Formula One’s Halo Cockpit On Schedule For 2017 Debut
Protection for drivers paramount since multitude of deaths in open-cockpit racingby Kirby Garlitos, on
Formula One’s halo cockpit protection is on course to make its debut in the 2017 season, putting a lid on the increasing demand for open-cockpit race cars to receive additional protection in the wake of the high-profile deaths of racers Jules Bianchi, Justin Wilson, and Dan Wheldon. The halo-shaped hoop has already undergone extensive testing and it appears that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be seeing it on Formula One race cars beginning next year.
From a functional purpose, the carbon fiber halo-style hoop was designed to prevent certain types of debris from reaching the driver in the event of a crash. It would be integrated directly into the car, but it does have a hinged locking mechanism on the central supporting stanchion located in front of the drivers’ head so it can be quickly removed if the situation calls for it. Concerns that the stanchion may hinder the driver’s visibility were taken into account in the design of the halo hoop, which is why the stanchion is reportedly so close to the driver that it would have no effect on his line of sight.
Previous tests were done on other concepts, including fighter plane-style canopies that covered the entire cockpit. But fears of debris rebounding and flying high into the air poised a safety risk on other cars and spectators and the difficulty of accessing an injured driver caused those concepts to be shot down. Red Bull Racing, for its part, is currently developing an alternative concept, but as Whiting told Motorsport.com, that concept has never been tested and, as such, is “considerably further behind in development.”
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Why it matters
As I’ve said in the past, I’m fully on board with the move to introduce a safety mechanism to prevent open-cockpit racers from getting hit by debris. I’ve had this stance for a long time and I’m happy that Formula One is finally taking a serious and proactive approach into introducing this much-needed safety feature. We’ve seen injuries and deaths in motor racing happen because of a variety of reasons and, while some can just be attributed to bad luck, there should always be a premium placed on making sure that drivers feel safe whenever they’re racing out on any track.
I’ve watched concept renderings of this halo-style hoop and I’ve read that it’s undergone extensive testing. That’s reassuring to hear but I think that Formula One should have a more urgent attitude towards implanting this feature into the cars. I get what Whiting is saying that a thorough risk assessment must still be done to ensure that all the bases are covered. Formula One needs to ensure that this new protection doesn’t compromise other safety aspects for the drivers. I just hope that it happens sooner than later because motor sport racing cannot have another death on its hands.
We’ve seen too many in recent years and it just has to stop. Drivers like Bianchi and Wilson lost their lives because there wasn’t a safety measure in place that could’ve protected them. I’ve sait it once and I’ll continue to say it until the cows come home:
One incident is, and will always be, one too many.