How Heavenly is the Halo?

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.

The Facts

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)

• Drivers

• Sponsors

• Fans

• Teams

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

Deliberation

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?

Halo

Pros Cons
  • Absorbs the energy of large objects so that their kinetic energy is removed
  • Surtees and Wilson style deaths would be avoided
  • Fully developed solution ready for 2018

 

  • Fans could stop watching due to aesthetic problems
  • Small objects not deflected e.g. Massa’s accident
  • Could deflect objects down into the driver and cause more serious injuries
  • Some visibility issues due to central pillar
  • Could have egress issues if upside down, which could lead to injury or death
  • Might lead to diminished efforts to develop “better” solutions

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.

Conclusion

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

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21 thoughts on “How Heavenly is the Halo?

  1. Agreed! It always strikes me a bit weird when the large majority of drivers are ok with a certain level of danger but there’s still an obsessive push towards greater safety measures. While I’m not one of those “F1 was better when everyone died” folks, we’re looking at the safest era in history, with the last tragedy being due to flagging stupidity…

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  2. Halo – is it me you’re looking for?

    In my opinion no, the halo design is not quite what we are looking for. This gave a great summary of the benefits and draw backs of the design, and although I believe further head protection is needed within F1, the added safety risks and unattractive aesthetics stop this being a successful solution.

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    1. Exactly our view, we did not think rushing through a solution that didn’t even solve all the problems was appropriate. I think the situation needs to be reassessed after more designs have been investigated to make sure the best solution is implemented (provided all the stakeholders are happy with the proposal).

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  3. It’s better to do something to improve safety than nothing. F1 has lead the way in many technologies that have transferred to family cars to improve their safety. The days of the 1960s and 1970s when deaths in F1 were accepted, even part of the draw of the sport, are long gone.

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    1. An interesting point regarding the filtering down of technology, I am still not sure how much these technologies regarding safety could be applied to road cars (as they are already enclosed), but there may be applications in other racing series where deaths still happen. I agree that deaths are no longer acceptable however, so the sport should be actively looking to stop more.

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  4. My confusion arises from why the drivers would be happiest if extra head protection is never introduced. It seems that Hao at the moment is not perfect solution, but we can use it for some time and test its suitability. Meanwhile, engineers can still find more viable solution to this problem

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    1. Thanks for you comment, and an interesting stance on the matter. Implementing the Halo as planned would be best in terms of safety but we felt that since it did not prevent every type of accident that could occur (in some situations could make it worse), that it was best to look for a different solution rather than use this temporarily. However, if an agreement could be made that allowed the Halo to be introduced but only as a temporary solution whilst also forcing the stakeholders to search for the optimum/best solution in the meantime, this may improve everyone’s happiness (FIA for having head protection, teams, drivers and fans for the promise of a safer, more appropriate and better looking solution in the near future). Our initial thought was that if the Halo was rushed into use, that development would stop and the best solution would not be found.

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  5. I bet there is some bravado among F1 drivers, which is why so many of them are saying the situation is fine as it is. You have to be slightly insane to be an F1 driver anyway (I mean look at Kimi Raikkonen). I wonder if some of them would race without helmets if it meant they went faster.

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  6. If the drivers don’t want it then it seems strange to force a new safety feature upon them for the case of freak accidents that do not occur often at all. Obviously the aim of F1 is to go as fast as possible, you don’t driver slower just because its safer. Therefore, the halo seems to me as if it is just personal preference for safety. Even if the HALO was introduced what would be the rule? would teams just to the bare minimum and not actually embrace the concept, maybe by lowering the profile, making it too light as to not withstand large impacts. It seems the desire to win is much greater than the fear or injury, who is to say what is best for the drivers bar themselves?

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  7. It’s difficult to argue against something that ultimately improves safety but I agree that there are probably better options to be explored. If this was first proposed when Massa had his accident then like you said, this would do little to help. An F1 car has everything meticulously designed so it works as a system, this is something that is bolted onto the car as an afterthought. Something that is built into the design of the car will not only look better but actually work better. It needs a more thought out solution rather than a reactionary compromise.

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  8. Everything these days is a safety talk after a safety talk. I understand that safety is the fore-front of everything, but sometimes we need to know when to stop. Although the halo offers additional safety it also is obtrusive and I agree that more time should be taken to develop a better alternative. Although safety is important it shouldn’t be jumped into, just because Bianchi tragically died recently, spend the time to develop what is needed rather than just using the first idea.

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  9. Inevitably some form of additional head protection will be adopted as have so many other safety features have over the years. I’m fans will some come to accept whatever head protection is chosen as they have car design changes in the past.
    Whether the Halo is the best solution with the central support creating a blind spot, albeit a small one, possibly creating another safety hazard I don’t know?

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  10. I actually disagree and think they should implement the Halo, as the engineering work has been done and its there and ready to go. It offers an improvement to safety and had it been in the sport years ago, it would have saved lives. Simple as that.

    When wings were first introduced to the sport, they were pretty damn ugly. Yet if you look at the sport now, aerodynamics are fundamentally integral to the sport and they were developed because they made the cars faster. Why should solutions relating to safety be shelved for aesthetic reasons, when realistically teams would make a car as ugly as possible if they thought it would be quick?

