So, with one Test down and one to go, the new season is nearly upon us. Those F1 free weekends will soon end, and we can once again enjoy the sport we love and what hopefully will be an exciting battle for the two World Championships.
However, before we get to ‘Lights Out’ in Melbourne, shall we address the elephant in the room and talk about the Halo? I think we should.
Nothing came close over the last couple of seasons to the chorus of disapproval from fans tweeting in during the practice sessions and voicing their view as to how it was going to ruin the sport. So how are we all feeling about it now we’ve had a chance to see it on this year’s cars? Are we feeling any better about it all? Or is it still about as welcome as ice lolly in the Arctic?
I’ll hold my hand up, ladies and gentlemen, and say that aesthetically it’s about as pleasing on the eye as a pair of beige chinos. But it’s not about aesthetics, and to get bogged down in that particular argument rather misses the point.
We could talk about drivers not begin able to see the start lights properly, or their vision during the race being impaired, but I don’t see that being a major issue either. I’ve heard drivers talk of feeling claustrophobic in the cockpit, and certainly from an engineer’s stand point, the extra weight has posed challenges, which more than likely will be overcome in time.
Force India said that it added an extra £1million to their bill for this year’s cars, not an insignificant amount and one that all teams more than likely could have done without.
Meanwhile it also makes identification of the drivers a little harder too. I’m all for the suggestions from some F1 fans, by the way, to have it painted in colours that resemble the drivers helmets. Until then, Martin Brundle and I are going to have to work that little bit harder to tell the viewers who’s who, but a bit of hard work wont hurt now.
Mandatory on all cars, the Halo is there for one reason and one reason only. To help protect drivers, our heroes on the track, that little bit more. Even before the tragic accidents suffered by Justin Wilson, Henry Surtees and Jules Bianchi, the FIA were looking into this area of driver protection. That research was accelerated and in their studies the governing body found that the Halo would have proved beneficial in 15 of the 17 serious accidents they looked into. The other two were neutral.
The benefits of the Halo were greater than other possibly solutions that were looked into, which is why it was adopted and why it’s on the cars for 2018. Which, by the way, is 15 years after the HANS device was first mandated. A device that we don’t give a second thought to now, but which was resisted initially by the drivers.
We might not like how it looks and Toto Wolff might want to take a chainsaw to his car as a result, but we surely like what the Halo can help prevent. This isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about the sport acting responsibly and whilst it won’t totally stamp out the risk of serious injury, it will make things safer for those we like to see racing flat-out for our enjoyment.
Once again, I’m not a fan of how it looks, but I’m not hating it, and it’s not taking away my enthusiasm for what could be a fascinating and enthralling season ahead.
So say ‘Halo’, don’t wave goodbye, and don’t forget that what we see now is bound to evolve over the years. What we see now may look a lot nicer in the future.