F1 ‘Halo’ cockpit protection progressing well, 2017 debut possible

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed that preliminary tests with the proposed ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for Formula 1 are going well ahead of a possible introduction for the 2017 season.

Improving cockpit safety has been high on the FIA’s agenda following the deaths of F1 driver Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson in 2015 from head injuries sustained while racing.

The ‘Halo’ concept was given its first public test during pre-season testing in Barcelona earlier this month, but split opinion.

Some drivers welcomed the improvement in cockpit safety it offered, while others were put off by its unappealing look when attached to the car.

Speaking in a briefing with the media in Australia on Friday, Whiting said that developments to improve cockpit safety were going well, but that more investigations needed to be carried out with the ‘Halo’.

“I think it’s going pretty well,” Whiting said.

“Obviously you know that we’ve tested the so-called ‘Halo’. It’s been tested quite extensively now, and I think it will offer very good protection for a flying wheel, for example. That’s the main way in which it’s been tested so far.

“We need to do a thorough risk assessment on it, and we need to look at a number of related things like extrication; we’ve got to talk to the medical crews about it. I think it’s going quite well.

“We’ve got a separate working group just to deal with that by Mercedes and Ferrari, and I would say they’re doing a really good job on that.”

The ‘Halo’ was designed by Mercedes, but Red Bull has offered an alternative solution that acts as more of a windscreen in front of the driver.

Whiting said that this design was further behind the ‘Halo’, and doubts it could be introduced for next season.

“The Red Bull is an alternative to that. It’s considerably further behind in development, it’s never been tested, but it could offer additional protection,” Whiting said.

“I’ve got my doubts as to whether it could actually be implemented for 2017, whereas I think the ‘Halo’ could.”

F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said earlier this month that he hoped the ‘Halo’ would be optional if it was introduced as he would not want to use it.

However, Whiting said that it is unlikely drivers would get to make this choice.

“I think that’s unlikely. We didn’t make HANS options and we don’t make crash helmets optional, so I suspect that will be the case with the ‘Halo’,” Whiting said.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”