After a less than riveting race on Sunday, it’s an appropriate moment to take a look at the cars themselves.
An obvious starting point is the halo. Never having been a fan of the aesthetics, I’ve nevertheless accepted that, once the lack of head protection had been highlighted, the FIA had to be seen to be doing something. And if the halo is the best solution – for the moment – then so be it.
We must wait for official analysis of the first corner incident to learn about the precise role played by the halo. The tyre marks provide the most obvious and stark reference. You could reason that a halo in position during earlier accidents (Spa 2012, for example) would have produced similar ‘Look! It saved his life!’ tell-tale marks simply because the halo protrudes significantly beyond a driver’s head. But that surely has to be negated by chilling video evidence (from trackside and from Brendon Hartley’s onboard camera) that Fernando Alonso’s right-front wheel was aiming for Charles Leclerc’s head.
Agreed, there might be an argument that says contact between the halo and the floor of the McLaren had actually canted the car and its right-front wheel into that potentially fatal angle; this is something subsequent studies will hopefully confirm or deny.
But here’s a more immediate thought; had there been no halo and Leclerc’s crash helmet had shown signs of contact, even allowing for his survival from injury, the columns of our daily newspapers, penned from indignant positions of so-called authority by F1’s critics, would have slammed the sport for doing nothing to protect drivers. That’s as sure as one or two comments dramatically and prematurely claiming on Sunday evening that the halo had unquestionably saved a driver’s life.
Moving on to less critical issues, it is with disappointment – but little surprise – that we hear they intend to lengthen the DRS zones at some, but not all, of the remaining races. We’ve already been through the basic discussion of how DRS is a sticking plaster over the festering wound caused by F1 cars in their current aerodynamic form. But, let’s just say that the timing of this announcement is unfortunate, coming as it does after a race in which over-efficient DRS killed what little chance there was of decent wheel-to-wheel racing.
Sebastian Vettel’s DRS-free pass on Lewis Hamilton shouldn’t necessarily cloud this debate since it was on the first lap and, as Hamilton’s thoughtful expression showed post-race, the Ferrari was simply better out of the corners and in a straight line. Since we’re stuck with it, then let’s hope better calculations for the coming races will allow DRS to ‘assist’ an overtake rather than make it look like there’s a lane for slow-moving vehicles towing a caravan.
On a similar subject; how much evidence against the stupidly wide front wings is necessary following Kimi Räikkönen’s promising form – compromised by Ferrari’s dithering during Q3 – being finally screwed by a puncturing nudge from the hapless Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner?
If we’re claiming ‘ugly’ as a major reason against a halo that almost certainly saved one of F1’s brightest stars from injury, then it’s worth remembering the heap of contorted carbon fibre hanging off the front does nothing for a racing car that ought look exactly that.