A huge talking point this week in the world of Formula 1 is that of the introduction of the Halo modification on the 2018 championship fleet of cars. The decision to adopt the structure despite not having unanimous grid support has sparked backlash from more than one profound voice in the Formula 1 sphere.
The device in question has been in development for a few years now, tested often by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. It consists of a horse shoe-like bar above the drivers head secured via a pole which connects to the chassis in alignment with the steering wheel. In essence it is Formula 1’s answer to a roll cage, the likes of which are heavily used in rally series’ like WRC and The Porsche Supercup.
The device is being installed in the hopes of making the sport safer, and putting the drivers at less risk whilst they are battling for the championship. The argument of driver protection was questioned heavily in Felipe Massa’s 2009 incident with Rubens Barrichello where a spring from the latter’s car came loose mid race at the Hungaroring circuit, striking Massa in the head. At such velocity his helmet failed to protect him and he spent many weeks recovering in hospital from severe damage. Unfortunately, 2015 brought us the shock incident at Susuka which caused the devastating fatality of driver Jules Bianchi, and thus raised the question of driver safety in reference to head injuries once more.
However with the latest announcement of the alleged affirmation of the Halo for 2018, and this being Formula , the sport of controversy, many people including ex-drivers have more than a few negative comments on the idea. In particular, former 3 time world champion and executive chairman of Mercedes, Niki Lauda, had sharp comments in an interview with ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ publication.
Lauda was quoted as saying “We are trying hard with faster cars and getting closer to the spectators to attract new fans to the sport [..] But this is now destroyed.”
The F1 legend believes that the Halo device will ruin all efforts made to reinvigorate excitement into the sport after the recent backlashes it has faced over engine design and noise reduction etc. Lauda goes on to explain “You have to make the right decision in such a situation. The halo is the wrong one”
There is also divide between the drivers with Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa expressing support for the introduction of the Halo, whilst many drivers including Grosjean, Alonso, and Hamilton have expressed concerns for the device. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen stated “I don’t like it. The visibility is not as good as I’d hoped”.
The design of the device does not give full protection like that of other devices tested, including the shield which would have been more beneficial in an accident like Massa’s. Moreover, accidents involving severe head injuries are luckily so rare in today’s F1 world that the necessity for the Halo device can also be brought into question.
It is unclear whether views and opinions will shift as the 2018 season grows nearer. At present the overarching opinion of the halo is one of negativity both from the sports personnel and fans alike.
Featured Image cc CNN