Insight: How F1’s engineers have risen to the Halo design challenge
Posted By:   |  30 Nov 2017   |  9:28 am GMT  |  145 comments

With the introduction of the Halo cockpit protection concept for 2018, Formula 1’s leading engineers have had a brand new design problem to solve, seeking to integrate the Halo into the car’s monocoque with the minimum of compromise.

Formally introduced in July, the Halo was approved by the FIA for mandatory use next season, despite opposition from nine of the ten teams on the current F1 grid. This has resulted in a number of teams having to make wholesale changes to their monocoque designs, just as many were reaching completion.

The reason for this is thanks to the different loading patterns on the chassis that the Halo will bring. After being tested by the FIA, teams were belatedly provided with expected figures and targets which the Halo design is expected to meet.

Although the Halo itself is provided by an external supplier to all teams, the monocoque and roll structure must sustain peak loads of up to 88kN during crash testing.

This means that teams will have to replicate the tests in their simulations before attempting the real thing. To understand the loading and stress distributions in their chassis designs, engineers use “finite element analysis” tools to assess and develop the ideal loading patterns on the car, without compromising on performance.

As the real Halo will be built into the structure of the car, rather than simply attached to the car as has been seen in test runs, it meant that some teams had to backtrack on their design programs to accommodate the variation in point loads.

The 15kg added by the Halo’s inclusion will also produce an effect on balance, magnified by the FIA’s decision to raise the minimum weight limit by just 6kg – providing a disadvantage to the heavier drivers on the grid.

Furthermore, the Halo itself must be able to keep its structural integrity should any of the rest of the survival cell become damaged. It’s all a very fine balancing act.

“[The Halo] knocks on big time to the chassis definition,” Nick Chester told Autosport in July.

“It’s a little bit painful, as we’re right into that process of trying to finalise our chassis schemes and the loadings from it are quite big, so it affects all the structure in the chassis.

“It has quite a big impact; outside the chassis it won’t have much of an effect on car performance, so it’s just the actual design of the chassis to take the loads which is difficult.”

Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer even speculated that the late introduction of the Halo may even delay some teams’ appearance in next year’s winter testing, owing to a delay in construction.

“It may delay next year’s car,” said Szafnauer to in August.

“There’s a finite amount of time to design and build a monocoque, and there is a finite amount of time that it takes to design and make a monocoque. If we don’t get definition in that timeframe, all it does is it delays when it’s produced.

“Right now, it looks like we may not be able to produce it in time for testing.”

In addition to the structural considerations, F1’s aerodynamicists have also been hard at work trying to mitigate the effect of the halo’s inclusion. Situated just in front of the cockpit, the halo creates wake which interferes with the flow into the air intake downstream.

The FIA has granted teams the opportunity to append non-structural fairings to the halo, as long as it complies with the defining regulations and does not impede driver egress, of which the minimum mandated time is expected to rise from five seconds. Performing an extraction test with Valtteri Bottas in Abu Dhabi, the FIA found he had taken twice as long to get out of the car.

These fairings will help teams to minimise the wake produced by the Halo, removing any hindrance on cooling.

As seen from the image above, McLaren ran in the post-Abu Dhabi Grand Prix test with its own interpretation of an aerodynamic fairing on the Halo, doused in flow-viz paint to allow the trackside engineers to assess the resultant flow structures.

The shape of the fairing helps to pick up laminar flow passing over the top of the Halo and directs it downwards, helping to feed the intake and manage the wake created by the structure. Toro Rosso also trialled an aerodynamic fairing, electing to run a single element to produce the same effect.

The top-down view displays the intricacies in the fairing design. The outboard structure of the fairing are shaped to manage the resultant vortices emanating from the tips, and McLaren has monitored this with an array of Pitot tubes to assess the changes in pressure produced by the changes in flow.

McLaren and Toro Rosso became the first of the teams to assess the aerodynamic changes created by the Halo, and it’ll be interesting to see what other teams come up with over the winter as they seek to extract the tiniest of advantages.

