There’s no doubting that the halo has divided opinion more so than any other technical ruling in recent F1 history. But what do those affected the most by its introduction – the drivers – really think? Rob Watts was on hand during the recent Barcelona test to find out.
LEWIS HAMILTON – Mercedes
“You definitely notice it, you’ve definitely lost some visibility with it. If you had 100 percent visibility [before] you’ve lost a certain percentage. But you just get used to it and as I started driving your mind learns to work around it.
“It doesn’t really affect you in corners. I think if there’s a car in the distance down the straight you can lose a little bit of that visibility of the car but I think it will become second nature at some stage.”
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN – Haas
“I think you can easily get used to it from a driving point of view, and a visual point of view. I just don’t think it belongs on an F1 car It’s unnecessary to put something like that on the car. We’re not here to be safe, we’re here to race and go fast, and go to the limit. If you want to be safe, then stay at home.
“I think it’s important [that F1 cars look good]. We need to be able to attract fans, and you cannot even see the helmet of the driver from the grandstand; I went on track to watch the cars and i’m a driver that follows F1 very closely, and I couldn’t tell who was in the cars. I had to look at the timing screens and i think that’s really bad.”
LANCE STROLL – Williams
“It’s gonna save lives, there’s no doubt. The fact that our head was exposed before at these high speeds, god forbidden if anything did happen and a piece did hit us on the head it could end very badly. If it’s there to protect us then i’m in favour of it.
“Of course it doesn’t look great, and it adds weight to the car and the car’s already very heavy, so those things aren’t great but at the end of the day, if we look back on the decision [to use] the halo further down the line, and we had decided not to go with it and find that it would have helped an accident from happening that would be a shame. It’s there to save drivers from running into accidents, and that’s huge; more important than anything else.”
ROBERT KUBICA – Williams
“I drove it in the simulator, but once you are in the car it’s not a problem, but once you have to get out of the car it’s a bit of an issue. After the first race on Sunday in Australia, I will go to the end of the pitlane to just have a bit of a laugh how people are getting out of the car with the halo. Honestly, Australia could be easier but the races that are tough and physically demanding like Singapore, I think there will be some artistic movements to try and get out of the car.
“The problem of Halo is not such a big problem the cars are getting wider with a lot of complicated bargeboards, so you have very limited space which way you can go out. We use a step to get in, but to get out drivers will probably stand on the halo to get out; you will probably see some drivers flying.”
CARLOS SAINZ – Renault
“Average to be honest. I can see perfectly what’s in front of me, but I cannot see if it’s snowing, if it’s raining or whatever. The drops aren’t going on your visor, so we really don’t know how much grip we’re going to have, but overall it’s a safety device that has to be implemented and i’m convinced it will get better.”
ESTEBAN OCON – Force India
“I’m getting used to it quickly, I would say. Anywhere it’s there and it’s the same for everybody. I don’t see it at the the end of the day. I’m surprised and happy because the first time it shocked me and I was quite dizzy after driving it, but today I have no problems.
“I don’t adapt my style with the weight, but you have to take it into account on the straight line and just position your eyes a bit differently before the corners, and to be honest it was transparent after a few laps.
“It could be [a problem seeing the lights]. To be honest, I didn’t stop on the grid yet, but let’s see what it does.”
PIERRE GASLY – Toro Rosso
“My feeling is that honestly, to drive with it is no problem. It doesn’t change anything in terms of vision. It’s basically the same because as a driver you pay so much attention to the lines when driving, it’s almost like you don’t see it. So it’s not such a big deal, but to get in the car it’s quite a big mess; you have to have steps and jump over the halo, and with the small winglets on the halo, you need to be careful because you can break them very easily.
“I was really happy with how it was before, Formula 1 was like this for so many years, but I also understand that safety is always a concern and if we can improve it, it’s always better. I’m happy with the safety as it is now; I think there are other things we could improve. If I had the choice not to use it, I would not have it, but that’s how it is and we have to accept and deal with it.”
MARCUS ERICSSON – Sauber
“To be honest, I ran something like 60 laps on the first day and around 80 laps today, and I haven’t noticed it once. It’s there, but you don’t see it. So far it’s positive.”
Halo – A few of the key points you need to know
Research undertaken by the FIA showed that in 15/17 case studies, the Halo would have had a positive effect on the outcome of a serious accident, with the other two cases showing a neutral outcome; i.e. there would have been no negative effect to having the halo.
While it’s been stated that the halo would not have saved Jules Bianchi from his horror accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, the halo has been designed to protect drivers from larger objects such as detached wheels, car components breaking off, and impact with larger objects such as another car or a trackside barrier.
The halo has been designed to withstand a load of up to 116 kiloNewtons of force; if like me that makes no sense to you then put it this way, a London double-decker bus could fall on an F1 car and the halo would be strong enough to sufficiently protect the driver within the cockpit.
New crash tests introduced for 2018 have been put in place to ensure each team’s chassis is strong enough to sustain the required force with the halo attached. The halo is built by an FIA-approved supplier, but the teams themselves are responsible for incorporating it into the design of their car and ensuring it is then able to withstand the required loads.
While the teams will look to minimise the aerodynamic impact of using the halo, there’s no getting away from the fact that it will add unwanted weight to the car – estimated to be between 10kg-14kg with the required mountings – meaning teams will be forced to look for other ways to reduce the weight of their cars to make allowance for this.
With the minimum weight of the car and driver only being increased by six kilograms this year, teams with taller/heavier drivers may be at a disadvantage. Teams with lighter drivers can use ballast to re-distribute weight around the car, while others may be forced to put their drivers on strict diets before the first race in Melbourne.