While the wreaths laid gently on the grave of Jules Bianchi and the masses were mourning modern days first Formula One tragedy, the suits gathered gravely in their luxury black leather chairs to solemnly discuss how to reprieve a sport temporarily in turmoil.
Six months on from Bianchi’s death, the sport has moved on and as testing began in Barcelona, the familiar sight of Kimi Raikkonen’s red Ferrari twisted around first Elf and then Renault. The repercussions of that meeting were being felt in the shape of the monkey bars resting above and in front of Raikkonen’s head.
Perhaps, so quick they were to save a sport whose last in-race passing was Aytron Senna in 1994, that they agreed upon the first idea that came to mind. As the FIA foregathered in Paris at the Place de la Concorde that day, maybe they gloomily agreed to stay within the four walls of their overly sized, dark offices in those luxury black leather chairs until they had found a solution.
This grew increasingly tiresome and by 11pm they were willing to accept the first suggestion put to them. The Halo, as it has since become known, only further promotes the deep-rooted problems of Formula’s One’s decision makers that came to the forefront in light of the qualifying changes.
The lack of thought put in to the new qualifying format was evident in Melbourne during the season’s opener, it was an abject failure that is set to be scrapped. Ridding cars of the Halo in similar fashion would not be as simple as that, you are not playing around with drivers racing chances, but their lives.
Fernando Alonso suffered a horrific accident in Australia, his car was sent curtailing in to a series of spins, before crashing in to the barrier after colliding with Esteban Guttierrez.
The former world champion walked away unharmed, yet Jenson Button came out yesterday and claimed that the Halo would have helped Alonso.
Alonso was not harmed, what more did Button want? The Halo could have done more damage than good, trapping the Spaniard in the car or a position that could have then led to an injury. If anything the crash proved that Formula One cars are already incredibly safe.
On the other hand, current World Champion Lewis Hamilton is against the Halo. The 31-year-old believes that the sport is fine as it is and claimed the design to be the ‘worst looking modification in Formula One history.’
Those in favour of the Halo have argued that the sport is not meant to be aesthetically pleasing but safe. Yet the sport was lamented when the cars were made quieter in order to be more economically friendly, the FIA desperately searched for remedies to make them louder again, so concerned they were about losing viewers.
Formula One is traditionally an open cockpit sport and it has to be questioned whether those traditionalists would lose interest in the sport, were this to change. It would need to be for the right cause.
Philippe Bianchi, father of Jules Bianchi, admitted that the Halo was not enough, telling
Canal Plus: “”In the case of Jules it would not have changed since it was the extremely violent deceleration that we know caused the damage to his brain.
“The version of this Halo system I saw this morning did not convince me and still needs to be improved.” Philippe continued.
If Jules Bianchi’s father does not believe the Halo system is right for the sport then how is anyone else supposed to believe it.
Testing on the Halo will have been vigorous, but nothing can compare to real life situations, while the description of the Halo has been worrying in itself with phrases such as ‘considered highly unlikely’ and ‘only slightly’ being banded around.
In 2009, Felipe Massa fractured his skull after being struck by a 700-gram spring at 175mph from Ruben Barrichello’s car. It is the most serious modern example in Formula One of drivers being struck by race objects and it is ‘highly unlikely’ that the Halo would not have prevented this from happening.
It is inevitable that we will see increased driver safety in the future of Formula One, and rightly so, but the sport need not rush. If the FIA feel that changes are necessary in order to protect drivers to a greater standard, then it is vital that these changes are right for the sport. The canopy design is not.