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With 90% rejection from the teams what the hell are we doing ? It will still not help the likes of Henry Surtees, Jules Bianchi and Massa. What a stupid mess they are making it. Maybe they will have to flatten the hills for future hill climbing events.


The hole Halo is a bad idea. Think about how often debris has hurt or effected a driver! Poor Massa in Italy when Rubans part smacked him on the side of the head. Now I have only missed 3 races since 1995 and thats the only incident I can recall.

It will be Air Bags next!


Not a fan of the Halo. Apart from the theories around it’s origin, it’s questionable effectiveness and the negative aesthetic impact, for me it is a glaring outwardly obvious statement of everything that is wrong with modern F1. It is too compromised by ‘non F1′ input. If it doesn’t make the car faster, louder, more fun to drive, more exciting to watch, or make the racing closer, then it is a waste of Formula 1 energy, money and time. F1 cars should be the fastest, loudest, most dangerous cars on the planet, with the closest racing and proper consequences for getting it wrong. I’m not suggesting a return to the ’70s where 4 guys a year lost their lives, but an element of danger is inherent in motorsport, and taking calculated risks should carry reward and punishment. If a driver feels F1 is too dangerous without Halo, then he should be free to drive something else, there will always be 22 guys with the ability and desire to fill a grid. Stirling Moss once used the analogy of someone walking along a 2″ wide plank of wood, no one cares if you do it with the plank on the ground, anyone can do that. Suspend the plank 100’ off the ground, and you can sell tickets.


The top-down view displays the intricacies in the fairing design. The outboard structure of the fairing are shaped to manage the resultant vortices emanating from the tips, and McLaren has monitored this with an array of Pitot tubes to assess the changes in pressure produced by the changes in flow.

Just a suggestion but if referring to fine aero details in description it would probably be better to include a full resolution photo to go with it rather than the low resolution one provided where we can’t actually make out any of the details.


I’ve been following F1 since the mid-1950s. I have never seen such a preposterous ruling by those that are not in the cockpit. It would NOT have benefitted Messrs. Senna, Bianchi, Massa or H. Surtees etc. in the slightest. This will surely lead to ever more daft ideas. Sorry, but F2 is far more exciting to watch.


Hard to decide which one is worse, three engines per season or Halo. Only two out of four engine manufacturers has the hardware that is reliable enough to potentially survive the tightened engine rules. And Halo is just gross overreaction.


What a Fcking disaster! F1 has become a complete joke. I can’t wait to see a driver die because of this getting in the way of getting out or smashing them in the face.


The hall is the departure point for me from F1. I’ve followed the sport since 1993 when I was 7 years old, and like many have endured a lot of frustration and disappointment with it over the years, mixed amongst the many epic moments and stories that remind you how great it can be.
But with my interest waning in these recent years of Merc domination, unappealing cars, artificial contrivences, and too many either boring or unlikeable drivers, the halo is the last straw. It means that F1 is no longer the premier open-wheeler category in the world, and therefore it has finally and completely lost touch with its dna, soul and history. As such it holds no further history for me, and I’m out. It is no longer Formula 1. So it’s just down to GTs (which is still REAL racing) and MotoGP for me. Formula E? Not even a consideration.


Bloody stupid thing


Yeah I wonder what Mercedes will do because they are most likely the one team that wanted it.

Is it possible for fins to be sticking all over these things?


Althought this issue has united F1 fans we are unfortunatley just viewed as disorganized fickle rabble by the FIA (and F1 management I’m sure) – and they might have a point actually.

Fans need a way to speak with a united voice. If we could manage unity we could crush this kind of nonsense. A single opinion poll? ( I know there are a bunch out there), some kind of Fan organization?, voting with our dollars?

I don’t think complaining on forums is going to cut it (but it is better than silence so we should keep it up!).

So….what do we want to do?

