Motorsport’s global governing body, the FIA, has confirmed that use of the ‘halo’ protective cockpit device will be mandatory in Formula One next season.
The announcement followed a meeting in Geneva of the Formula One Strategy Group, the championship’s rule-making body, which also confirmed a number of technical and strategic changes for future editions of the global open-wheel series.
Following last July’s decision by the Strategy Group to introduce an additional frontal protection to Formula One cars, the FIA confirmed that a ‘halo’ cockpit head-protection system will be introduced from the start of the 2018 Formula One season.
The Strategy Group decided last year that some form of frontal protection would be introduced to further limit the risk of drivers being injured or killed by flying debris or being involved in collisions in which they are struck directly on the head. Various models have been tested in the past year, with the ‘shield’ concept also considered, but an FIA statement said that the ‘halo presents the best overall safety performance’ as it is the only device that comprehensively passed the test of deflecting a wheel fired at it at 150mph and offered a largely unimpaired view for the drivers.
Reaction from Formula One drivers has been mixed. four-time drivers’ world champion Sebastian Vettel has said the device made him feel “dizzy” after only one lap of testing. Mercedes driver and world title rival Lewis Hamilton has described the ‘halo’ as the "worst-looking modification in F1 history" but believes its introduction is important, saying: "I don't think we can ignore it. It's a safety thing that we all have to accept."
According to dedicated outlet motorsport.com, only one team gave their full support to the halo at Wednesday’s meeting, with aesthetic concerns and additional weight among the main objections. Final ratification from the World Motor Sport Council is required before the device can be officially introduced.
The halo is one of a handful of updates discussed by the Strategy Group for future Formula One seasons. An update was given on the direction of power units for the 2021 world championship. The FIA said that ‘further analysis will be completed’ over the summer, which will be ‘reviewed at the next meeting of the Strategy Group in September’.
The Strategy Group also presented a revised approach to cost control, with a more sustainable approach to financing received unanimous support from members. A dedicated group - which will be made up of representatives from Formula One Management (FOM), the FIA and the teams - will be ‘tasked to come up with innovative solutions’.
The FIA also revealed that ‘a number of sporting measures aimed at improving the show were also debated and specific studies will be carried out to assess these’.
The Strategy Group is made up of 18 voting members, equally split between the FIA, commercial rights holder FOM, and six of the championship’s leading teams - Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Force India.