F1 Loses Its Halo

F1 Loses Its Halo

The latest modification to the F1 races is the introduction of an overhead cockpit protection called Halo. While some stakeholders in the industry have been in support of the development, the voices of critics are louder. The basis for opposing the protection gear is in two folds; while some are repelled by the unattractive looks of the gears, others believe such protection to be stripping away the element of danger synonymous to the sport.

The latter group has been very vocal in their opposition of the halo and include big names such as Niko Hulkenberg, Jacques Villenueve, Daniil Kvyat and Lewis Hamilton, who later changed his stance after the Hungary presentation.

The Hungary presentation is an attempt by FIA to introduce the Halo concept to F1 racers. Deriving its name from the location of the event, the presentation was at the Hungaroring on the weekend of the Hungarian grand prix, one week before the vote on the Halo.

The presentation examined past accidents in F1, GP2 and GP3 and how the halo would have performed in such cases. Apart from Hamilton, the presentation succeeded in convincing quite a number of racers to support FIA’s decision regarding the halo.

After all the efforts of the FIA, the initial vote on the halo subject still ended up in a mass opposition. The F1 Race Director, Charlie Whiting, later said in a release that the decision not to proceed was simply a year deferment for all options to be considered.

  • Further questioning led him to open up that ‘some kind of cockpit defence’ will have to be adopted in 2018. This could be the halo or the Red Bull ‘Aeroscreen, which was formerly shelved after failing the hit-by-a-wheel-at-250km/hr test. Whichever one it would be, it would not be until further evaluation that anyone would know.
  • The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, expressed the views of many when described the halo as an ‘inelegant solution’. He said, “…and I’m not so sure it is a complete solution. Rather than do half a job, it’s better to take a bit more time and do it properly.” This is a similar sentiment to those of many stakeholders who have expressed disgust for the design of the wishbone-shaped enclosure.
  • The lack of physical appeal is followed by the presumed uselessness in the case of a real accident as critics expressed that the halo would have been of no help to Fernando Alonso during his accident at Albert Park. It also would not have been of any help to Felipe Massa during his accident in 2009.

The strongest of all critics’ voices is that of the faction that believed the halo to be an unneeded hindrance to the sport. Jacques Villenueve spoke the minds of this group when he said “if they are afraid, they should go and race touring cars”. “Yes, we must strive for safety, but there are limits we should not exceed. Risk-taking is inherent in F1. It’s part of the beauty of the sport…”

Whether the halo will stay or not remains to be seen, but one can say that the FIA lost its halo before it even got to use it.


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