Hello Halo Bye F1

We unfollow F1 from all social media don’t watch the races live, don’t go to a Grand Prix’s, and don’t buy merchandise, read about the results and follow from afar and see what develops. When they have no one watching it they will fix it like qualifying got fixed then we return to following watching etc.. should they provide a suitable product. This is a Mercedes invention you can be sure I will never buy a Mercedes road car and disuade anyone who may be contemplating one since I am the “car nut” most of my friends ask me for advice and opinions on all things racing and automotive. I will definitely tell them to stay away from Mercedes products for creating this abomination. It is also due to people like Bianchi’s family and Paul Walkers daughter trying to make gains from their loved one losses. Their loved ones assumed a risk and lost, suing will not fix the issue or bring them back. I am done with F1 unfollowed them and FIA on social media. I still have the drivers for now. Will follow the sport from a distance most likely here. No more waking up at 5am, staying up 24hrs because Suzuka starts at 2am etc.. The halo, watching a marathon instead of the 100M dash with this conservation of engines fuel, tires etc.overweight cars, loss of that magical symphony of high revs NA engines and always the promise of a fix or better racing to come in X year yet nothing ever gets fixed and all the false hopes that never live up to the hype like Ham vs Vet kinda deflated and never really materialized properly.


I absolutely hate the halo.


@ Lewis Hamilton…and here i was thinking that you’d love to have a ‘halo’ and all that it represents seeing as though a mention in the New Years honors list seems definitely a non starter.


You can keep rolling turd in sugar, but it ain’t never gonna be a jam donut.

Pretty much my feelings about the halo.


But a turd rolled in sugar might fool someone into thinking that it’s a chocolate donut. And that seems to be good enough for the FIA, unfortunately.


I think we have been fooled into believing halo is designed to protect the drivers in unimaginable tragic accident that happened to Bianchi. Halo is designed to protect the FIA from lawsuits, which allows them to say they have done everything possible to protect the drivers. How can we really blame them for this when people are always seeking compensations?


Hopefully we are not going down that same road as Indy cars have gone. Because of the cars flying they have wrapped a load of crap around the back end of the car…..ugly is the only word to describe it. When it was CART the cars looked great, the racing was great, and you had real champions driving the cars. Because the cars look like a bastard child of a half assed Le Mans car, I stopped watching……that prick George didn’t do anybody any favors screwing with a great series. Please F1 don’t go down that road or it will kill the series. As for Bianchi, personally I don’t believe the Halo would have protected his head as it would have been smashed by the thing he hit which was standing still and probably weighed a couple of tons. Just my opinion.


The 2018 indycars look pretty stunning in my opinion. They got rid of all the bulky body work and replaced it with a more classical looking aesthetic. Plus there will be no halos or things on indycar.


@ Luke C…yes, i wasa about to say the very same thing. The 2018 Indy cars look excellent and what’s more they employ a certain level of ground effect that allows for more real racing/passing. F1 could do worse that take a few hints from them….but of course that would be severely frowned upon.


Goodbye F1 Racing cars.

It was nice knowing you while it lasted.


I’ll say one thing ….. the halo has united F1 fans as few things have before! 😉 Of course it’s easy to sit home watching the telly or playing F1 video games and saying that the drivers should be men and accept the risk. If the people driving the cars were united in saying that the halo was a great idea, one would have to accept that, despite the esthetics of the thing. The fact that the drivers AREN’T in agreement on the halo suggests to me that this is not the best idea the sport has ever come up with ….. to put it mildly. I wonder if the halo is intended as a temporary measure, a waypoint towards fully enclosed cockpits?

One thing about it that I don’t recall seeing addressed ……… Bottas was slow getting out of the car, but engineers said that once he figured out where to put his hands his extraction time would be reduced. What happens if the car is “live” and not safe to be touched? In the past we’ve seen drivers hop out after being told to avoid touching the car. This is clearly going to be rather unlikely with the halo attached. Is there any info on safety in this scenario?

My bottom line is that the halo is ugly, but, aside from drivers like Hulk being penalized yet again because they aren’t tiny, won’t affect the actual racing much. Getting rid of the shark fins and tea trays might even make the cars sort of tolerable to look at even with the halo. But the one thing that I think COULD have a truly negative impact on next season is the decision to cut down the number of engines, or P.U.’s or whatever they call them now. We’ve already seen teams limit their running to save engine time. With one less unit for the season I suspect this is going to get a lot worse, including teams sitting out practise sessions and sacrificing certain races, all to conserve parts. Given that this isn’t actually going to save teams any money at all, it seems a particularly crazy decision even by F1 standards. 2021 can’t get here soon enough …….


