Halo not designed for Massa-type crashes – Lowe

2018 F1 season

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Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe has given his strong support for the new Halo and addressed one of the frequent criticisms of the new safety structure.

“Behind the scenes I’ve been a big supporter of making some improvement in that area,” said Lowe at Williams’ pre-season launch event. “It’s the biggest remaining risk in Formula One to the drivers. Particularly with our young driver line-up thinking of their safety I think is very important.”

Williams FW41, 2018
New FIA video shows why it chose Halo for 2018
Lowe acknowledged the FIA’s decision to introduce the structure had been “controversial” but he predicted that “by the second race nobody will notice it anymore.”

He pointed out that Halo is intended to protect drivers from large pieces of debris rather than smaller fragments, such as the spring which hit Felipe Massa when he crashed at the Hungaroring in 2009.

“Bear in mind this device was not intended for small debris such as the spring that hit Felipe [Massa] a few years back,” he said. “This was put in place to protect from whole cars, or perhaps wheels, that can come on top of a driver’s head. So it’s got to take incredibly high loads – there’s a quote going around it could hold the weight of a London bus.”

“It has been a big technical challenge,” he added. “A lot of people talk about the aerodynamic effect, that’s actually insignificant really, we have put some shrouding around the Halo to try to mitigate the aerodynamic losses, but they’re very insignificant.”

“The most important problem was mounting the Halo in the chassis. It has to take some incredibly high loads.”

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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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  • 44 comments on “Halo not designed for Massa-type crashes – Lowe”

    1. I don’t know if this concern has been raised but what are the chances that the Halo could redirect the nose of another car into the driver’s helmet?

      1. I think it rather diverts it upwards, or sideways instead @mrmuffins. Pretty sure that was one of the situations the FIA modelled, since it is one of those things that tend to happen (cars’ noses sliding up or flying towards a cockpit area)

    2. “The most important problem was mounting the Halo in the chassis.”

      Best to have mounted it on Todt’s legal team.

      “It has to take some incredibly high loads.”

      The weight of F1 viewers turning off F1 may prove to be a load even more incredible on F1’s shrinking revenues.

      While I support reasonable measures to ensure driver safety, the halo isn’t on the reasonable spectrum. It’s to cover a freak chance event and to bury the legal implications of the failure of the FIA to ban the deployment of heavy cranes inside the barriers at Suzuka.

      The only 100% sure method to keep drivers safe is not allow them to race.

      1. @jimmi-cynic

        The only 100% sure method to keep drivers safe

        No one is making the claim Halo will make drivers 100% safe so why hold anything to this standard?

        1. @keithcollantine

          Good point. But why institute a fugly safety device to inhibit the chance of an incident that has never happened in F1? I can only assume that the FIA is now focused on 100% elimination of risk. Or at least their lawyers are.

          1. You dont think Bianchi, Surtees Jr or even Justin Wilson’s lives would have been saved by this Halo thing? I’m not been sarcastic this is an honest question.

            1. Bianchi? No. The physics of that crash make it unsurvivable. Even the FIA has stated that. And yet it was that crash than spurned the FIA to find a new drive ‘head protection’ solution. The solution to that horrible stain on the F1’s safety was simple. Do not allow a heavy industrial crane inside the crash barriers. That Bernie, the race promoters and the FIA got away with that avoidable catastrophe still shocks me.

              Surtees Jr or even Justin Wilson? Maybe. It’s hypothetical, not an F1 race incident.

          2. just have a look at the incident types the FIA looked at where the Halo would have helped @jimmi-cynic. There is a LOT of incident types that ARE helped by the Halo.

            1. Jimmi Cynic

              No Bianchi’s accident didn’t trigger the fia to find a new head protection solution. Please do some research and inform yourself. The fia started researching into potential head protection solutions in 2011. Part of this can be seen through the increase in height of the headrests and the lowering of nose cones. The response to the Bianchi incident was not the halo but rather the VSC.

          3. @jimmi-cynic

            why institute a fugly safety device to inhibit the chance of an incident that has never happened in F1?

            Because then you’re being reactive rather than proactive, waiting for potentially fatal accidents to occur before addressing the potential for danger.

            I want to stress, I think the Halo looks terrible, but it’s difficult to argue against, as I wrote a while back.

