The much maligned Formula One Strategy Group did itself no favours on Thursday evening, by voting against the introduction of the Halo cockpit head protection device for 2017 in Geneva, ahead of the German Grand Prix this weekend.
In response to a series of tragic accidents over the last few years, Jules Bianchi, Justin Wilson, Henry Surtees and Dan Wheldon there was a feeling that some sort of head protection was a must, as the only part of a driver that is not 100% protected is the head.
After trails in pre-season, at Silverstone during practice and in the post-race test, the FIA believed that the device, which loops around the drivers helmet, before meeting in the middle would become a fixture on the all-new 2017 cars, but the strategy group decided otherwise.
The strategy group consists of the six teams, currently Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull, McLaren and Force India as well as the FIA, represented by President Jean Todt and FOM by Bernie Ecclestone. It has been suggested a reason for rejecting the device is to spend more time looking at how to improve it aesthetically.
In Hungary, on Friday night during the Drivers meeting, a comprehensive presentation was put to them, answering key questions that some of them had, Sebastian Vettel said he believes that 90-95% of the current field are for the head protection, whilst previous critic Lewis Hamilton came out in support.
The FIA could still force the introduction of the Halo for 2017 in the interests of Safety grounds, despite saying in a statement issued shortly after the meeting that “another year of development could result in an even more complete solution”.
Another chance for the Aeroscreen?
Red Bull came up with their own head protection device, an Aeroscreen which Daniel Ricciardo tested in Russia, which was bluntly described by Hamilton as “a riot shield”. Team Principal Christian Horner has frequently voiced his opinion against the Halo, recently being quoted as saying “I am not a big fan of the Halo and its limitations”.
In the statement the FIA issued, it gave reference to more Aeroscreen testing “it would be prudent to use the remainder of this year and early next year to further evaluate the full potential of all options before final confirmation”.
What does it mean in the meantime?
By voting against introduction of the Halo for 2017, the strategy group has risked a lot. As the sporting and legal world now knows, the technology is there and ready to be used. But it is not being done so on the basis of how it looks and as it goes against the DNA of Formula One. That wouldn’t exactly be the best defence in a court of law.
Should the unthinkable happen and another driver is seriously injured or killed in Formula One in 2017, in an accident that could’ve been prevented by the Halo, FOM and the FIA would be in an extremely bad situation. As the cars are expected to be 3-4 seconds a lap faster next season, and tyre dynamics still aren’t fully understood by Pirelli with the new-look cars, a serious accident could be just around the corner.