FIA look to introduce ‘shield’ safety concept to cars in 2018

Jenson Button of McLaren drives with the ‘Halo’ head protection system during FP1 for the 2016 Italian Grand Prix.

Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, have decided following a recent strategy group meeting in Paris to prioritize the introduction of a ‘shield’ safety concept over the controversial ‘Halo’ system that many teams trialed throughout 2016.

After the tragic death of Jules Bianchi following unrecoverable injuries he received during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, Formula 1 has begun searching for a solution that provides adequate head protection whilst keeping the sport open-cockpit.

In 2016, the controversial ‘Halo’ concept was trialed in various test sessions and even during free practice for select Grand Prix’s.

Drivers have never been fully convinced by the design, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel commenting, “[the Halo] has quite a lot of impact in terms of visibility,” whilst McLaren’s Jenson Button felt, “it could be a little more difficult to see the lights on the start-line.”

Despite this, the F1 strategy group “agreed unamousily” in July 2016 to introduce “frontal cockpit protection” for the 2018 season.

The FIA said, “While the Halo is currently the preferred option, as it provides the broadest solution to date, the consensus among the Strategy Group was that another year of development could result in an even more complete solution.”

However, during the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix, the FIA revealed to the drivers a new ‘shield’ concept, which aims to compromise the safety performance provided by the Halo to make aesthetic gains.

“[T]he design has proved effective in early testing for smaller pieces of debris,” said Jonathan Noble of Autosport. “[I]t is not as effective when it comes to deflecting larger items such as wheels.”

Now, the FIA has stated after their latest meeting with Formula 1’s strategy group, “the decision has been taken to give priority to the transparent ‘shield’ family of systems.”

“The FIA aims to carry out track tests of this system during this season in preparation for implementation in 2018.”

Felipe Massa, who was almost killed in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix when a loose suspension spring from another car struck him in the helmet, told Autosport, “[the shield is] beautiful compared to the halo.”

However, he felt, ” I don’t think we need to go for how beautiful it is, but how better it is for the safety.”

A key question then arises from this, if Formula 1 is going to add cockpit head protection in 2018, should we bias it more toward aesthetics or safety? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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