Safety matters more than Halo’s appearance – Vettel

2016 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says Formula One should introduce the Halo driver protection device even if it makes the cars less attractive.

Yesterday Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg criticised the aesthetics of the proposed safety structure after it was run for the first time on Kimi Raikkonen’s car.

Vettel used the system briefly during testing this morning. He gave his backing to the development but added there is still room for improvement.

“I think Halo is OK even if I believe that this system can be improved in terms of both aesthetics and visibility,” Vettel said. “I think we will see an evolution of it very soon.”

“In principle, I think it doesn’t look very nice,” Vettel added, “but if it can help saving lives, and if thanks to it at least the two drivers who died recently could still be here with us, then I think it can be the ugliest system but nothing could justify not having it fitted.”

Last year former Formula One driver Justin Wilson was killed when he was struck by debris during an IndyCar race and Jules Bianchi succumbed to the head injuries he suffered in a crash during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Raikkonen, the only other driver to try the Halo so far, said it made only a small difference to visibility from the cockpit.

The Halo device was chosen from three different proposals to improve the protection drivers have from debris, all of which were subjected to tests by having debris including wheel assemblies fired at them.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Safety matters more than Halo’s appearance – Vettel”

  1. I agree with him. Everything progresses, but you need to start somewhere.

    Simply, if it is in the power of engineers to adequately solve the problem if drivers heads being exposed, and risking injuries such as Surtees, Wilson, Bianchi and perhaps it would have even saved Maria De Villa, then it should be done. The elegance of the solution will improve with time.

    1. Let’s just introduce closed canopy and be done with this.

      “Safety matters more than Halo’s appearance”.

      Maybe F1 should switch to something like this:

  2. Why don’t they give the teams a rough outline and do a crash test like they do with everything else? I’m sure after the designers have honed it for aero and lightness it will look a bit more sleek.

  3. Okay, it may have potentially prevented two deaths, however my concern is it is fine for a large, solid object, like a tyre, but if something has the ability to poke underneath the halo, it would make next to no difference. Suppose Kimi’s car had hit Alonso’s head, would it have prevented injury or death if the front wing had got through? A crane might have parts which could do the same.

    1. @strontium – I believe it was Alonso’s car on top of Kimi, but same danger either way. The halo is not the best or absolute final solution. Better for large bulky objects than for smaller or sharper protruding objects. It is a step in the right direction towards more and better head protection.

      1. @strontium – And regarding the cranes issue, I believe cranes and heavy equipment should not be on a live track ever. That is the only way to solve the problem of a F1 car crashing into a crane or any heavy equipment regardless of whatever protective device is on the car.

        1. There was so much energy released in the Bianchi incident that the only sane way to address it is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

          That impact sheared the safety roll hoop off of the car, and still delivered enough energy to Bianchi’s cranium to fatally injure him.

          You can’t build a car to withstand that sort of impact.

          1. Fudge Ahmed (@)
            4th March 2016, 22:15

            Im starting to get really tired of the constant ‘crane shouldnt have been there’, ‘Bianchi shouldnt have been speeding’ rhetoric. YES, we are well aware neither of those things should have happened but they did! The issue of a cockpit that could potentially withstand or reduce the damage of any such similar or identical incident is what is being discussed here not turning back time and undoing what happened in Japan that day. The duty to ensure those things to not occur again are a separate issue with separate measures needed or having been implemented.

            Back to the Halo, I think it would look very very different when and if implemented. From an aero perspective we could see the upper nose shape adhere more closely to a continuous profile like the recent Red Bull X1 and Mclaren MP4-X concepts but with the structure in place of the glass canopies. And the bulk would at the very least be reduced or at least pinched and shaped. This is merely an exercise to gauge driver visibility and public reaction. The prototype may even be purposefully simplistic and ugly in its design so that when the actual structure is implemented we may look upon it favorably in comparison to a couple of welded pipes we saw in Barcelona back in 2016…

            I’m on the fence. I’m sure they have looked at it but a sweeping windscreen would be my preferred option from both an aesthetic point of view as well as to pay homage to F1’s past which has featured windscreens before.