    With regards to the ‘thrill factor,’ I personally don’t think the sport is enhanced by the fact that the competitors could die, so improving the safety wouldn’t sanitise the experience for me. I admire the risks taken by drivers that could potentially break the car or take them out of the race for example, but I don’t watch the sport on the off chance that I’ll get to see someones life tragically cut short.

    The point about introducing the Halo leading to the reduced development of head protection is interesting. as personally, I think it would result in the opposite. If people truly hated the way it looks, I think they’d act a lot quicker to change it if they were forced to look at it every race than if it was put on the back burner for a while – especially since F1 as a sport is so focused on development. Since all teams would use the same device, I can see from your perspective that the competitive element in development would be missing, so it’s up for debate!

    From the articles I’ve read, the Halo doesn’t seem to present extra safety or speed issues (Rosberg set the quickest lap in practice once with the Halo fitted, egress has been demonstrated with the car upsidedown and admittedly, I’ve not seen any of the debris deflection problems you describe – link me?) so the only real downside is that they look a bit funky and that not every single eventuality is covered.

    Surely improving safety to a point where lives could be saved justifies its implementation asap?

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  11. A well reasoned argument which has me convinced. Even though further head protection in the sport is inevitable, implementing a flawed design seems nonsensical to me. The Halo only partially solves a the problem and introduces further issues. Surely obstructing the driver’s view is likely to cause additional accidents?

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  12. An interesting debate, I think that the introduction of any new feature causes resistance due to people being opposed to change in what has been the norm for many years. However, if the concept of the Halo has been developed and proposed for introduction in 2018, the concept must have be fully developed and there must be more pro’s than con’s, which have not been outlined here.

    Although the drawbacks of the Halo have been emphasised here such as reduction of visibility and causation of more possible injuries, if the design overall prevents the death of a driver then I think it is a worthwhile solution. F1 teams are continuously improving the performance of their cars and, if implemented, the Halo could be adapted to maximise performance while providing an additional element of safety.

    Doing nothing when there is a solution available seems illogical, and the introduction of the Halo could aid the development of more suitable and practical solutions once the impact of it is actually witnessed in practice.

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  13. A well thought out article on a topic that is definitely going to cause divided opinions. Even though many disadvantages to the introduction of the halo in 2018 has been presented here, surely there must be enough advantages for it to have reached the stage of development it has. Also, life does not have a price and surely if this device can stop/prevent an injury or death then it is worth it. You have said that you want to wait until a more complete solution is available, however, how do you know this solution will be any better? It may outweigh the negatives of this option but bring its own new issues into the mix. Furthermore, the design of this complete solution may take many years to develop and during this time drivers lives are being put at risk when there is a solution available to help save lives.

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  14. Isn’t F1 as much about technological advancements in motorsport these days as it is entertainment? I think somthing should be done to address the saftey issues and that saftey is as technological part of race car design as any. I wouldn’t find watching a race car driver be seriously injured at the wheel entertaining….but then again people watch other extreme sports such as downhill mountain biking, which carries similar risks. To be honest i didn’t think the halo looked bad and don’t to see why it would detract from the sports aesthetics.

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  15. first off the bat when i read this subject after looking into the subject of the halo for F1 i can see the point when come to looked as designer and engineer it most unsightly thing for safety and agree with point of not going to stop the smaller part and could ever redirect them to driver.

    also looked into Aeroscreen where is design little better but yet still don’t think it would with stand large parts if it hit them so there bother each end of the design specter-em even if they both some how use or combine it to one might be better but then u might as well make it a full enclosed unit for the driver.

    with then understanding i get from reading the blog i get the fact companies/fan /sponsors and even the driver them self don’t like the look cause a blind spot for driver could even say it might even cause more accidents over time which will lead to to push of redesigned halo which could be like said above a shell or just combine of both.

    but the point is that it been design, tested and made to be used to stop death as much we love the sport and see how fast some going in a car made from carbon fiber has it limits as we all seen when break up on impact to reduce the damage to the driver so all i can say for my point that some thing is here and now and been made/tested give it it time in the sun it won’t last as you know yourself there many other idea that could replace it years down the line but if it save a life down the line in 2018 i would say it done it job.

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  16. Safety is always a big issue and in F1 there is a larger element of danger higher than most other sports. I think it is irresponsible not to address an issue of safety when something can clearly be done about it. I also think the halo isn’t the right solution. Why would you want to put a blind spot right in front of someone driving at 200mph?

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  17. Safety in F1 is already up to an extremely high standard. Of course it could be increased further, but it is already at the point where to do so would either change the nature of the sport making it less exciting to watch or to start implementing rules to have parts like the halo. Personally I don’t think either of these are good solutions. An element of danger is fundamental to motorsport, there can’t be one without the other. It is the drivers who are putting their lives on the line so I think the decision should be put to them, and if they are okay to accept the risks (above those already reduced with today’s safety technology) involved then there shouldn’t be a need for part like the halo.

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