Cock­pit pro­tec­tion de­ferred un­til 2018

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

F1’s much-ma­ligned Strat­egy Group have agreed to de­lay ex­tra cock­pit safety mea­sures for a year – and not ev­ery­one is happy

For­mula 1 has de­layed the in­tro­duc­tion of the ‘halo’ cock­pit head-pro­tec­tion sys­tem un­til 2018. The de­ci­sion, which has an­gered many cur­rent driv­ers, was made be­cause the Strat­egy Group felt that the sys­tem needed to be tri­alled more ex­ten­sively by ev­ery­one be­fore the sport com­mit­ted to run­ning it per­ma­nently.

So far, only Fer­rari rac­ers Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Räikkö­nen and Red Bull re­serve driver Pierre Gasly have tried the halo – and only for a to­tal of four laps. FIA race direc­tor Charlie Whit­ing, who is res­o­lute that the halo will be in place by 2018, said: “Ev­ery­one felt this was quite a rel­e­vant thing and it wouldn’t be fea­si­ble to ex­pect, in the short term, to get the rel­e­vant num­ber of laps with the halo.”

Whit­ing ex­plained that the plan was for ev­ery driver to try it for a signicant amount of mileage in the re­main­ing nine races of the sea­son.

“What we are look­ing to do is to make it clear that ev­ery driver has to try it for a whole free prac­tice ses­sion dur­ing the course of the year,” he said. “That would be the proper way for­ward, to make sure that we don’t get caught out by some­thing that is very hard to change back.”

Lewis Hamilton led com­plaints from driv­ers about the de­ci­sion. The reign­ing world cham­pion had been op­posed to the halo sys­tem when he rst saw the de­vice in place on a car in pre­sea­son test­ing, de­scrib­ing it as “the worst­look­ing mod in F1 his­tory”.

But his mind was changed by a pre­sen­ta­tion on its ef­fec­tive­ness given to the driv­ers at the Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix week­end. This showed how the halo would have re­duced or re­moved the risk of driver in­jury or death in all in­ci­dents in re­cent years in which a large ob­ject – a wheel or a wall, for ex­am­ple – in­truded or threat­ened to in­trude on the cock­pit space.

The pre­sen­ta­tion also touched on how the de­vice would re­duce by 17 per cent the risk of in­jury from small ob­jects, such as the sus­pen­sion part that frac­tured Felipe Massa’s skull at the Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix in 2009.

Hamilton said: “I don’t re­ally know why it’s not go­ing to be there next year. I just hope no one gets in­jured, in­clud­ing me, be­tween now and the end of next sea­son.”

Red Bull team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner said that the halo needs more re­search, by “proper ex­perts”, but Grand Prix Driv­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Alexan­der Wurz re­jected that stance.

“The safety ex­perts have de­vel­oped the halo since 2009, so it’s one of the most de­vel­oped safety de­vices in the his­tory of For­mula 1,” Wurz said. “We are proud that F1 has al­ways tried to im­prove its safety record. The halo would have been one of these steps, but the Strat­egy Group de­cided to make a U-turn and that is sur­pris­ing to us driv­ers.

“The halo is not the most aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing de­vice, but the FIA, Bernie’s peo­ple and Jean Todt’s peo­ple have asked us to have an open mind about it. Af­ter nu­mer­ous pre­sen­ta­tions, driv­ers had come around to it in the same way that in the old days they came round to us­ing hel­mets, seat belts and in­tro­duc­ing higher neck pro­tec­tion.

“It was them [the Strat­egy Group] who told us it was the best thing, but yet they’ve made this quick turn­around from their po­si­tion a week ago, be­cause it was a ready-to-race so­lu­tion. Maybe they have bet­ter data than they did a week ago.”

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