F1 drivers back safety push despite Halo backlash

Formula 1 drivers insist that the FIA’s push to improve safety, which has led to the controversial decision to impose the Halo for 2018, will not result in the racing spectacle suffering.

F1 drivers back safety push despite Halo backlash
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H with the Halo cockpit cover
Felipe Nasr, Sauber C35 with the Halo cockpit cover
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38 with the Halo cockpit cover
Kevin Magnussen, Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 with the Halo cockpit cover
Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09 with the Halo cockpit cover
Ferrari SF16-H with coloured Halo
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12 with the Halo cockpit cover
Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09 with the Halo cockpit cover
Alex Wurz, Williams driver coach
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12 with the Halo cockpit cover

The decision by the FIA to push through the Halo on safety grounds – with it understood only one team fully supporting it in Wednesday’s Strategy Group meeting – has caused a backlash on social media.

Many fans and commentators are unhappy about how F1’s cars will look next year with the Halo on board, and it has been known for some time that teams and some drivers were against it on visual grounds.

Veteran F1 commentator Martin Brundle tweeted that the cockpit protection system was simply “plain ugly.”

 

But despite clear opposition to the Halo, the FIA felt it could not delay the introduction of the cockpit head protection any longer – especially since the first run of the Shield at the British GP had been such a disappointment.

Safety veto

One of the key issues for the FIA was that there could have been legal implications in the future if there had been a driver injured or killed in an accident where the use of the Halo would have protected him.

That is why the FIA took the decision to use its safety grounds veto and ensure the Halo – which will be modified from the version that has run up until now – is on cars from next year.

The GPDA accepts that the Halo is not the perfect solution in visual terms, but it is also eager to point out that improved safety does not mean that the spectacle of F1 is taken away.

In fact, it suggests that having safer cars opens the door to speeds being increased and drivers more willing to push to the limit.

GPDA chairman Alex Wurz says that drivers always support moves by the FIA to improve safety, even if they are aware that the Halo is controversial because of its looks.

"With regards to the introduction of additional head protection, as stated various times, us drivers respect the FIA's stand on safety and support their ongoing quest to make racing safer,” Wurz told Motorsport.com.

“Over recent decades, we have seen increasing speeds and ever faster laptimes, and this ultimate racing quest is solely possible due to increasing safety. Equally, over the same period of time we have seen an increase in popularity of our sport.

“F1 is a role model for ever-increasing safety without jeopardising performance. Whilst the Halo solution might not be the most aesthetically pleasing for everyone, us drivers will nevertheless race and push as hard as we can on track, which is the key for F1 to continue its growth and popularity.”

The Halo was originally conceived and designed by Mercedes, and then was developed further by the FIA – which has conducted extensive testing of it for several years.

One of the consequences of the Halo coming on board for 2018 is that the F1 weight limit will be made even higher, but it is understood that the GPDA requested this to ensure that heavier drivers were not penalised unfairly.

More recently, the GPDA has stepped back from involvement in the Halo debate, with the FIA having been alone in deciding what to do about it since the end of last year.

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Halo set for 2018 introduction after Strategy Group meeting

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