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.