          2. Fudge Ahmed (@)
            4th March 2016, 22:17

            Not picking at you Grat, I know you are just highlighting the fact that in that instance the outcome would likely have been the same but all over the internet I am seeing so many flippant remarks regarding the Halo / Bianchi issue, apologies if you felt I was aiming this at you.

          3. I don’t take it personally– the reality is that in “4 ton crane vs. 1500kg F1 car”, F1 car loses, every time. I personally drive a Volvo– 5 star safety rating. If I hit a loaded tractor/trailer head-on at speed, it doesn’t matter how safe my car is– I’m history.

            Now, here’s one to consider– We all know that the halo wouldn’t have helped Massa in 2009 when the 2.2kg spring hit him at 140+ MPH. But the halo has an *underside* as well that things can ricochet off of– what if that spring had been deflected, not up, but *down*? Specifically, if it was deflected downward by just an inch or so, and instead of hitting the reinforced area of the helmet, it would have passed largely unimpeded through his visor.

            I’m not being flippant– I’m not against improving driver safety. But I’m not sure all the possible ramifications of the halo have been considered, and the last thing F1 needs is for a driver to suffer more serious injuries because of a safety device.

    2. The Spa incident concerns me, because whoever was in the Lotus that ran over Alonso’s car, without the halo, they skimmed over the top, and Alonso was essentially as well protected as if the car had gone upside down– the plane between the outside edge of the safety cell and the roll hoop kept Alonso safe.

      With the halo, however, you now have the very real possibility of a “splitter” device (the halo) intersecting that plane– If the leading edge of the Lotus floor had been peeled off the bottom of the Lotus by a halo, Alonso could have suddenly found himself in a cockpit full of carbon fiber shards.

      I admit, I’m speculating– it’s possible that it would never work that way. But I have yet to see any discussion about the possibility of the halo shearing parts off of an oncoming car and showering the driver with the debris.

      1. “The Spa incident concerns me, because whoever was in the Lotus that ran over Alonso’s car, without the halo, they skimmed over the top, and Alonso was essentially as well protected as if the car had gone upside down– the plane between the outside edge of the safety cell and the roll hoop kept Alonso safe.”

        It was Grosjean and you are wrong, unfortunately.

        The only thing that kept Alonso safe war sheer luck. Had he been 50 cm further and turned into the corner a little more, he would not have been so lucky. Grosjean’s Lotus didn’t even touch Alonso’s roll hoop. It deflected from Fernando’s right rear wheel and flew across in front of his helmet. You can see it pretty good from Hamilton’s onboard:

        1. Yes, it was Grosjean, and yes, I was wrong, but not for the reason you suggest.

          Since I still have my PVR recording from 2012, I went back and grabbed a couple frames that show Alonso was never in any particular danger.


          Grosjean’s car pivots across the front of Alonso’s car, well in front of the area that the halo would protect.

  4. Makes sense to me. It is only the first step of this particular progression in the ongoing quest to keep our revered drivers safer.

  5. Apex Assassin
    4th March 2016, 19:36

    I am astounded to be siding with Alonso and Hamilton on this issue. These drivers should retire. I would despise be thought of as an obstructionist or someone that watches racing for the crashes and I’ll state plainly that a significant part of the allure of F1 is technological innovation. I’ll also state another significant part of the allure is that it’s dangerous and OPEN COCKPIT.

    I’m still waiting for any hard evidence that shows how this halo will save lives. From Imola 1994 through today, I don’t see it preventing any serious injuries or any deaths. And I note Scarbs and racecarengineering are critical of the system as well. That says a LOT.

    1. “From Imola 1994 through today, I don’t see it preventing any serious injuries or any deaths.”


      1. I’m laughing with you SatchelCharge.

    2. FlyingLobster27
      4th March 2016, 20:51

      Would the halo have saved Senna? I’m have doubts. Would it have saved Bianchi or Wheldon? Roll hoop was ripped off in both cases, so probably not. Would it have saved Wilson? Maybe. But let’s get one thing straight: the halo is not an answer to any of these. It is not designed to save a driver against debris that can sneak beneath it (e.g. Massa), and it’s not designed to be a survival cell for the head.
      It’s designed to deflect loose wheels, and that’s pretty much all it will do. Because in context, it’s the result of studies that followed Henry Surtees’s death. The halo would have saved Surtees. Had he been in a slightly different place at Silverstone two years ago, we’d be saying that it would have saved Chilton too.

