The FIA have revealed that they did a simulation run of Fernando Alonso’s crash during last season’s Australian Grand Prix with the halo head protection system in order to see how it would have affected the way a driver would have escaped the car.
During the race at Albert Park last March, Alonso collided with Esteban Gutierrez on the run down to turn three and found himself rolling through the gravel trap before ending up upside down near the outside wall, and speaking at the Motorsport Safety Fund’s annual Sid Watkins Lecture, FIA deputy race director Laurent Mekies said it was important to check what impact the halo would have had in the situation.
“We looked specifically at that accident when we did the halo study,” said Mekies at the Autosport International Show. “We have seen how the car landed, but the main question was what happens if the guy needs to come out.
“The answer is in two parts. The first part is the standard procedures are that the marshals get the car back on its wheels. We accept that if the guy feels good he will never wait for that, he will try to go out.
“It’s not a great idea if you consider the car with the electrical system in it and we would prefer that he waits, but we understand it’s that way.
“We put one of our chassis upside down with a halo, we put Andy Mellor [consultant for the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety] into it as the worst case scenario and we asked him to come out exactly in Fernando’s position and incredibly he did.
“So we feel in that case, the halo actually creates breathing space for the driver. When we showed that to the drivers, they were not impressed with Andy’s speed to get out of the car, but they actually asked to try it before the halo is introduced so one day they will get that training.”
Mekies feels the Halo is still on course to be introduced into Formula 1 in 2018, and the only thing now standing in the way is to convince everyone involved in the sport to decide was is the best way forward when it comes to head protection.
“We have very much completed the halo project,” insisted Mekies. “It was one of our research projects, it’s been one of the most intense ones. As far as the engineering work is concerned, it is complete.
“Now there is more philosophical discussions to be happening between the stakeholders of the sport, between the drivers, the FIA, the teams to understand is that right for F1 and for single-seaters or do we need something maybe slightly different. So it’s still on track for 2018 deployment.”
Mekies insists that the canopy idea proposed by Red Bull Racing has not yet been completely ruled out as a possibility rather than the halo, although it would need substantial testing much like the halo.
“It’s not dead,” said Mekies. “Technically, it’s possible, it’s maybe six months, five months away if we wanted to do that. We are waiting for the final word from our bosses to know if they want the Halo, if they want the canopy, if they want something in between, or if they want something more aesthetically pleasing – even if there is a price to pay.
“Everything is on the table. There is nothing that we consider impossible right now.”