            1. This is F1 – it thrives on difficult arguments. ;-)

              I disagree, Keith, that the FIA is being proactive. It seems to me a reactive and cynical response from the horrific Bianchi crash. A reactive response to deflect the liability they bear for permitting a heavy industrial crane inside the crash barriers. A tragedy that could have been avoided with simple common sense – that is rarely common in the rare air of F1.

              The FIA has high safety standards for it F1 tracks – with remarkable safety barriers around the track. And they are free to violate their own safety standards with impunity when it’s inconvenient for the race promoter.

              @keithcollantine, how far can the FIA be proactive before you object? How safe is safe enough? Since we agree that racing can never be 100% risk-free, where is the balance between risk and reward?

            2. Have to admit that, though the halo is ugly and sight restricting, it would save lives in most F1 type crashes where the drivers head, arms and upper torso are at risk. I’ve written before
              that what I fear is the driver disappearing completely inside a closed cockpit, and that’s
              still the way I feel. But we certainly must eliminate the severest risks.

            3. @jimmi-cynic

              It seems to me a reactive and cynical response from the horrific Bianchi crash.

              This argument falls down on two counts. First, the research which led to Halo began following the Massa crash. Second, the FIA said both in its report on Bianchi’s crash and its justification for the Halo that it wouldn’t have saved him.

              How far can the FIA be proactive before you object? How safe is safe enough? Since we agree that racing can never be 100% risk-free, where is the balance between risk and reward?

              That is a much more difficult set of questions and one I can’t do justice to in a brief comment!

        2. Team “pro-Halo” very often claims that those that are anti-Halo are “bloodthirsty” and that safety trumps all other considerations. The result of this position is that the only answer is to not race otherwise team “pro-Halo” risks being hypocrites … which is of course what they are.

          #NoHalo

      2. @jimmi-cynic

        Viewers won’t turn off just because of the halo. If the action on the track is good, they’ll be there.

        1. @pt Agree – IF the action is good in a sport with declining viewership. But we have heavier, uglier cars that can’t follow in dirty air while limited to 3 engines for the season. Not a great prescription for on track action.

          1. Jimmi Cynic

            No Bianchi’s accident didn’t trigger the fia to find a new head protection solution. The fia started researching into potential head protection solutions in 2011. Part of this can be seen through the increase in height of the headrests and the lowering of nose cones. The response to the Bianchi incident was not the halo but rather the VSC.

            I think you’re ill informed

            1. *this was meant to be posted further up but oh well

            2. I think you’re ill informed

              Wouldn’t be the first time…

            3. @keithcollantine

              This argument falls down on two counts. First, the research which led to Halo began following the Massa crash. Second, the FIA said both in its report on Bianchi’s crash and its justification for the Halo that it wouldn’t have saved him

              It’s ok if they fall down. All my arguments wear a halo over top of the air bag. ;-)

              So…the FIA introduces a safety measure that does not ameliorate the two previous horrible incidents in F1. Instead they develop a measure to mitigate a hypothetical event. Got it.

              Does the FIA still allow heavy tractor cranes inside the barriers at any track?

      3. If head on impact in the equation so the solution for 100% sure is cockpit like Lemans series .. but then you add more variable, escape time, access.. and more if

        On HALO I still on 50-50 side, I see dangerous potential that HALO or more thinner HALO 2.0 will slice something-onepart (like body part, billboard-webber crash, fence, etc) and make 2-more pieces that can hurt driver on head on impact.

      4. @jimmi-cynic There has been a lot of myths surrounding what the halo could do… I came across this on YouTube the other day, which explains what it really is capable of and the origins of its conception…

        https://youtu.be/6w5WZoKEKoE

    3. Does anyone know which specific accident would have been avoided by the Halo? If there are not any, why add the Halo?

      1. 2015, Pocono, Justin Wilson

      2. if rumors are correct about holding an entire bus then maybe the halo could have lifted or maybe even bounce off from the crane in suzuka. Let alone saving Henry Surtees life.

      3. young Master Surtees, 2009
        Maria de Villota, 2012

        1. Surtees was not in f1 where the tethers prevent wheels coming loose

          Villota died one year after her crash of a heart attack

          #fakenews

      4. and many many more. Instead of taking the time to post this line here “s” you could have just looked up on youtube / the F1 website for the video presentation the FIA made last year about accidents they simulated and had a better outcome with the Halo.

