Jolyon Palmer: “You cannot put a bubble around the drivers”


Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Jolyon Palmer believes that Formula 1 cannot ‘put a bubble’ around the drivers in a bid to improve safety, with the sport introducing the Halo cockpit protection device in 2018.

Palmer has been a critic of any kind of cockpit protection despite the FIA pushing for the halo to be introduced for next season, having completed a significant study by the governing body into incidents that would have offered a positive outcome in.

One of the incidents studied by the FIA was the accident involving Henry Surtees in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009, a race where Palmer was participating in as well, and despite having memories of the incidents, he refuses to change his views of open-cockpit racing, putting it down as a freak accident.

“I was literally the car ahead of Henry, and saw the wheel that hit him in my live view. At the time, I didn’t even imagine that could happen to be honest,” said Palmer to crash.net.

“I was a young, naive, racing driver. When that happened then of course it surprises you that there is actually some danger in motorsport, but I’ve carried on racing in my career for eight years and not had a worry at all about that, and that incident couldn’t have happened closer to me.

“I am not naive or disrespectful to that. I just think the whole essence of single seater racing is open top and I think Henry’s incident, we were racing on Brands GP, there were very fast corners, very little runoff, we were doing high speeds. 

“I think the problems from F2 back then and in IndyCar with Justin Wilson’s incident, they’re not problems we experienced in modern Formula 1 circuits where you’ve got huge runoffs at Copse or something.”

The FIA’s research found that the halo would have helped in incidents like Romain Grosjean’s crash with Fernando Alonso at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, where the Frenchman’s Lotus glanced across the cockpit of the Spaniard’s Ferrari.

“I have to take onboard what they say. I have not experienced it but it should help,” commented Palmer.

“Maybe we’ve been very lucky, but for 60, 70 years in Formula 1, there has not been a fatality because of that reason. Maybe it could not happen in the future. I am not ignoring the risk because I have raced every time knowing there’s a bit of risk.

“But you cannot put a bubble around the drivers. There’s always going to be some problems.”