Love it or loathe it, you cannot ignore it. Since it’s been made compulsory, we’re most definitely stuck with it. The introduction of Halo into the world of Formula One has been a journey as turbulent as the accidents it looks to protect from.

With opinions still split, the logical thing would be to for Chris Fawcett hold a debate in his own head…right?

Arguments for (or, thinking logically)

1. Safety

It’s pretty cut and dry; the most exposed area on a driver in open-wheel racing is the head, so why wouldn’t they protect it? Every other aspect of the sport in regards to safety has improved over the years and will continue to do so. Sure, Jackie Stewart had his sceptics when he campaigned tirelessly for conditions to be improved, and people were less than welcoming when Bernie Ecclestone introduced Professor Sid Watkins into the mix, but who looks back now and thinks it was better when drivers were being killed every-other race meeting?

Stewart saw friends and competitors perish on a regular basis, and campaigned to prevent more. | Image: Octane Photography

The facts are that the FIA put together a pretty compelling presentation for the teams and drivers in Hungary last year. 21 accidents were tested, 19 of those resulted in positive results for the device with the other two being neutral. Of course, it could be easy for a sceptic to suggest that these accidents were specifically chosen to give a positive bias towards Halo, but in truth, they reflected modern day Formula One and the dangers that drivers face at this very moment.

The tests were split into various categories, the first of which was car-to-car contact. The main issue surrounding an incident such as this is a car going over the cockpit of another, something we’ve seen a few times over the years and an event that cannot be protected from currently.

Here’s what the FIA tested and concluded:

Alexander Wurz and David Coulthard coming together at Melbourne in 2007.
Postive on balance

Timo Glock and Andres Zuber’s incident in GP2 at Magny-Cours in 2007.
Postive on balance

Karun Chandhok and Jarno Trulli in Monaco in 2010.
Positive on balance

Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi at Abu Dhabi in 2010.
Neutral

Narain Karthikeyan and Nico Rosberg’s crash at Abu Dhabi in 2012.
Positive on balance

Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean at Spa in 2012.
Positive on balance

Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in Spielberg in 2015
Positive on balance

Daiki Sasaki and Hongli Ye during an F3 race at Macau in 2016.
Positive on balance

As you can see, the majority took place in the last decade, making it a relevant and reliable test in the current climate. In order to protect the driver in an event such as a “bullet car” riding the top of another, the Halo was designed to withstand fifteen times the static load of the full mass of the car which had lead to pretty conclusive results.

Of course, there are other types of incidents that could happen during a Grand Prix weekend, such as cars crashing into barriers, or the rare, but possibly the riskiest situation of an external object hitting the driver.

Tests covering these scenarios included, but weren’t limited to: the fatal incident involving Henry Surtees and a stray wheel, Felipe Massa had his skull fractured by a spring in Hungary and Heikki Kovalainen ending up underneath a barricade in Barcelona. The results, like before were clear:

Nine car-to environment case studies were tested.

Six positive results
Two positive on balance
One neutral

Four external object incidents were looked at.

Two positive results
Two positive on balance

2. The evolution of the sport

Formula One is a sport leading the way in technology, it prides itself on being at the forefront and is constantly changing for this very reason.

For years there have been images of prototype cars, many of which have one striking similarity; a fully closed cockpit. It may be too early to say with any certainty but isn’t the Halo just the beginning of this transition? Lewis Hamilton thinks so, furthermore, he’s previously said it would be a “good idea” and that future designs look “cool”.

Who are we to argue with evolution?

Arguments against (or, unleashing my inner-most armchair a***hole)

1. It looks bad

If Halo was a photo on Tinder you’d not only be swiping left as fast as you can, it would put you off using the app at all. It’s flat-out ugly, there is no way around it. Especially when you consider the other options available, like a sexy, sleek, windshield which would have brought the drivers one step closer to looking like fighter pilots. This design was tested, but it was given a single lap from Sebastian Vettel while he was in the middle of an intense title fight.

Vettel drove a single lap before complaining of dizzyness | Image: Octane Photography

To get landed with an over-sized chicken wishbone feels a bit like a cop-out for a sport which has such a rich, glamorous history.

2. It messes everything up!

It’s just a faff isn’t it? There have been concerns that the starting lights on the gantries may be obstructed from the driver’s positioning – which resulted in the lighting gantries being lowered in Melbourne as a precaution.