      The BBC is reporting that Lewis Hamilton thinks that the halo should be used at the discretion of the driver. That’s a stance that will only postpone the system’s mandatory nature until the next death, or until a prominent-enough driver dies. The HANS device in NASCAR is a prime example.

      1. Would the halo have saved Senna?

        I believe the cockpit height increases which began in 1996 and have just been increased again this year would. Just look at a side-on picture of a 1994 car versus a 2016 one.

        Lewis Hamilton thinks that the halo should be used at the discretion of the driver.

        I think there’s nil chance of that happening. It’s a safety change so it will be mandatory: there is no way the FIA will give drivers the choice to opt out of adding five kilogrammes of weight high up on the car because it would give them an incentive to compromise their own safety to improve their car’s performance.

      2. Senna remains a hero to millions because he was his own man, competing in a dangerous era, in beautiful cars and, ultimately, he was prepared to lay down his life in the pursuit of brilliance.

        Senna in 2016 is an anachronism. Thank God he lived when he did.

      3. I agree, it’s a half-assed idea, no sane person would be against safety, but trying to keep the “open cockpit” just for marketing and adding things like the halo, are stupid ideas, if you really want safety but minimize the desing change, go with full canopy, the already tested a jet fighter canopy against a tire, it works, doesn´t change visibility and can protect against debris at any angle

  6. Im in favor of keeping it open wheel for looks and tradition but if it has to be then go full way with a canopy and not this ugly and unpractical makeshift contraption. Not being able to extract the driver is just gripping after straws, its not a real unsolvable issue.

    This debacle is a perfect example the state of Formula 1 today, halfmesures and gimmicks as a result of no clear leadership and direction.

    1. +1 Bernie: go home.

    2. @rethla Actually not be able to extract driver QUICKLY is the most important drawback on why fully closed cockpit is not the acceptable solution. F1 cockpit is too tight that the driver only have 1 way to enter/exit the cockpit unlike other closed cockpit race car like LMP1 or NASCAR where the cockpit has plenty of empty space and in case of a blocked main door / window, there still another route to extract the driver.

      If you going to say use small explosives like in fighter jets, remember this:
      1. Fighter jets cockpits space is a luxury compared to F1 cockpit. Do you want, after experiencing an accident, you still got explosions 2cm from your head? Look at the picture below to see the comparison.
      2. Fighter jet will never has any situation where its upside down on gravel, or having any situation where it experienced impact that may damaged the structural cell around the cockpit and potentially damaging the canopy open/release mechanism. If it does, the jet probably already blown anyway.

      Av-8 Harrier:

      1. I wasnt talking about rocket ejection seats. If they can manage to lift out the driver and his seat they surely can lift away a canopy aswell.

        1. @rethla Well if you want to extract the driver with the canopy too, then the biggest problem are:
          – Where to mount the canopy?
          – How to make sure the deformation from impact (there has to be deformation to waste most of the impact energy, basic physics here) doesn’t interfere with the release/lifting mechanism. The driver seat is not designed as impact structure so its not expected to deform.
          – How big and heavy the total stuff that has to be lifted? Since in this scenario the canopy can’t be opened normally (otherwise we don’t need to lift it with the driver) then some of the structure it mounted to have to be lifted too. For medical emergencies on track, I think 4 man (medical personel with the help of some minimally/un trained marshall) should be able to do it without assistance from heavy equipment.

          I think there are more detailed problem, but those 3 are off the top of my head.

          1. @sonicslv
            I dont think there is supposed to be any deformation, the halo is there to shield the driver head not absorb impact energy. You have other crash structures absorbing energy, this one is supposed transfer the force into the the chassis instead of into the driver. Likewise the helmets outer shell isnt supposed to deform either.

