Cockpit protection deferred until 2018
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 signicant 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.”