Visors have long been used as a driver’s first indication that it’s raining, allowing them to make split-second decisions and race-winning choices on when to come in for a change of tyres. Well, you can forget all of that with the Halo device attached. The structure diverts raindrops away from the helmet, making the driverless informed about on-track conditions and leaving them to find out it’s too wet for slicks when they’re beached in a gravel trap. Carlos Sainz said it should make races “interesting” and the driver’s job even more “tricky” during interchangeable conditions.

We can moan all we want as fans, but the above reasons don’t really affect us, do they?

Spare a thought for the car designers and engineers who’ve worked tirelessly on previous chassis’ and beautifully crafted curves in bodywork, only to have them torn up to accommodate the 14kg structure. The amount of support needed to be built into the cars has been substantial, which, when all said and done, has added unnecessary weight and affects the airflow to the rear wing.

This has resulted in teams spending a lot of money to get it fitted, Force India’s Technical Director Andrew Green says work is still ongoing to truly see how the aerodynamics are affected and that it’s cost them “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to get to the stage they’re at currently. At a time when the sport is trying to save money, this hardly seems the most logical option.

3. Safety of the drivers

Controversial this one, but in for a penny, in for a pound. The Halo may hinder the drivers in the event of an incident where the car rolls over – not on the impact, but on the escape.

Think back to Fernando Alonso’s crash at Melbourne in 2016, would he have been able to escape from the wreckage with the Halo on the car?

Pierre Gasly complained of ripping his race suit on the halo during pre-season testing. | Image: Octane Photography

Something even more worrying is the event of a fire, we’ve seen plenty of them in the pit lane over the years, all it takes is for a blaze on an overturned car for a potentially catastrophic outcome.

Another concern is the prospect of blocked visibility during a race. Have considerations been made for the drive up Eau Rouge? Or maybe the steep uphill run to turn one in Austin? There is the possibility of a serious accident taking place or driving head-on into one. At the very least, reaction times would be increased, making it all the more dangerous in heavy braking or low downforce areas.

4. My own enjoyment

The onboard camera shots have been ruined. Come on Liberty Media, you’re supposed to be bringing us closer to the action, not blocking it from view.

And while you’re at it, have a word to sort this year’s F1 video game out – I play from a view just above the drivers’ cockpit, what the hell am I going to do now when I can’t see anything at all? Me, me, me.

What’s your opinion?

Before we sum up, let’s take a reality check on where the Badger GP audience stands on its inclusion.

A few weeks before Melbourne, a simple Twitter poll was compiled asking what people’s impressions were after the first testing session – the result was telling;

So 95% of people were essentially putting their hands up to say their not fully onboard with the concept, half of which were categorically against it, could those people consider their own seat belts as a waste of time too?

What will be interesting to see is how this new found safety affects viewing figures. Formula One is in a much healthier state financially that it was in years gone by and it’s arguable that its marketability is at an all-time high; drivers are transcending the sport, giving more crossover appeal with the mainstream audience. It would be a shame for even casual fans to be put off, even more damaging would be the loss of steadfast supporters.

Conclusion

The Halo debate is comparable to having two children; one of them is going to grow up beautiful and radiant, you know they’re destined for great things because their looks will take them far, the other child is plain ugly, there’s no first place at Mr or Mrs World for this one, but you love them both the same because they are ultimately your children.

This is our sport and to stop watching it for something as minute as the Halo renders you not only fickle but means you weren’t a true fan of the sport in the first place. The pure element of racing exists as much this year as it did any time before and that’s what we should all be in it for.

We can joke about its looks and find all sorts of reasons to not want it implemented it but the fact is, nothing is worse than watching drivers removed from their car lifeless, leaving their family, friends, team members and viewing public to wait and see if they’re OK.

Thankfully, the sport has moved on to a point where the efforts and ideas of people like Jackie Stewart and Professor Sid Watkins are now commonplace, and continue to set the bar when it comes to motorsport safety. Just think back to the times when the concept of bolting barriers together was laughed at, or replacing the primitive, war-time medical facilities was frowned upon. In 20 years time, you’ll be referencing this season and the dinosaur-like mentality of the stubborn few.

Finally, in case you forgot, there’s always going to be a risk involved. Drivers are inches from one another at speeds exceeding 200mph – there will be serious accidents, maybe even deaths, in the future. To kid yourself that the sport is 100% foolproof would be a serious misjudgment.

Who honestly thought we’d see an incident as trivial and as tragic as Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka, especially after all those years without a fatality? It still happened and the odds are it will happen again. The more the governing body can do to prevent it, the better.

Although it’s not pretty, the Halo is a step closer to giving protection to the most important and exposed part on the car – the head. Use yours and maybe you’ll see it’s for the better.

Image: Octane Photography

 

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