Formula 1 has confirmed the introduction of head protection in 2018, in the form of the ‘Halo device’. It’s a move that has already drawn criticism, so let’s hear your thoughts…
Luke Murphy from FormulaSpy gives his opinion:
“Many were quick to dismiss all forms of head protection, but I was a fan of the Shield concept trialled at Silverstone. I thought that – with a bit of ‘blending’ of the design into the chassis – the Shield had the potential to look quite radical, and akin to the futuristic concepts we see popping up online from time to time.
However, was Sebastian Vettel’s verdict on the ‘Shield’ concept ultimately a damning one? Less than one week has passed since the Ferrari was trialling a new style of head protection, and yet the decision has been made to revert to a concept which they had previously dismissed.
It seems surprising – and somewhat unscientific – to have a concept so quickly dismissed after minimal running. What aspect of the Shield made Vettel so “dizzy”? Could it have been rectified? Is this the opinion of every driver? Was something discovered during this test that wrote off the concept altogether, something to do with the driver evacuation procedures perhaps?
They probably see the halo as an interim solution for now. They might be bringing the halo device into the sport – despite the rejection of the fans, drivers, teams and pundits – from 2018 whilst other concepts are being developed. My guess is that Vettel’s verdict was enough for them to decide that the Shield was definitely not going to be ready for 2018, and that a more simple solution would be better than no solution. After all, if another severe head injury were to happen to any of the drivers, could the FIA be seen to be dallying over something as subjective as aesthetics?
All we can do now is hope the FIA deliver on their promise to work with the teams to alter the design so it becomes less of an eyesore.”
Thomas Maher from FormulaSpy:
Formula 1 has been faffing around with various ideas for almost two years now and, in true F1 style fashion, has opted for the idea that met with most resistance. While few, including myself, would ever argue against ideas that increase safety levels, this is one where the best solution simply hasn’t been found.
Unlike ‘Halo’, the ‘Shield’ was only tried out by a single driver, over a single lap. That, quite simply, is not enough research into that concept. There are immediate problems with the idea, most obviously being how to deal with rain falling. How do you clear it? It’s something that becomes more important when you realise the visibility issues of having the driver peering through two layers – their visors and the ‘Shield’. Vettel’s complaints about feeling dizzy are valid, but the drivers eyes would surely adjust to having to compensate for it. After all, I feel dizzy when I get a new pair of prescription glasses – it just takes a little while for the eyes to adjust. More drivers trying it out for a longer period of time would answer some questions about it.
I won’t make any comments on the aesthetics of Halo – everyone knows it’s ugly. But, it could save a driver’s life. Applying it retrospectively to some various accidents, it would have saved Henry Surtees in Formula 3 eight years ago. It may have been enough to save Maria De Villota. It probably would have saved Justin Wilson in IndyCar in 2015. It wouldn’t have saved Jules Bianchi’s life, nor Felipe Massa from suffering serious injuries in Hungary in 2009. But, had it been around, it could have saved Ayrton Senna & Roland Ratzenberger. That’s quite a few lives saved for the sake of sacrificing some aesthetic appeal.
The next argument, then, is that the drivers are accepting of the risks that remain in Formula 1. Head of the Grand Prix Driver’s Assocation, Romain Grosjean, spoke out in Silverstone about how against the idea of these forms of head protection the drivers are. That’s all well and good, but Formula 1 didn’t have a problem filling cockpits throughout the 60s and 70s either, when drivers were killed and injured on a regular basis. The drivers back then were accepting of the risks applicable to their time, just the same as nowadays. Formula 1 is a family show now, and major show business. It can’t be seen to be killing or injuring household names. Taking the power away from the drivers and ignoring their opinions doesn’t look good, but none of them are going to walk away from the sport over it, despite their protestations. The first time one of them is saved from injury by this new form of safety, the introduction will be justified.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favour of ugly cars. But, in my opinion, the ‘Shield’ would be a far better solution in terms of actual effectiveness, and in that it actually looks pretty good. Hopefully, Halo is just a stop gap while Shield is evaluated and developed properly.
What are your thoughts?