Is HALO right solution? Not everyone’s a fan

As a Formula 1 fan, you sometimes wonder just how much thought has gone in to a concept, regulation or directive in the FIA. Sometimes it seems well deliberated while other times it comes across as a half-baked solution that wasn’t quite vetted and perhaps circumstances and context make them appear so.

With all the talk about the HALO device for F1, I must admit that I have seen the FIA video of tire-shooting against windscreens and other devices and I appreciate what Mercedes have done to create the HALO but the FIA’s bullish position on making it a requirement for 2017 is something I’m not quite sure is the right direction.

It isn’t that I disagree with protecting the driver’s head, it’s all the permutations that come from having this thing on top of the driver in the event of a crash. You can imagine all the scenarios where this device may make things more dangerous and more difficult to extricate the driver in life-threatening situations.

One of the more interesting comments I read a few months ago was that trying to divine all of the possible situation where the HALO might hinder safety is impossible to anticipate and at some level, you just have to do it as surely the benefits outweigh to risks.

I guess I find that logic a bit odd as I would argue the same thing about drivers understanding the risk they are taking in the current non-HALO car design. Felipe Massa was hit in the head by a spring, Jules Bianchi’s accident had little to do with a protective device as the car lodged itself under a massive tractor. What we do point to is Justin Wilson and Henry Surtees but neither of these tragic accidents were in Formula 1.

One could argue that the original safety feature to prevent incidents like Surtees was the wheel tether and it seems to have been a good regulation although I’ve read some dissenting opinions on that as the wheels flap and slam along the monocoque dangerously close to the driver’s head. Regardless, we haven’t seen as many flying wheels as we used to and for fans in the grandstands and marshals, that’s a good thing.

So is the HALO the answer? According to Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Force India’s Bob Fernley, maybe not. Christian said:

“I’d prefer there to be more research time taken to do the job properly, rather than rushing something through that may have other consequences,” he told reporters after Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

“I certainly wouldn’t vote in favour at the moment.”

I agree with Christian in that it isn’t a very elegant solution and even Haas F!’s Guenther Steiner echoed the fact that all the drivers know the risk they are taking. The unfortunate truth is that Jules Bianchi knew the risk he was taking but his parents don’t see it quite that simple. They felt the series were negligent and caused their son’s death.

Still, Force India’s Bob Fernley also agree with Horner:

“I believe that it’s too hasty. We need to do a lot more work to understand that the halo isn’t going to create other problems, which I think it will do,” he said.

“I think we should take our time and get the right solution and then introduce it.”

And this is even more precisely where I land on the issue. It’s not a question of if it would help if a wheel flew through the air toward a driver’s helmet, of course it would help but it is more a question of the possible risks it would present in a host of differing accidents and situations. It just seems to be inviting as much safety concern as it is solving—if not more.

Hat Tip: Reuters