@ Johnny canuck….i am amazed that these fins have been designated as ‘shark fins’? As someone who lives on the fringe of excessively shark infested waters i can assure you that i have never seen any real shark fin that even vaguely resembles an F1 car fin.


Could they not, as a worst case scenario, at least make the halo out of the same transparent plastic stuff they make these bulletproof plane windows from… at least try and hide the monstrosity.

Surely it’ll have a negative impact on the on board camera view as well.


“The last thing I’d want to come out of Henry’s death is over-regulation of the sport and a crusade against risk. Compared with my day, when drivers were regularly killed and we drove death traps, the safety record of the sport is now excellent and you probably have more people dying in mountaineering accidents than on racing tracks. You can’t stop young people reaching for the sky, trying to achieve their dreams. Yes, we need to look at how we can improve the fitting of wheel tethers, but closed cockpits are not on the cards; you can’t eliminate the danger entirely.” – The late racing legend, John Surtees, speaking about safety in racing after his own son, Henry, died from injuries suffered when a rogue wheel hit him on the head, straight on.


Respect. Why did the FIA not listen to Surtees?


@ Fan1…actually if you watch the replays of the accident frame by frame you will see that the tyre hit Surtees from the left hand side and wasn’t head on. The single support strut dead centre of the current, so called ‘halo’ ,is there for mounting purposes and structural integrity plus to eliminate any large pieces of body work etc from frontal penetration of the cockpit space. Small objects can still bypass that central strut, something that would’ve been largely eliminated if the screen had been implemented.


and that was because FIA doesn’t want any suit (legal) to its security; see
what happened it the case of…….It costs Mo with the lawyers plus ….
pity is an ugly choice (Ferrari could be better)


Hello Halo. Farewell Formula 1.

Or is it “I” as in “I can’t believe how ugly the 2018 cars will be. Imagine 20 cars on the grid with this monstrosity.”


The best solution was the screen. It needed some further strengthening but was the right concept. IMO it even enhanced the image from certain angles. I was most disappointed to see this abomination chosen when we were about to see the eradication of fins and coat hangers and get some decent looking cars for a change.


Well we got 1 year with the cars sort of alright. I guess that’s as much as we can expect these days. How sad..


With any luck one of them will break off while travelling at 200 mph and hit Jonny Todt on the back of the head and knock some sense into him.


The ugliest thing I have ever seen. Another FIA mistake.


I’ve never seen so many pictures of them at once… It’s quite nauseating, really.


So the Halo adds 15kg and the FIA allow only an extra 6kg to the minimum weight. What’s behind that, other than numerically dyslexic math? (Apologies to people with real dyslexia).


As i understand this year (2017) already 10Kg extra was permitted in advance of the Halo for this year.
Add 6 KG for next year and it fits..


I suppose it will never be popular until it’s proven to have saved someone’s life.


But we already have proof that it won’t… no driver has died* since the safety improvements introduced following Senna’s death.
*Jules death would not have been prevented by the Halo according to the FIA’s report.


Not yet. No driver had died since the person before. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.


@Micheal G

How do you know this won’t kill someone?


Well we don’t know. Hopefully we’ll never find out


This is a good point. I think we can all conceive of scenarios in which he halo could actually be detrimental. A piece of debris being deflected into the cockpit is one of those scenarios.


But if some debri was heading towards the drivers head it anyway chances are it would do some damage


Debris can either glance off the helmet, causing minimal damage or it can hit the halo in such a way as to bounce down and into the driver’s chest area. Not very likely, I know, but a wheel flying through the air is not very likely either.

Tornillo Amarillo

Better to have a halo now than a halo because of death…


“Better to have a halo now than a halo because of death…”
WOW…..Hang on there……By that analogy, better to not race at all then to save a lives. The idiocy of the halo is that it is an unproven device….one could bolt on many unproven devices and make 1001 changes based on speculation.


