5th October 2014. A day in Formula 1 history that will unfortunately always be remembered for more sombre reasons than the on-track action. I remember it vividly, a typhoon made for treacherous conditions, but as usual, the silver arrows were battling out in-front. Back in the midfield, the Ferrari protegé, Jules Bianchi was putting in another fine performance. Having taken Marussia’s first points in Formula 1 earlier that year at the Monaco Grand Prix; the Italian was pegged as the Tifosi’s next rising star.
That plan came to a devastating end on lap 43. Bianchi collided with the recovery vehicle attending a stricken Force India of Adrian Sutil, the resulting impact leaving him in a coma. He succumbed to his injuries eight months later. Leaving Formula 1 with a difficult decision; how would it improve the safety in the sport without removing any of the spectacle. After months of development, the result was the halo.
It’s all a matter of perspective
The halo instantly received backlash from both in and outside of the paddock. Fans believed it was ‘ugly’ and hid the drivers from view. While drivers believed it would impact their peripheral vision on-track. Personally, I much preferred Indycar’s adopted solution of the aeroscreen to the halo; it suited the cars aesthetically and felt more in keeping. But thanks to Renault, I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how it would impact the next generation of Formula 1 cars.
Of all the livery unveilings in 2018, I have to say I was most impressed by Renault’s. It will definitely be eye-catching on the circuit and its choice of livery integrated the halo with minimal disruption. I was eager to see how the halo impacted a drivers vision, as by looking at release pictures it appeared incredibly intrusive.
The fact is though, with the halo, it’s all a matter of perspective. From the outside, it looks cumbersome and as though it will impede drivers and engineers. As you can see though, when you sit in the driving seat, the halo is barely visible. Despite the thin bar creating a small blind-spot directly in-front of the drivers vision, this is no different to various devices used along the survival cell by Mercedes-AMG or Red Bull Racing already. Being able to see it from a drivers perspective proved to me that the halo’s potential benefits far outweigh the aesthetic implications, but will work?
Will the halo device be effective?
One of the main criticisms of the halo in comparison to the aeroscreen is that it wouldn’t prevent incidents such as that suffered when Felipe Massa was struck by a suspension spring at Hungary in 2009. This may be true; but the chances of this will be significantly reduced by the halo.
Following tests that will see it withstand the weight of a double-decker bus; it will certainly help against large scale impacts. There is still an inherit risk of smaller objects making it through, but look at that gap. The odds are reduced significantly by the introduction of the halo, and that’s what matters.
Even if it only prevents one injury; thats one life that would otherwise have been in danger where the risk has been averted. Think of Justin Wilson in Indycar; with the halo that incident would have been avoided. Rather than the tragic outcome we would have been left with an albeit shocking YouTube video.
So, like it or lump it, the halo is likely here to stay in F1; and after seeing it in person I can see why. It won’t be long before it is branded like any other part of the car and we won’t even notice it, until the time when it’s actually needed…