F1 driv­ers will be in the halo in ’18

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JEROME PUGMIRE

PARIS — More than one year af­ter it was first tested, and af­ter con­sid­er­a­tion of a re­cent al­ter­na­tive, the “halo” cock­pit pro­tec­tion sys­tem will be used on For­mula One cars from next year on­ward.

Mo­tor­sport’s govern­ing body, which be­gan test­ing the sys­tem prior to the 2016 sea­son, fi­nally ap­proved it on Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing a meet­ing of its strat­egy group which all F1 teams at­tended.

The FIA has been look­ing at ways to im­prove cock­pit pro­tec­tion and limit the risk of head in­juries, af­ter French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July 2015 and Bri­tish IndyCar driver Justin Wil­son died a month later.

The halo de­sign forms a semi­cir­cu­lar bar­rier around the driver’s head, pro­tect­ing against fly­ing de­bris with­out com­pletely clos­ing the cock­pit. When first tested ahead of 2016, driv­ers were di­vided as to whether they liked it, with some — like three-time F1 cham­pion Lewis Hamilton — crit­i­ciz­ing it on es­thetic grounds.

Other safety de­vices were there­fore con­sid­ered.

As re­cently as last week, a trans­par­ent open canopy sys­tem con­structed us­ing poly­car­bon­ate, known as the “shield,” was tested by four-time F1 cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel dur­ing last the Bri­tish Grand Prix in Sil­ver­stone.

But Vet­tel, who has pre­vi­ously spo­ken in favour of the halo, was crit­i­cal and said it made him feel dizzy and that vis­i­bil­ity was an­other is­sue.

The FIA felt that re­vert­ing back to the halo was the best op­tion, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that the sport needs more time to make some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to it.

“The FIA con­firms the in­tro­duc­tion of the Halo for 2018. With the sup­port of the teams, cer­tain fea­tures of its de­sign will be fur­ther en­hanced,” the FIA said in its state­ment Wed­nes­day. “It had be­come clear that the halo presents the best over­all safety per­for­mance.”

Bianchi died at the age of 25 af­ter bat­tling for months to re­cover from mas­sive head in­juries suf­fered at the Ja­panese Grand Prix in Oc­to­ber 2014.

Bianchi’s ac­ci­dent at Suzuka oc­curred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy con­di­tions, when his Marus­sia team car slid off the track and plowed into a crane pick­ing up the Sauber of Ger­man driver Adrian Su­til, who had crashed at the same spot one lap ear­lier.

Wil­son died on Aug. 23, a day af­ter be­ing hit on the hel­met by de­bris from an­other car at Po­cono Race­way in Penn­syl­va­nia.

While Hamilton had been crit­i­cal of the halo’s ap­pear­ance when it was first in­tro­duced, Vet­tel and re­tired F1 cham­pion Nico Ros­berg had cham­pi­oned it, say­ing it was vi­tal for the sport to en­hance pro­tec­tion fol­low­ing Bianchi’s death, and that vis­i­bil­ity was not a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem when driv­ing with it.

Other mat­ters dis­cussed at the strat­egy meet­ing in­cluded plans to con­trol costs in or­der to en­sure “the sport re­mains sus­tain­able in the com­ing years.”

No fur­ther fi­nan­cial de­tails were given, but it is widely con­sid­ered that engine costs for some teams need to be low­ered, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing the dis­par­ity in prize money awarded to teams at the end of each year.

GETTY IMAGES

Kimi Raikko­nen re­turns to the garage af­ter test­ing a halo head pro­tec­tion sys­tem.

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