Halo safety concept gets public debut in Barcelona

ByNate Saunders and Laurence Edmondson ESPN logo
Friday, March 4, 2016

The Halo cockpit safety concept being considered for introduction next season has been tested in public for the first time by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn completed Thursday morning's installation lap with the cockpit installed above him. It is designed to protect the driver's head using a central pillar that stretches in front of the driver and around his head.

The FIA wants to implement cockpit protection from 2017 onward, something the Grand Prix Drivers' Association is in favour of. The recent meeting of the F1 Commission pushed back the final decision on cockpit protection until the end of April, with three concepts in the running.

"It's not finalised, there is a working group that has representation from the teams working on the finalisation of it," Williams technical director Pat Symonds told ESPN. "There is a system called Halo that is in the lead if you like and is the one I think will be adopted, but Red Bull have done some work on a canopy that I think they are going to continue.

"The idea is for it to be adopted for 2017, and I think for the Halo system that is not going to present any problems for the teams, it's just a design exercise. For the canopy there are a few more things to think about, if we get oil on it and how you clean it -- some of the sports car problems. But it can be done, definitely it can be done."

Head safety is a big issue in motor racing following the deaths of F1's Jules Bianchi and IndyCar's Justin Wilson last year. Calls for cockpit protection have been growing since 2009, which saw Felipe Massa suffer a life-threatening injury in Hungary when he was struck by a loose piece of debris from another car.

"The good news is that the three structures we tested performed as expected or better than expected," FIA safety director Laurent Mekies said. "On top of that we have received great guidance from Charlie [Whiting] from the beginning of the project, and a lot of support from the teams who provided us with all their calculations and design power, which has made this step forward possible.

"We are pushing very hard to integrate it as early as possible. I'm sure it will trigger a few connected research topics, to assess visibility, extrication and some of the other aspects, so I'm expecting some validation testing to be done in the course of the next six months. But we're all trying to make that cut.

"The real deadline is the teams' timing to modify their cars accordingly and our capability to assess all the connected issues. Design is done very much in advance in F1, therefore if we want to make 2017, it needs to be decided in the next few months. Nobody wants to rush these things, but we are all trying to go as fast as possible."