With the new F1 season just around the corner, Ferrari has been testing a new lifesaving ‘Halo’ device.
Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel drove modified versions of their SF16-H F1 car around the Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona, fitted with the tubular carbon structure mounted over the cockpit. The design aims to protect the driver from flying debris while retaining F1’s open car feel. It follows recent motorsport tragedies including British driver Justin Wilson, F1 driver Jules Bianchi and former world champion John Surtees son Henry, in 2009, all of whom died as a result of race related head injuries. A prototype version has been trailed at this week's final pre-season test with a view to it being rolled out on all cars in time for the 2017 season.
On track for his final test-run prior to the opening round in Melbourne, Raikkonen completed 41 laps in Barcelona. On his installation lap, the Finn debuted the prototype. He said: “This morning I tried the Halo protection device and the difference to the usual driving was surprisingly small. The visibility is just a little bit limited at the front but I don’t think this is the final version of the device, so it can be improved further.”
Sebastian Vettel also tried out the safety device, put forward by the FIA as a means of providing additional head protection for drivers. He added: “I think “Halo” is ok, even if I believe that this system can be improved in terms of both aesthetic and visibility and I think we will see an evolution of it very soon. In principle, I think it doesn’t look very nice but if it can help saving lives, and if thanks to it at least the two drivers who died recently could still be here with us, then I think it can be the ugliest system, but nothing could justify not having it fitted.”
Other drivers were not so impressed with the device, as triple world champion Lewis Hamilton told the BBC the change was ”too drastic" and the "worst-looking" modification in Formula 1 history. He added "I understand safety is a huge issue and something we have to work towards, but this is not the one". Hamilton said F1 cars had lost “the cool look they used to have in the 1980s and 1990s" adding "It is not F1 for me. If they do implement it, I hope we have a choice of whether we have to use it and are not forced to, because ultimately it is our safety."
The Formula 1 season returns March 20 in Australia.