      5. Out of 20,000 GP entries in the history of F1, the life of one driver would have been saved. Helmuth Koinigg died in 1974 due to the poor structure of Armco barriers.

        1. This would’ve saved senna, wouldn’t it? I believe it was a suspension impact on his helmet.

    4. The Halo is designed to prevent something that has never happened in F1. The Massa accident happened and a screen is better. Bianchi and the Spanish woman stood no chance as they hit diggers and lorries, easy to solve, don’t allow F1 cars to run near those screens.

      On the flip side I think they look good, can they not fill the gaps with a screen each side to cover all bases? Would not be curved so no visual distortions. Indy car are getting screens when after their fatalities they need the halo. The 2 series have got it the wrong way round.

      1. The Halo is designed to prevent something that has never happened in F1.

        That would go under “false news” Markp.

        The halo would have helped in quite a few accidents of the past (see also the boatload of articles on this site from last season, including the FIA video showing which cases they simulated). And expescially for De Villota it would have helped, since the lorry ramp would have been hit by the Halo, not with her head.

        The Indy screen does not offer as much protection against heavier objects (it was tested but the results were not great for those), since Indy officials decided that their priority was solving smaller debris flying around. The FIA instead is focussing on solving those life threatening heavy objects that killed joung Surtees, or indeed Wilson.
        The kind of incident Massa had would have far less of an impact nowadays after they introduced the zylon visor strips that prevent such debris from entering the helmet.

        1. Surtees not an F1 crash. The lady and the lorry, halo would do nothing, answer to that as with Bianchi is not allowing large vehicles where an F1 car can hit. Wilson may have been saved but that’s not F1 it’s Indy and who have chosen not to address that type of accident. My point stands so what serious crash in F1 would the Halo of helped with? Answer is none.

          1. Tom Pryce with a certainty would have been saved, but, I’ll post up this youtube link which covers some a F1 capable accidents in recent years and whether it would have helped or not…

            https://youtu.be/6w5WZoKEKoE

            1. That’s very good and seeing the Halo I quite like it. It is though solving a problem that’s not occurred in F1 yet…..but may in future. The thing is all efforts should be made to tackle what has caused issues, heavy vehicles near F1 cars and small debris. I think small objects should have been addressed 1st
              Better everything but given a choice is one has to come 1st small debris was it.

            2. Smaller objects are easier to deal with, using materials such as Kevlar and other ‘projectile resistant’ materials… After Massa’s serious injury, the helmets and visors had their specifications changed in order to prevent further occurrences.

              You mentioned previously that wheel tethers prevent F1 wheels from flying around, which they do under normal circumstances, however, introducing the human element, errors and abnormalities occur which leave a wheel not properly secured when they leave the pits. Often these lead to the car returning to the pits or retiring, sometimes we see the wheel bouncing along the side of the circuit.

            3. I’ll also point out that the incident that resulted in the death of Henry Surtees, the wheel had broken free from its tethers, the F1 response was to add another tether to the wheel to help prevent them flying away through an impact…

            4. @maddme, Pryce – not necessarily; Koinigg – probably yes. But both incidents are the products of poor on-track safety.

          2. Wouldn’t it have worked for senna?

    5. Is the halo removable at the front of the car (e.g. can it swing out of the way)?

      1. I’m certain that it can’t be shifted that easily. I don’t know exactly how it’s bonded to the chassis (and I’d be interested to know) but it would require some proper deconstruction.

        1. One of the response vehicles will be equipped with a ‘jaws of life’ type device, specifically developed to cut the halo off should it be required to be removed.

    6. I’ve seen a few comments saying the halo would have saved Bianchi or Villota, Yes the actual structure of the halo might be able to take that kind of weight, but I still haven’t seen any mention at all of the cars being specially strengthened with the addition of the halo? Surely the halo can only be as strong as the part of the car it is attached to? So I would imagine in a crash like Bianchi’s or Villota’s hitting a pretty much immovable stationary object the part of the car the halo is attached to would either give way under the massive load forcing the halo into the chassis/driver..Or it would get ripped off with the part of the chassis it’s attached to..?

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