Formula One has always been an open cockpit sport which has brought an element of danger that attracted drivers and fans alike. Of course with that danger – added to the already high risks of motorsport – has come a dark history of loss of life in open seated racing.
Some of those deaths, including that of Jules Bianchi from an incident in 2014 at Suzuka, may have been avoided if head protection such as halo were in place.
“We always learn from incidents and change […] It is up to us to make sure it does happen otherwise I think we would be quite stupid.”
That was the comment from four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel as he answered questions about halo and the impending meeting of the strategy group. His voice was the strongest in the room for the halo – which might not be surprising given that it has been developed by Ferrari and Vettel has lapped with it before – but not everyone was for its introduction.
Vettel’s fellow German Nico Hulkenberg said that the aesthetics of the halo were a big negative, and also that Formula One needs to retain “an element of danger”.
Daniel Ricciardo was keen to point out that while halo would help protect from freak accidents it wouldn’t change the way drivers raced. “We are still racing drivers” he said, adding that it wouldn’t stop him taking Eau Rouge flat out.
Though it would seem the dissenting voice of Hulkenberg is one of only a handful now. Lewis Hamilton has come around to it in recent weeks and Sebastian Vettel – one of the directors of the Grand Prix Drivers Association – said that 92-95% of drivers were for the halo device.
The FIA gave a detailed presentation on halo’s benefits and drawbacks to the drivers in Budapest last week in order to dispel some of the worries over visibility and confirm its ability to protect – or not make worse – from some of the previous incidents.
While outwardly it would seem like halo is a very sensible solution it may yet face stiff resistance. The drivers are not the ones who will be deciding on its introduction, making their opinion somewhat irrelevant. The teams and Formula One’s bosses will be making the decision, and Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, has already called it an “inelegant solution” and said he will vote against it. Bernie Ecclestone has not publicly voiced his opinion but is said to be campaigning hard against its introduction behind the scenes.
Halo is still in the balance, and while it would be a radical change to Formula One in the end I think that no one would want a potential death on their hands. If it were to be voted down and someone were to be killed in an incident that halo has been proven to help prevent it could be cataclysmic to the sport in the same way that Aryton Senna’s death in 1994 so nearly was.
Other notes from today’s drivers press conference
- The drivers meeting this weekend is expected to go on far longer than normal as they discuss and seek clarity on the extend of lifting required during double-waved yellow flags. This comes from Nico Rosberg’s small lift being deemed acceptable last weekend during qualifying. The majority seemed to think – though they did not expressly say – that Rosberg had not lifted enough in order to “be prepared to stop” when he came around the corner to where Fernando Alonso had spun.
- This Sunday will be Daniel Ricciardo’s 100th race start in Formula One – the always smiling Australian said that while HRT felt like a long time ago now it also seemed to have gone by quite quickly.
- When asked about lower interest in Formula One and lower attendance figures in recent years in Germany, Sebastian Vettel said that Michael Schumacher had been massively influential as the first German champion and helped to create the peak of interest, but also that ticket prices – particularly for the grandstands around the track – were too high and that he would like to see more affordable tickets.
- Felipe Nasr said that Sauber are expecting a lot of upgrades to come in after the summer break now that the team’s future is secure and there is new investment. He is keen to push for the team’s first points of the year.
- Daniel Ricciardo is hopefully for some “variables” this weekend, including rain, but admitted that Red Bull may have to wait until Singapore to mount a challenge to Mercedes’ dominance ag