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Tornillo Amarillo

Anyone knows what John Surtees thinks about the halo?

Tornillo Amarillo

John Surtees’ son Henry died during a Formula Two race in 2009 after being struck on the head by a stray tyre.

“I suffered the tragedy of losing Henry which certainly could’ve been prevented by a development like this,” he said.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had said the device can be as “ugly as possible” as long as it helps save lives. The German also thinks Henry Surtees would “still be around if we had this type of system”.

John Surtees, who won the 1964 drivers’ championship with Ferrari, said: “Lewis could perhaps think a little more about the ‘halo’ and think about the responsibility he does have as a world champion.

“Change comes about and sometimes changes are forced upon one. It may be that the governing body, just because of the momentum and the fact that they have gone this way, will have no option but to impose these regulations.

“Henry was hit by a wheel that weighed 28kg so there would have been a chance there [had a ‘halo’ been installed].”

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, says the ‘halo’ device is a “necessary” step.

“It will be the future of F1, because we cannot afford any serious injury or fatal accident as we had in the last two years,” said the two-time world champion, referring to the fatal injuries sustained by Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson.

Today I found this article from BBC sport dated March 2016, being Surtees, Vettel and Alonso in favor of the Halo and Hamilton against.


First time I’ve ever liked Hamilton.


Given Henry was not racing in F1 and thus would not be protected by the Halo, I always find such examples ridiculously naive to be honest.

Justin Wilson would have been no better off either and while we one day may see such in other series, I bet it will be long after it’s no longer in F1.

The bottom line is this appalling appendage should be no where near a racing car and if you have an issue with the heat then please, just get out of the kitchen!

The work done on cockpit sides, helmets and crash structures has been extensive and continuous and that should have sufficed. Putting 10 ton tractor units on a race track, in the wet no less, will always cause issues and no halo would cure that.

Either get them off the track or on the few tracks that must have them trackside, just fit them and them only with halos and tec cell skirts. Problem solved.

Better than killing the series in my view.


Well hello Doc…you’re back? Your comment re Justin Wilson…I was of the opinion that according to the reports that i have read, that the halo would deflected the loose bodywork that he was hit with. Do you have any links that show otherwise?

Tornillo Amarillo

Are Alonso, Vettel accepting halo ridiculously naive? Should they go out of the series?


Yes undoubtedly


The halo offers no protection to the driver’s head from directly above. I can’t see how it would have made any difference at all in the tragic accident you are referring to.


Actually, I retract my statement. I had Henry’s accident confused with another.


Auto racing is dangerous, as it should be. We admire drivers for their skill and bravery. When the element of danger has been so reduced that bravery is no longer a requirement, we are left with just skill. Racing then becomes mere a game of skill, like billiards. It still requires skill and is a challenge sure enough, but so is solving a Rubik’s cube. And when that happens to auto racing, to paraphrase Hemingway, all we have left then are mountain climbing and bull fighting, because auto racing is now just a game.


Nothing; he’s dead. And the Halo is not best way to prevent wheel assemblies from hitting drivers.


@ TA…by memory John Surtees passed away 9 months ago?


Why would he care about safety devices in F1 cars?

Does he wish that lower formulas had the same safety equipment as F1 cars – especially double wheel feathers? I’m sure he does.


Unfortunately the man passed away on 10th of March this year.


The saying ‘you cannot polish a turd’ comes to mind. Surely all this extra wasted money on aerodynamics around the halo (and aren’t halo’s round an angelic rather than this ‘flip flop’ shape) is madness. Plus will all the aerodynamic appendages add to the potential debris caused in accidents? Surely if they are a safety device then nothing can be attached to them?


@ colin B …sorry to frivolously burst your bubble but ‘turds’ can polished. In the archaeological/paleontological world fossilised ‘turds’ are known as ‘coprolites’ and by using certain abrasives these relics can be given a certain level of gloss. Another useless bit of info…….but interesting all the same hahaha


Oh come on Kenneth!

So can diamonds!

Which would you rather spend time polishing?

Which fits in very well with the halo analogy…


What an excellent point on the aerodynamic attachments!

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