Indecision over Halo, but FIA continue towards 2018 introduction


World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Mercedes AMG Petronas W07 Hybrid with Halo – Lewis Hamilton. Friday 16th September 2016, F1 Singapore GP Practice 1, Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore. Digital Ref : 1716LB2D8609

A recent vote by F1 drivers has shown there is division on whether the halo cockpit protection system should be introduced in 2018.

The head protection concept was originally tabled to come into use this season, but a vote by F1’s Strategy Group back in July, chose to delay it until the following year, so that further tests could be carried out to ensure it fulfilled all safety criteria.

Although the halo did pass all the crash tests, F1 teams were still unsure about its practicality, and the FIA have been working on two further concepts in the meantime, should the halo not be accepted.

One such project is Red Bull Racing‘s idea of the ‘Aeroscreen‘, which was side-lined last year when it failed some of the official tests. The second is a new concept, involving transparent material, and looks similar to the front half of a jet-fighter’s cockpit.

In a bid to garner current opinion, a letter was sent out to the 22 drivers who have all tested the head protection, to ask whether or not they felt it would be ready to go racing with in 2018. The response was not overwhelmingly in favour however, according to a FIA spokesperson, as reported on motorsport.com recently.

“We have so far received responses from 16 drivers, and let’s say the opinion is divided 50/50. Some are clearly against, some are clearly in favour and some are sitting on the fence.”

Despite their being clear disapproval of its introduction, the FIA have confirmed they are still looking for solutions to bring a safety system into existence, and could actually still do so on safety grounds even if teams are opposed to it. This is not something they really want to have to do however.

“Any team or driver that says the Halo won’t happen in 2018 is wrong, although technically the Strategy Group agreed to ‘Additional Frontal Protection’ for 2018, and the Halo is the only suitable design at present.”

The FIA were mandated to continue to investigate alternative options in the original July Strategy Group meeting, and have therefore surged forward with this work.

“The Strategy Group has asked the FIA to investigate other solutions which don’t have the ‘drawbacks’ of the Halo.

“Forward vision, claustrophobia, egress [getting out the car] and extrication have all been cited as problematic by certain drivers. Although as we have said before, we truly believe these can be overcome to everyone’s satisfaction.

“In truth we could even imagine that everyone would also like something more aesthetically pleasing.”

The unpopularity of the cockpit protection system could stem from the fact that many see it as diminishing what F1 is all about, with many accusing the sport of becoming too safety conscious.

However, we must remember that the idea originally came into existence due to the tragic death of Jules Bianchi, who suffered a fatal head trauma at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, and the FIA have a duty to ensure a similar incident does not occur again.