Safety improvements are inevitable in Formula 1. From the sport’s simpler origins in the 1950s, when World Champions like Giuseppe Farina raced with few safeguards.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“I mean, these guys didn't have seatbelts, they wore leather helmets, they had goggles, they ran around in tshirts – and the cars were hugely dangerous, hugely dangerous.”
To the first carbon fibre chassis, developed by McLaren, which made its F1 debut from the 1981 season.
And the standardisation of Grand Prix circuit safety features, and medical facilities, in the lead-up to the sport’s monstrous turbo era.
SOUNDBITE (English) NELSON PIQUET,
3-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“We didn't have a power steering wheel, we don't have automatic gear change, these kind of things. And we have even more horsepower in qualifying than the cars have today. Was a different time. It's of course, everything change in life, everything's for more progressive.”
There’s also been tougher crash testing, and the introduction of the Head and Neck Safety device, better known as the HANS.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“The HANS is a safety device we clip onto the helmet. It restricts maximum neck movement if we’re in a big crash. It can save us from serious injury.”
The Halo is the next step…
…taken as a result of recent fatal crashes involving flying debris – such as that sustained by Justin Wilson in Indycar in 2015.
Designed to deflect large objects away from the cockpit, the device will be on all F1 cars this year, and is able to withstand 15 times the static load of the full mass of the car.
And while people – both inside and out of the paddock – are fiercely divided over its introduction, stating it changes F1’s DNA; aerodynamic and design styling yet to be finalised could soften the backlash.
SOUNDBITE (English) ANDREW WESTACOTT,
CEO, AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX CORPORATION:
“I really do look forward to the way it’s going to play out, and what the reactions are, and the way they appear on the cars, and the design elements that are going to feature in it.”
One thing is for sure, the Halo is here to stay in F1.