Recent high profile deaths and injuries have led to an ethical dilemma for Formula One, should the sport keep its thrill factor, or should the drivers be given extra head protection? Currently driver’s lives are put at risk and there is no best solution at present without compromise.
Problem: Open cockpit racing leads to driver’s head being exposed to impact from objects, which can cause potential injury or even death.
There are 6 stakeholders in this issue:
• Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA)
• Formula One Management (FOM)
Options for action
There are three options that present themselves in this issue:
• To never introduce further head protection
• To introduce the Halo in 2018
• To postpone the introduction until a more complete solution is developed
There are many different ways in which to review these options. Each of the authors have different levels of experience with F1 and so have contrasting viewpoints on the matter. For this reason, we split based on this experience to see if we would come to different conclusions.
The Outsider’s Views
The fans of F1 have absolutely no decision making power, but there would be no sport without them, so their opinion very much listened to. At first glance, this group would be kept happiest by never introducing extra head protection so that the ‘glamour’ of the sport can be maintained. However, a poll on the Red Bull Motorsport found that 65% of their readers thought F1 drivers needed more head protection, so the better solution for this group would be to postpone the decision, assuming that a new solution maintains the sport’s attractiveness.
FOM and the sponsors need F1 to be profitable and they believe that the best way to do this is to maintain the ‘glamour’ that the fans enjoy. They will therefore be happiest with the decision favoured by the fans.
The group who ultimately make the decision to introduce extra head protection is the FIA. They are highly invested in safety, as they are “committed to eradicating deaths and serious injury.” This obviously shows they would be happiest if extra head protection was introduced straight away.
The drivers (arguably the most important group as it’s their safety on the line) are split on the issue. When asked for their opinion on the Halo; most voted against it and some drivers think that danger is the whole point of the sport. So it would seem that the drivers would be happiest if extra head protection was never introduced.
The last group is the teams; they want to ensure the safety of their drivers but they also don’t want anything that would affect performance as, for them, winning is everything. They don’t want money and engineers tied up making sure more safety regulations are adhered to when they could be improving the car’s performance on the track. The best solution for the teams would be to postpone the introduction until a solution is further developed to show no negative impacts on the car’s performance.
When looking at all the stakeholders views, it is clear that postponing extra head protection would make the majority happy as if head impact related injuries and deaths continued to happen, every invested group will be negatively affected in some way.
The Enthusiast’s Views
If no head protection were to be introduced, the essence of the sport would remain the same as it has been since the 1950s, and would not cause any extra aesthetic issues. However, this would still leave the driver’s head exposed, potentially leading to further deaths, which is no longer readily accepted.
As doing nothing appears to be off the table, especially now the FIA have demonstrated a solution is possible, the Halo currently seems inevitable. However, when considering the Pros and Cons, does this suggest it should be introduced for 2018?
Due to significantly more adverse consequences such as; potential chest injuries, egress problems and diminished efforts to develop “better” solutions; this would suggest the Halo shouldn’t be introduced. The alternative seems to be to delay the introduction of any additional head protection until a more vigorous solution is found.
If development was given longer, some unfavourable consequences of the Halo could be eliminated. For example, a fully plastic enclosed canopy would offer further protection against smaller objects, while also minimising visibility issues when accompanied by large tear-offs and hydrophobic coatings, and would have a better aesthetic appeal. Another example could be the Aeroscreen, a combination of the Halo and canopy, allowing protection against small objects, with reduced egress problems compared to the canopy. However both require further development, during which time further deaths could occur.
By virtue of the large number of negative consequences associated with the Halo compared to allowing further development time, this suggests that finding a more complete solution would offer the best compromise.
Even though the nature and intention of introducing the Halo is good, it is ultimately the consequences of the action that matter the most in this case.
Having reviewed two independent viewpoints, the same conclusion was realised by both. Therefore we propose that engineers should not rush to implement head protection before a more complete solution is developed.
Would we be risking too many lives in the process? Or do you feel that risk taking is the nature of the sport? What’s your stance on this?
Group 65: Helena Livesey, Yi Ge, Michael Allen, Marc Daly