It may not look pretty, but Formula One thinks the ‘halo’ can protect drivers

Formula One halo

To increase driver head protection, the organizers of Formula One are about to make a major change to the look of F1 race cars.

The Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) has considered two devices to help protect drivers from flying debris in open F1 cars: the “halo” and the “shield.” After testing both, the organization confirmed that the halo will become mandatory beginning next year, according to an FIA statement. The final decision comes just after a test of the cockpit “shield” produced less-than-stellar results.

The halo is a round hoop that surrounds the cockpit, supported by a strut. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing solution, which may be why the FIA proposed the shield as an alternative. Basically a windshield grafted onto the front of the car, it was tested by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel at last week’s British Grand Prix.

But while the shield looks nicer than the halo, Vettel complained of dizziness apparently related to the curved transparent surface of the shield, according to Racer. That proved the undoing of the shield concept, paving the way for the FIA to mandate the halo for 2018. The organization had always planned on introducing some form of extra cockpit protection next year, but hadn’t decided on which concept to use.

The halo/shield tests have proven controversial in F1 paddocks. Driver safety is a major concern, but some within the sport have questioned whether partially enclosing the cockpit will dilute the character of F1, which has always been defined by open-topped, single-seat race cars. There is also concern that a halo or shield might make it more difficult for drivers to get out of their cars in an emergency.

“With support from the teams, certain features of its design will be enhanced,” the FIA said of the halo. Prior to its 2018 introduction, teams may be able to work with the FIA to make the halo a more effective safety device, although its appearance probably won’t change dramatically. That will be tough for F1 teams and fans to swallow, but if the halo can keep drivers safe, it will be worth it.