RACER’S EDGE

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS - PETER WIND­SOR @F1rac­ing_­mag­face­book.com/f1rac­ing­mag

Peter Wind­sor on see­ing beyond the halo

Hav­ing banged on about the need for for­ward­fac­ing cock­pit pro­tec­tion ever since my mate Vit­to­rio Bram­billa was knocked un­con­scious by a fly­ing wheel at Monza in 1978, I am of course pro-halo. As good as it feels to talk about F1 driv­ers be­ing wimps, re­al­ity is dif­fer­ent when some­one gets hurt. And I’ve been to enough rac­ing driv­ers’ funer­als in my time – 15 be­fore I turned 30 – not to want to at­tend an­other.

So when­ever I feel the urge to join the clam­our and re­sist the halo I make a pos­i­tive ef­fort to think of Tom Pryce, or Markus Höt­tinger or Mike Spence. Then I keep my mouth shut.

That said, I’m find­ing that it’s tak­ing too long to get used to them. Ev­ery­one is say­ing “af­ter a while you don’t even no­tice the ha­los” and so ini­tially I took that at face value. I as­sumed it would be the same as big air boxes or wide noses: ev­ery­one had them and they quickly blended into the scenery.

The vis­ual prob­lem with the halo is not that it’s there; the prob­lem is what we’re no longer see­ing: to wit, the an­gle of the driver’s head as he turns into a cor­ner. For me, this is one of the fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments of fast driv­ing. You’ve got your Ro­main Gros­jean and your René Arnoux, hunched slightly, lean­ing per­cep­tively for­wards, when they’re on the limit – and you have your Nigel Mansell and your Lewis Hamil­ton, hel­mets an­gled frac­tion­ally back, lean­ing to­wards the apex, the masters of their do­mains. Hel­met an­gles por­tray body lan­guage - and body lan­guage is a func­tion of how good they are.

Peter Rev­son, for ex­am­ple, al­ways tilted his head away from the up­com­ing apex. I asked him about this and he said that it was from a habit he learned on ovals, where lean­ing in­wards de­creased your pe­riph­eral vi­sion slightly. Rev­son the thinker. And he was good, too.

Things were even bet­ter, nat­u­rally, be­fore the ad­vent of full-face hel­mets. Oil around the out­line of the gog­gles spelled “RAC­ING DRIVER”. End of story. You’d get to Reims, where the stones flew, and you’d tape up your face for pro­tec­tion; then it be­came cool to tape up the top half of the gog­gles, nar­row­ing your field of vi­sion merely for the track.

I think the 1960s pro­duced the best looks. Gra­ham Hill and Jim Clark would tie up huge fire-re­sis­tant face cloths with big knots around the backs of their necks and pull the ban­danas right up over their noses be­fore strap­ping on their Bu­cos. Denny Hulme, and some­times Dan Gur­ney, tied the cloths only over their mouths for the ban­dido look.

Be­fore face masks, you could study body lan­guage by what they did with their mouths. The pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Cooper used to re­call Jim Clark mim­ing words at him as he burst through Eau Rouge or Malm­edy, sug­gest­ing that Mike move back or for­wards a lit­tle for a bet­ter photo. And then there was the time that Stir­ling Moss, en route to vic­tory at Monaco, ac­tu­ally chat­ted up a fe­male spec­ta­tor at the Sta­tion Hair­pin, point­ing to the Mirabeau Ho­tel and ar­rang­ing a ren­dezvous sched­ule with hand and mouth sig­nals. She was on time, too….

Be­fore ra­dios and head­sets, en­gi­neers used to squat be­side the cars and shout at the driv­ers be­tween runs.

“Car­los,” Mauro Forghieri would say as you walked past the Fer­rari. “I neeeeed you to try the old rear wing…” Such snip­pets were good start­ing-points for post-prac­tice interviews.

Equally, if the driver didn’t want to talk, he would hold up his hand by the side of his hel­met as if to say, “Sorry? Can’t hear…” and shake his head in faked an­noy­ance.

Sim­ple. Ef­fec­tive.

THE VIS­UAL PROB­LEM WITH THE HALO IS NOT THAT IT’S THERE; THE PROB­LEM IS WHAT WE’RE NO LONGER SEE­ING: TO WIT, THE AN­GLE OF THE DRIVER’S HEAD AS HE TURNS INTO A COR­NER

The halo has this to be said for it from a non­safety stand­point: on the grid, with the driv­ers strapped in, it’s dif­fi­cult for hang­ers-on to squat by the cock­pit and talk to them. An­noy­ing jour­nal­ists with mics now have lit­tle or no chance of steal­ing the dreaded sound­bites – and that’s a good thing for the driv­ers, par­tic­u­larly as they’re now spend­ing more time in the cars owing to the com­plex­i­ties of climb­ing in around the halo.

On the other hand, I was shocked to see that some of the F1 teams are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the halo by cus­tom-fit­ting what I can only de­scribe as “side mon­i­tors” for the driv­ers’ per­sonal plea­sure in the garages. This is all about try­ing to look su­per-slick even if the car is dire on the track – and it’s about the driv­ers be­liev­ing that they need to know ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on around them, even if it means that they’re not fo­cus­ing on the lap that has to be driven. It’s about the dig­i­tal age, sec­tor by sec­tor, over­lay by over­lay, re­gard­less of the “feel” that slips through the gaps. Any­way, the trend now is to have TV mon­i­tors on the sides of the cock­pit, flush to the halo (which has stolen the po­si­tion of the tra­di­tional head-on mon­i­tor). The re­sult is that the driver is now com­pletely in­su­lated from the world out­side – make that her­met­i­cally sealed – which is prob­a­bly good for him but lousy for ev­ery­one else.

I’m talk­ing the garage here – a lo­ca­tion that all well-run teams use for their “in­vited guests”. If there’s a mo­ment any VIP will take home with him from a GP it’s when they’ve been stand­ing a few feet away from the car and watched the driver’s eyes as he talks to an en­gi­neer or thinks about what is hap­pen­ing. Those mo­ments are beyond time and price.

No longer. Now you see stuff shroud­ing the place where you as­sume the driver sits.

And no. I don’t have an an­swer. If it’s the halo or the loss of Mike Spence I’ll go for the halo ev­ery time. Some­where, though, there should still be room for com­pro­mise – par­tic­u­larly in the garage.

There’s no doubt that head pro­tec­tion in F1 is a good thing, but it’s a shame it has to spoil the view

A con­se­quence of bet­ter head pro­tec­tion is that it’s now harder to see and de­ci­pher a driver’s body lan­guage

The new side mon­i­tors re­strict ev­ery­one’s view of the driver when the car is in the garage

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