Formula 1 is set to introduce the Halo cockpit protection device for the 2017 season, according to the FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting.
Ferrari tested the Halo structure during the second pre-season test earlier this month and its appearance provoked a fierce debate among drivers, teams and fans of the sport alike.
But during a media briefing at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Whiting explained that the results of the Global Institute’s research into cockpit protection devices showed the FIA that the Halo structure could be implement for 2017.
He said: “We’ve extensively tested the so-called Halo. It will offer very good protection from a flying wheel, for example. That’s the main way in which it has been tested so far.
“We need to look at other related things like extrication, to talk to medical crews about it, but I think it’s going quite well.
“We are on a course for the Halo because that has been tested thoroughly, and we feel it offers the best all-round protection.”
Whiting explained that a technical working group has been formed to complete a thorough risk assessment of the Halo structure but added that the device was unlikely to be delayed if an alternative were proposed without adequate testing on new ideas.
He said: “We do have a thorough risk assessment to do on a number of different accident scenarios because we want to ensure we don’t make things worse in certain circumstances.
“But I don’t think we will delay it if we felt there was a better one coming.”
It is understood that the Halo structure would to add over 20kg to the weight of F1 cars for next year.
Doubts over Red Bull screen
Red Bull recently put forward its own idea for a cockpit protection device that featured two side pillars and a screen in front of the driver.
But Whiting dismissed any thoughts of using the team’s device over the Halo in 2017, as it has not been tested.
He said: “As for Red Bull’s [device], it is considerably further behind in development. It’s never been tested.
“Although it could offer additional protection, I’ve my doubts it could be implemented for 2017, whereas I think the Halo could.”
Halo not optional
Lewis Hamilton, one of the most outspoken critics of the Halo structure, recently suggested that if the devices were optional he would be choose not to use one.
But Whiting explained that that approach was not being considered by the FIA: “We didn’t make the HANS optional, we don’t make crash helmets optional, so I suspect that [not being optional] will be the case with the Halo.”
Restricted radio rule policing explained
Whiting also took the time to explain how the FIA is planning to police the new-for-2016 team radio restrictions that have been increased to enforce Article 27.1 of the F1’s sporting regulations, which states “the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”
To make sure the restrictions are being adhered too by the teams, the governing body will monitor all radio traffic in real time from race control and Whiting described how the use of the airwaves in F1 had dropped since the new rules came into force for the season’s opening practice sessions.
He said: “We are listening to it in real time. So we have got four people in race control listening to three drivers each. And then we have got four or five software engineers listening to two or three each.
“It is relatively straightforward, and quite honestly they are not saying that much.”
Whiting also addressed concerns that teams may use code words or clever questions to pass on information to their drivers but he explained that such instances would be examined on a case-by-case basis.
He said: “We will hear every single message, I am absolutely sure of that. With coded messages, we have to be a little bit careful about that.
“We could, for example, if we have some suspicion that a message is rather odd, we could then look at the data from the car to see if the driver did anything in response to that message.
“Then maybe, at the next race, if we hear the same message and notice the same switch change, then we will build up a little knowledge.”
The FIA will also be filming the drivers’ pitboards throughout race weekends to make sure the teams do not attempt to pass on visual messages using coloured letters or numbers.
When asked what information the teams are now allowed to put on the pit boards, Whiting said: “They are allowed to give the same messages that they are allowed to pass on the radio, and no more.
“There has been some suggestion that by putting the lap count for example in red, it means something, if it is yellow it is means one thing, if it is white it means another. Those sorts of things.
“We have a camera looking at all the pit boards so if we see something unusual then we might have to ask why.
“I think they will do their very best to try to get as much information as they can to the drivers, but I just hope that they continue to do it in a legal way.”
What do you make of the FIA’s plans to introduce the Halo structure in F1 for 2017? And will the radio clampdown add excitement to the Australian Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.