The head protection debate looks set continue throughout the 2017 season. Having made the headlines at various stages last year, this is one story that will have a lasting impact on the sport.
The safety of the drivers in open cockpit formulae has become a priority in recent years. Incidents causing the death of several drivers have forced governing bodies to act. When dealing with safety concerns, the FIA has the power to skip the approval process that governs Formula One rule making.
The arguments surrounding the purity of Formula One and the spectacle of open wheel racing are hugely subjective. The sport I have grown up with is something I care a lot about. But I am going to look at this debate from an objective view point. What is best for the safety of the drivers?
Labelled as ugly and deemed the worst feature ever attached to a Formula One car, the Halo has had a difficult start to life. I have to say I agree with those descriptions. The Halo cockpit protection appeared rushed and thoughtless when it was bolted onto a Ferrari during testing last year.
Driver protection is without doubt the most important aspect of contemporary Formula One. While the thrills and excitement are what draw in the fans, no one ever wants to see a driver getting injured or worse. The feeling I had as I watched the coverage of Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka will stay with me. It’s not something I will want to feel again.
And so the lack of preparation that appeared to go into the introduction of the Halo was worrying to me. Addressing something so important must take more time than that. Looking back, the whole thing had a worrying resemblance to the disastrous situation surrounding qualifying. I am glad the FIA took a step back to re-evaluate.
Since then there has been a whole lot more testing and virtually every driver has had experience with the Halo on their car. It may still be the best option. Even if the aesthetics are not the most convincing.
Red Bull trialled an alternative to the Halo last summer. The aim was to fulfil the functional requirements whilst retaining a stronger aesthetic.
I thought it looked clunky. Similar to the introduction of the Halo, the aeroscreen was bolted on to a car that it wasn’t designed for. It was never going to look great. But in terms of safety the structure failed the mandatory safety tests imposed by the FIA.
There have since been some updates regarding the aeroscreen’s progress. It would seem that the FIA have opened up to the idea of introducing this variation on the cockpit protection conundrum.
At the end of it all, I trust that the people in charge of the sport will have exhausted every possible avenue before making a decision. This is not a rule change that can be made lightly. This is such an important aspect of life, not just sport. They simply have to make the right decision.
(Jen_ross83 CC BY 2.0)
(Jen_ross83 CC BY 2.0)
((2) Henry Mineur CC BY-SA 3.0)
((1) Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)