HALO cockpits make their Formula One debut in the F1 Australian Grand Prix 2018 at Albert Park circuit Melbourne.
What is F1 Halo system?
The Halo Cockpit is a carbon fiber tunnel-like structure which the FIA has mandated as a safety measure starting from the 2018 Formula One Season. This Halo is basically an unbreakable piece of Carbon Fibre Structure that has been attached to the cockpit of the F1 car to make sure that the driver of the car isn’t injured in case of a debris from the car in front hits him after coming off of that car. This also acts as a protection cage in case of a collision into the wall or a barrier.
The Halo can withstand an impact as much as, taking a double-decker bus and balancing it on top of a 7kg metal frame then bolt that to a 300km/h racing car as described by Mercedes AMG F1 engineers.
The Halo concept was first proposed by Mercedes after the FIA had started their research into rudimentary front roll cages in F1 cars. The first Halo prototype initially made of steel underwent static tests at RAF Bentwaters in 2015 and performed well against a weight of 20 kg tyre fired from a compressed nitrogen-powered cannon at speeds of 225 km/h. A steel prototype shrouded in carbon fibre was then track tested by Ferrari during winter testing in February 2016. The drivers reported acceptable levels of visibility.
Why was Halo introduced?
Following the death of Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 driver in 2015 , the first in F1 since the great Ayrton Senna. Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa suffered a skull fracture in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix when a detached rear suspension from the BRAWN GP car of Rubens Barichello came flying into Massa's helmet.Justin Wilson, an Indycar driver, was killed on the track when he was hit by flying debris during a race in August 2015.
The FIA has been working on head protection in single-seater competition ever since.Prior to the Halo certain teams had developed windscreen to for driver protection.Ferrari had tested an device called aeroscreen in 2017 but Sebastian Vettel complained of feeling dizzy after testing this device.
F1 halo driver opinion
A lot of F1 drivers are not happy about the way in which the halo restricts their field of view - and with how it looks.
Lewis Hamilton said: "I think we’re moving towards a closed cockpit, I think that would look better, there’s some real great concepts online of a closed cockpit.
It’s a difficult one as when they introduced it, talked about it, they mentioned a 17 per cent improvement in safety and it’s difficult to really ignore that.
“It definitely doesn’t look good, we know that, we’ve said that."
Sebastian Vettel added: "I can understand if people say it doesn’t belong on a Formula One car but on the other hand I think times are changing, you are moving forward and I think if you put it very clear, then it also should be very clear for everyone and there shouldn't be a doubt in your mind whether to introduce it or not."
F1 Halo Onboard
Initially the fans were not happy about the on-board camera footage during the race, who were unable to see the driver with the new halo in place.
The F1 management came up with a smart trick, they’ve integrated a new display and speedometer onto the Halo using the camera above the drivers head to show the speed, gear, braking DRS and other views.
The Disadvantage of the Halo is that the Halo hasn’t been fully developed in a very crucial way yet so it has a strut like attachment right above the steering wheel of the car which is right in front of the vision of the driver and thus can be a bit of an obstruction. Of course, it is safe but it’s also a bit of an issue for viewing the cars around and the track up front.
Ferrari were the first team to develop and integrate a mirror with the Halo device at the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix. The FIA issued a warning and asked the team to make changes to the design as it was supported by hinges and the rules does not permit it. The team then developed a halo with integrated mirrors for Monaco Grand Prix which is approved by the FIA and completely legal.