The head protection device, the halo is set to celebrate its debut in the 2018 F1 Championship. Many still believe that the new safety implementation goes against the DNA and the history of the sport while others welcome the new safety improvement.
FIA decided last week that it introduces the so called ‘halo’ head protection device. Ferrari were the only team which supported the idea while the other squads were not keen on introducing the new device. The governing body has, however, the right to implement changes regardless the teams’ opinions on safety grounds.
Many believe some fatal incident which were triggered by head injuries could have been avoided with the help of a head protection system.
However, others think F1 turns its back to its history, its DNA and its open-wheel status with the new device. Christian Horner is among the opposition. The Briton draws parallel with MotoGP which also leaves their riders without any major, ‘unnatural’ safety devices.
“It is a difficult question,” started Horner. “When it was presented and tested, the situation established: FIA would have to make itself responsible for an incident if it (halo) was not introduced.”
“I hate it. It goes against the core of the open-cockpit of the formula cars. MotoGP does not have any roll hoops either. It does not fit the DNA. However, FIA is responsible for the safety.”
Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg has been vocal about his dislike towards the halo protection system. He does not only think that any such device harms the aesthetics, but he even questions the need of it.
“I was never a big supporter of Halo or of additional head protection. I’m still not but it’s not my decision, it’s the FIA making the safety rules and requirements.”
“It doesn’t look pretty for sure. It will protect against something, the freak accident, accidents that’s one out of a million. We have security and the protection of the cars gets better, these tethers that keep the tyres get better and better every year and give even less chance of a tyre or heavy things flying round,” said the German.
Red Bull teenage sensation Max Verstappen is also a disbeliever of the protection system.
“I don’t like it but of course at the end of the day you have to respect the decision of the FIA.”
“I think since we introduced the Virtual Safety Car, that reduced a lot of risk when you are speeding under the yellow flag in the race and then also with the wheel tethers, they are quite strong at the moment so I don't think you will lose a wheel very easily, and when there are parts flying around from the car, it’s not really going to protect you. So, I don’t really understand why we should need it,” said the one-time GP winner.
Sebastian Vettel who carried out more tests with the halo last year and he was the one who tested the possible alternative to the halo, the shield protection system, said that the F1 community has to accept the halo as it is believed to improve the safety.
“I wasn’t a big fan of the shield, mostly for the reason that it was impacting visibility. The Halo test I did, I think it was last year in Abu Dhabi, and for sure you need to get used to it but at least it didn’t impact on the vision, so I think that was the biggest difference.”
“For sure, if you look at Formula One, the way Formula One cars look and so on, I can understand if people say it doesn’t belong on a Formula One car but on the other hand I think times are changing, you are moving forward and I think if you put it very clear, then it also should be very clear for everyone and there shouldn't be a doubt in your mind whether to introduce it or not,” concluded the quadruple world champion.
McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso agrees with the German and supports any additional safety improvements.
“40 or 50 years ago they didn't have seatbelts in a Formula One and when seatbelts were implemented there was not any debate. If they had to fit it in Formula One… it’s fun to drive with no seatbelt… it should be like that.”
“For me there is no question, I’m happy to implement any extra head protection for next year. If the FIA studied and developed the Halo and this is the most effective way to protect the head of the drivers it’s more than welcome in my opinion,” said the Spaniard.
A big supporter of the halo device is Sergio Perez. The Mexican Force India-driver thinks that the 'halo' could have saved many lives in the past, so he pins hopes on the safety improvement the halo could bring into the sport.
“I’m in favour of it. Whatever has to do with safety, safety always comes first. I think if we had the Halo by now, the last six, seven years it will have saved at least a life. That’s worth the risk that the FIA is taking with that. I think once we implement Halo the teams will improve.”
“I think Halo needs a lot of work by now – but I’m sure the system will be improved a lot. We have very clever engineers in Formula One and now that all the teams know that it has to be in place for next year, I believe they will improve it a lot,” said the Guadalajara-born driver.