Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe revealed that F1 aims to protect the drivers' head against bigger flying objects rather then small parts. That is why it opted for the 'halo' system and dropped the aesthetically more appealing windscreen-like solution for now.
Formula 1's much debated cockpit safety system is set to make its debut in 2018 as the Strategy Group recently voted against in introduction as early as next season.
Research for head protection systems started long time ago, but recent fatal injuries in different motorsport series intensified the development procedure. Questions were, however, raised regarding the impact on airflow around the car and in the way drivers can escape from the car or the drivers can be rescued in emergency situations.
Different solutions have been developed and analysed over the last years, but two solutions remained in contention. The Red Bull-developed windscreen was a more elegant one, but it has too much of an effect on the car's airflow and cooling. The Ferrari and Mercedes invention called halo proved to be reliable during real testing and more neutral in terms of its aerodynamic effect on the car, but its look raised doubts.
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe explained that F1 intends to protect drivers against bigger objects. He also sounded content with recent developments which aimed to reduce the number of cases in wheels got deattached on track.
„I think the primary target for the halo or whatever other solution may be produced, was for larger objects so the wheel is an obvious one but we’ve done a lot of work over the years to reduce the number of loose wheels, both with the tethers and now double tethers and then with more and more controls over wheel nuts and secondary retention of wheel nuts, so we actually do see far less loose wheels now.”
Lowe also argued that such protection systems are important to reduce risks of cases when cars collide in very unlucky positions.
„The actual major risk exists with whole cars, chassis, so there are a number of incidents that have happened over the last ten years where there have been near misses related to whole cars so this is the target specification. Example being Grosjean and Alonso at Spa, if you remember; it’s this type of incident which is the primary target for the halo device or whatever else we may produce,” said Lowe.