Top Stories of 2017, #9: Halo introduced to F1 for 2018 – Motorsport AU

It is a tough ask to find a recent Formula 1 concept more controversial and divisive than the Halo cockpit protection system, yet there is seemingly universal agreement across party lines that it does the sport no favours in the aesthetics department.
Some have argued that any cockpit protection is against the DNA of grand prix racing, yet those voices would not have been anywhere near as loud had the Halo been less of an obvious eyesore.
After it arrived in 2015 – first as Mercedes concept and then as the FIA’s preferred concept for cockpit protection – a whole slew of other methods have been proposed, which surely speaks volumes to how keen people are on the Halo.
But in that same sense, it is perhaps testament to the concept that all the alternatives fell by the wayside while it remained the most viable option, despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
The introduction of cockpit protection was initially slated for 2017, but pushed back, allowing time enough for one more serious alternative to surface in the form of the ‘Shield’.
The see-through screen, covering most but not all of the cockpit, was likewise divisive, offering an improvement in aesthetics but understood to be less efficient when it came to actual protection.
An April Strategy Group meeting established the Shield, not the Halo, as the way forward for F1 cockpit protection. But its first track test at Silverstone left Sebastian Vettel dizzy and, as the FIA would reveal later, it did not pass impact testing.
Fast forward to July, and the Halo was confirmed for 2018 instead, its introduction pushed through by the governing body – on safety grounds rather than through a standard vote.
Teams, after all, had almost unanimously voted against it, and many clearly remain unconvinced. F1’s benchmark privateer team Force India in particular has been a loud critic, saying that the decision was “rushed” – an accusation vehemently denied by FIA safety director Laurent Mekies.
The drivers, for their part, have looked split about even on the issue. The GPDA – which now includes every driver on the grid – has backed the Halo, but while chairman Alex Wurz and director Vettel are well known to be in favour, the newest director – Romain Grosjean – has been very vocal in his opposition.
The debate is over for now, but the case is, of course, far from closed. And while we’ve seen the Halo plenty already, the sheer ubiquity of it – through pre-season testing and the first few races – is almost guaranteed to produce a reaction.
The FIA surely anticipates as much. But for an organisation that often has its priorities questioned, it is at the very least correct in feeling that any sort of outrage is infinitely more palatable than a fatal accident that could’ve been prevented.
Click here to see the list of top 20 stories so far.
Photo by: Sutton Images
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