How The F1 Halo Will Turn Into The Drivers’ Guardian Angel

F1 cars (Photo by Moy)Testing is underway and the new Formula One season will begin in earnest in Melbourne at the end of March. As always, the key questions are:

- Who will win the championship?

- Can any team catch Mercedes?

- Will McLaren finally challenge for podiums?

This year, there has been an extra talking point, the halo. Bought in to help with driver safety, it has received a backlash from drivers, team bosses and fans alike. Nothing has been this unpopular since Bernie Ecclestone was in charge! At the moment, there is plenty of talk about the halo and its effectiveness as well as its aesthetic appeal. Indeed, some “experts” are predicting it won’t have any impact whatsoever and should be abandoned before the season opener.

To show readers why this is a terrible idea, below are the reasons the halo is a guardian angel for competitors. The following is why the authorities decided to take action.

Research Says It Will Make A Difference

Okay, will anyone ever know until there is an accident? The answer is no, and, God willing, there won’t be a major incident this year. However, Laurent Mekies is the safety director for the sport and detailed the FIA’s research in an interview with Autosport. A revelation lots of fans won’t be familiar with is the wide variety of tests that were tried. At first, the FIA wanted to eliminate injuries such as the one Massa received – a spring to the head. As a result, there was a lot of emphasis on debris hitting the cockpit at 140mph. Still, the governing body looked at other scenarios too, such as collisions and external factors. Grosjean and Alonso’s incident in Spa in 2012 was a previous incident which went under the spotlight. So was Wehrlein's accident in Monaco last season. Every past example tested came out as positive or neutral, and no negative tests were reported with the halo. Haters will hate, but the evidence shows it is going to help.

Getting In And Out – Dummy Vs The Real Deal

Previous incarnations of the halo made it harder for the drivers to get in and out of the cars. It’s not very practical when the race can’t start until the guys are behind the wheel. Of course, from a safety point of view, there was speculation the new measure could make crashes worse if people got stuck. Valid questions they are, and they have been answered this year with a new model. The old halo wasn’t able to support the drivers’ bodyweight, which is why there were comical scenes. Now, George Russell, Mercedes junior driver, explained the current version is tougher and sturdier. After a few tries, he was able to handle getting in and out without too much trouble. Regarding getting stuck, stewards can remove a driver from the car while attached to the seat. Therefore, there should be no scenario where any of the competitors are left to fend for their lives without a backup plan.

Trapped In?

Some accidents may result in the car flipping or being crushed against a wall. What happens then? Will the halo be a help or a hindrance? The FIA states that stewards are trained to overturn vehicles before extracting a driver as a common procedure. Still, Mekies’ team ran the test to be on the safe side and the results were positive. With a live “driver” in the cockpit – no dummy – the simulation found that the safety feature provided better clearance off the ground. Due to the shape, it kept the car off the deck and there was extra space to crawl out unharmed. Theoretically, the vehicle should be higher off the ground, although there are no guarantees in real time. Still, the tests were positive and didn’t reveal any negative impacts including smashing upon impact. Studies show a deformed halo is straightforward to remove, too.

Visibility On Track

Probably the biggest argument, backed by the drivers, is the issue of visibility. Because the halo covers the cockpit, there is a chance that eyesight will be restricted. Aside from being annoying, it’s a potential security issue as the drivers need to be able to see everything when operating at speeds of 250mph. However, concerns made in 2016 have been worked on and the current field is satisfied with the alterations. And, there are more to come as the authorities are going to attempt to reduce the 20mm pillar to 16mm and maybe lower. Also, it’s important to remember that the drivers have to take part in a mock test to learn about practical driving. As they train for the upcoming season, the majority of people will get used to the modifications simply by getting behind the wheel. As they prepare themselves to be fit and ready, their eyes will do the same.

Coyote Ugly

One thing both sides can agree on is the design – it’s ugly. Now, the obvious retort is to say it doesn’t matter about the style when a person’s life is at risk. True, substance is more important than style in this situation. But, to appease the people who care about these things, Charlie

Whiting, race director, thinks there’s room for improvement. According to him, the current designs are the bottom rung of the ladder and there is more to come. Even though it’s his personal opinion, there is no reason he won’t be right. 2018 is the first season where the halos will be operative, which means there is bound to be an improvement or two. As the season drags on, new packages should make them easier on the eye. Don’t forget that some of the most design creative people on the planet are at the teams’ disposal. If anyone can sex-up the halo, it’s those geeks, ironically enough!

Are there issues? You’re damn right there are because nothing is perfect at the first attempt. But, do the cons outweigh the pros? The fact is that the benefits are wide-ranging and the FIA seems to have the bases covered. People, watch this space.

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