F1 head protection is a GO for 2017! 11 February 2016

Finally a sensible rule from F1 Towers at the FIA. Fixed to car, head protection will be mandatory from 2017. Called the Halo it is designed to protect drivers from large airborne debris and although it will without doubt save some drivers, there are already comments that “it would not have stopped Massa and the spring” or “Ayrton and the suspension arm” – But this misses the point in my opinion.

See the video of the Halo here.

My point is that; Now, today, in 2016, this protection is appropriate for the risk that is acceptable to the drivers, teams, track side spectators, worldwide viewers and clean-cut sponsors.

National Motorsport Academy Formula 1

Source: Mercedes F1

Safety is not a non-moving finite being – it is an ever changing, responding one day, pro active another, fluid concept. What will work today would have killed people last year and vice versa.

Safety evolves; Back in the 1950’s, less than 10 years after the most devastating war the world had known, it was suggested that the drivers were cavalier with their lives. I read in a Duncan Hamilton book (didn’t he win Le Mans in a Jaguar? Ed) that the young men of that era felt that they were lucky to have survived the war, D Day and the like and so, although dangerous, motor racing was less dangerous than being shot at by a machine gun whilst wading through neck high water to land and fight on a Normandy beach. (fair point, Ed) 

Racing Crash National Motorsport Academy

Source: www.motorsportretro.com  

So it was with this appreciation of risk level that they went motor racing; in fact a cloth helmet would hardly stop a chunk of rock being flicked up by the car in front, never mind give you any help in a rollover situation. And as for seat-belts……well they were not even considered as it was generally felt by the drivers that getting flung out of a car when it rolled rather than get caught in the flames was a preferable scenario. After all, these young men had seen what happened to airmen when fire occurred. (When it happened to Nigel Corner at Goodwood, I am not sure he felt the same having a fully functioning extinguisher system in his Maserati 250F Watch the video here)

Big car crash NMA

Source: Getty Images

As the “civilised” world becomes less accustomed to premature death so the removal of risk, necessary and unnecessary, become a mantra of all governing bodies, whether sport or normal life.

If one believes in the sanctity of human life then ergo, it is the responsibility of a governing body or Government to reduce accidental deaths by all and every means available. But since the governing body is elected it must not go against the wishes of its electorate or it may find itself voted out. Our current F1 governing body is on record that the “show” must not be diluted by a surround cockpit, thus anonymising the drivers. Are they doing this for the drivers benefit, the spectators benefit, the TV viewers or perhaps because all the drivers are bankable entities that the teams are using as income producing billboards.

But that arguments takes me away from the headline – more head protection is good and should be applauded; it has been too long coming. I have had my engineering students delivering excellent 3rd year degree projects for the last 5 years on additional head and cockpit protection and so this comes not a moment too soon.

 

Roger Grimshaw NMA Tutor.