of this weekend’s double-header in Belle Isle, Detroit, which is forecast to have temperatures approaching 90°F (32°C), Bourdais explained in an interview with MotorsportWeek.com the problem and how it has affected his performance.
“We have one very IndyCar specific issue [that led to the Aeroscreen],” explained Bourdais. “It’s the superspeedways.
“They found a great solution, it works awesome. They developed an amazing product. But it’s got a consequence that when the conditions are critical, and they’re going to be this weekend with a double-header, it makes life miserable.
“Some guys react better to dehydration and heat than others. I’m not one that deals with heat very well.
“The biggest issue is the humidity. The problem is when those suits seal up with water. There’s no exchange anymore. It’s like a plastic bag.”
Bourdais was pressed about other races that have been hot and humid since the Aeroscreen’s implementation, and was asked if there were any times were he felt overheated to the point that his performance behind the wheel was affected.
“Yes. Both times in St. Pete. The last 10-15 laps were a drag. Last year, I basically stayed off Scott [Dixon] because I was afraid I would misjudge something and take the championship leader out. So I just stayed away.
“The last 10 laps this year weren’t as bad. But at some point you just stop the aggression because you feel like you’re exposed. You’re losing awareness. It’s not a good scenario.”
Over the past year and a half, IndyCar has trailed and introduced a few additional components to help with the driver heat problem. There are optional scoops that teams can affix to the top of the Aeroscreen, for instance, that direct air downwards towards the driver.
There are also other solutions that are potential solutions, such as cool suits and cool boxes or even removing the windscreen portion of the Aeroscreen on slow speed street circuits.
But Bourdais was dismissive of those solutions, marking them as either not effective or not feasible without a directive from the IndyCar Series itself.
“The scoop doesn’t do anything,” said Bourdais. “All it does for me is give me some buffeting in the helmet because the air comes right down and then hits you in the head. It doesn’t touch your body, which is what we’re trying to do.
“We [AJ Foyt Racing] don’t have an R&D team working on cool suits. If the series would go out there and say ‘it’s a safety issue and everybody should run this,’ we would be very happy to purchase a system that’s been proven and put it in our cars. But we don’t have the resources.
“We’re already trying to figure out, to the best our abilities, setups and develop the team forward. We don’t have guys sitting at the shop figuring out we cool the driver.
“I feel like a lot of the decisions are being made on behalf of the driver, by guys who are not in the cars. There is no discussion.”
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