            I wasnt talking about lifting the driver inside the canopy but rather lift of the canopy before lifting out the driver. It cant be so heavy that 4 man cant move it and if Formula 1 cant come up with some fixings that can be easily loosened after a crash they can fire their entire engineering team.

          2. @rethla Fair enough. I don’t mean to oppose closed cockpit, but there is significant disadvantage using closed cockpit system that while it add safety from some factor (debris), it might increase risk from another one (extraction).

    3. actually it has too much ‘direction’. It needs real players, not actors, not directors and producers, prop masters, gaffers, etc.

      F1 is too much a TV production and politics today than it is real racing. It’s only racing in the minds of the people who believe in the show, and that belief is ultimately what pays the bills for the people who play the part.

      If you want real competition and real innovation you will let people race. If you want a TV production, you will stick to the script and ad lib where the director lets you.

    4. Agree, no half measure, something like the Mclaren future concept can be considered.

  7. I don’t like the Halo, because it’s an ugly, incomplete solution. I feel like putting this on is not much different to a canopy, really, but a canopy would look much better and be safer. I feel like F1 needs to decide to either stay open cockpit – or fully closed. Inbetween solutions like this just look bad and aren’t as safe as a full solution.

    1. John Rymie (@)
      5th March 2016, 2:33

      I am very curious as to what tests you’ve done that show a canopy is safer than the Halo?

      While there is a lot about the FIA and how they implement rules that I disagree with, I do tend to trust in their testing particularly in regards to safety.

      I find it inexcusable that arguments are being made against a potentially safer car for purely aesthetic reasons or for “heroic” reasons to be more like the 70’s when drivers died weekly.

      1. There are two separate issues here.

        Firstly, halo vs canopy. Of course, I haven’t done any tests about the safety of the halo versus the canopy, but logically if the strength is the same (and I would guess it is because we’ve seen videos of tyres being launched at canopies at high speed), and if the drivers are able to exit the car/be extracted safely, then the canopy adds extra protection against smaller objects that could still fit through the halo – such as the spring that knocked Felipe Massa out in Hungary, 2009. All this being said, if we must implement one of them, I think it should really be the canopy because I think it is likely a better solution.

        Second is whether closed cockpit is the way to go (and, for reference, I consider the halo to be a “closed cockpit” option anyway because it is really just a cockpit without windows. Remove the windows from an LMP1 car and you sort of have the same thing). I think it is definitely true that safety improvements should be made where possible, but there has to be a limit to how much precedence safety can take over everything else. If we truly wanted to focus 100% on the safety of F1, and nothing else, then we would already have the drivers in a roomy closed cockpit (with multiple exit routes), the wheels would be covered, the cars would have half the power and no wings, and only the most recent of tracks with the most runoff would be allowed – such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

        Obviously, this is all ridiculous, because it would take away from what makes Formula 1, Formula 1 – the pinnacle of motorsport, with the fastest drivers in the fastest cars.

        There are other things to consider too – like the marketability of the series. Being open cockpit is one of F1’s major differentiating points to other major series around the world – such as WEC, GT3 Racing, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, DTM – the only other major series with open cockpits is Indycar. And I think people really do think of F1 – specifically F1 drivers – more highly because of the open cockpit. When you’re at the track or watching on TV, you can see the driver’s movements – turning the wheel, the G-forces acting on their helmet, and so on. When a driver wins a race, they can celebrate by punching out of the top of the cockpit. Obviously, the halo still allows a lot of this to still happen, which is a bonus, but I feel like it still further removes the driver from the elements, and the fans, and I think it’s still an incomplete solution from a safety point of view anyway.

        It’s entirely possible that I’m completely wrong, and I’m willing to accept that. But, I just don’t think it’s the right move.

        1. John Rymie (@)
          5th March 2016, 13:54

          While I don’t necessarily agree with you, you gave the most considered and thought out response that I’ve seen.

          I’ve just been frustrated with the people that have been against it without giving it any thought which it is clear that you have. Cheers

  8. What do the Moto GP guys get? :-/

      1. Spot on Gabriel. Except they don’t get balls, they already have them… along with a heap of my respect and admiration. It seems they have sensible regulators that understand that risk is part of the game and the participants SIGN UP WILLINGLY WHILST KNOWING THE RISKS, without asking the sport to change for them.

        Formula1 has lost me now. 2016 will be seen as the beginning of the end.

        Mark my words…. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for F1. It’s over. All that will be left is the absolute tech heads that don’t care for courage or testicular fortitude. People will become even more bored and unimpressed than they are now.

        Without risk of harm… there is no courage. Without courage, you may as well have a robot in charge. End of story.

        1. My sentiments exactly. F1 in 2016 stands for nothing in my eyes. Nothing worth celebrating anyway.

        2. @drone It is so difficult to relate to the notion that F1 is nothing about skills.

          1. Skill is only one of the ingredients. A combination of skill and courage is what produces a hero.

    1. Maybe if motoGP = F1, regarding sepang’15 “kick incident” V.Rossi-M.Marquest they will make leg strap so driver can’t use leg to cover another driven on purpose or by accident. And they will add two small wheel in each side of Bike.

      Guys haloo is ugly, stop messing with F1 reg. Remember present day ugly nose and weird DRS idea? Not helping at all

    2. They come from Isles of Man :P

    3. A vehicle small and light enough that they can often bail if things look like they’re about to get excessively nasty. Yes, doing this will often strain something, and sometimes break bones, but it means a fair number of the fatal accidents happen simply because when the bike hits, the rider is no longer attached to the bike. Paradoxically, this also increases the number of “moderate” accidents. Riders, knowing they can bail if they think the risk isn’t worth it, have the confidence to “face” larger accidents and, every so often, get injured accordingly, while a car racer would have been more cautious because they’d have to take the full consequences of any off, and thus be less likely to crash in the first place. It’s difficult to be injured in a crash that doesn’t happen in the first place.

      Top speed is also a little bit lower, visibility better and the bikes don’t run in quite such wet conditions as F1 does (largely due to intelligent calender scheduling!) All of these reduce the number of accidents, especially silly accidents that cause more difficult-to-foresee consequences. Yes, bikes get into more accidents in total, but they are far more likely to follow an already-foreseen-problem and therefore enjoy the full benefit of the safety measures are in place.

      They also get to determine the run-off nature of several tracks – Monza springs to mind as a track which only shifted to tarmac run-off when asked to do it for motorbike rider safety.

  9. A halo attached to their Guardian Angel.

  10. “Safety matters more than Halo’s appearance – Vettel”
    What a fearful age we live in where health and safety is held as the pinnacle of our aspirations.

    1. @f1bobby The quote specifically mentions appearance. That safety should matter more than appearance. Not the sum of our aspirations. I wish you could address the point.

      1. Hi Balue. You wish I’d address the point specifically and not give an opinion about the prevailing attitude towards safety in F1. Happy to oblige.

        I’d prefer the cars were less safe and didn’t have a laughable piece of carbon fibre mounted around the cockpit. Reverse the quote and you have my precise feelings about this topic.

  11. @f1bobby Appearance over safety. How then about the appearance of dead and handicapped people?

  12. I don’t understand how some people think this halo would have saved Bianchi. It wouldn’t have. His head was not impacted. It was the sudden and rapid deceleration. The human brain can’t withstand those levels of g forces inside the skull. His car would have still stopped just as suddenly, and he would have still sustained the same internal cranial injuries.

    1. Thank you. It’s the issue responsible for most disabling injuries and death in a race car.

  13. Let’s go beyond the “halo”. Let’s put the drivers in simulators in their respective trackside garages. The cars can still race on the track, but controlled by the drivers from their garages, seated in air conditioned comfort and safety. The view from their cockpit can be displayed on their simulator screens in technicolor. Their driving inputs on the simulator can be simultaneously fed to their race car on track. Chance of injury or death now equals precisely zero.
    If you don’t think we have the technology today to do this you are not paying attention. String fiber optic cables around the circuit with downlink and uplink antenna at multiple locations.
    Would fans still be interested in watching? I wouldn’t.

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