With all the 2018 Formula 1 cars unveiled this month, you may have noticed one big change from last year's designs: The much-maligned safety halo. Designed to help protect drivers while maintaining a traditional open-cockpit design, it's been roundly criticized by race teams and fans alike for its awkwardness. But how does it really look from the driver's seat, and how much will it change the sport?
Fresh off revealing its new W09 car, Mercedes-AMG F1 slapped a helmet cam on driver Valtteri Bottas for its first official test run around Silverstone Circuit in England. The low perspective gives the top of the halo a canopy-like look, while the central support doesn't appear to be too obstructive. Of course, that didn't stop Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff from stating his desire to remove it with a chainsaw, post haste.
Williams F1 also released a first-person video showing the view enjoyed by test driver Robert Kubica as he muscled the new FW41 car (coincidentally powered by a Mercedes-AMG engine) around Motorland Aragón in Spain this weekend. The big difference is that the halo is painted white to blend into that sweet Martini livery, though the camera is mounted at an angle that makes makes the crossbar loom larger than in the Mercedes video.
Vision-tracking experiments have shown that Formula 1 drivers are rarely looking dead ahead, so the center-mounted support shouldn't be an issue. Opponents have tried a variety of arguments against the halo—it's expensive, it's ugly, it's potentially distracting for drivers—but Bottas told Autosport that he's gotten used to it in simulator practice, and that anything that increases driver safety is a welcome change.
"In the simulator I've done a race simulation already with the halo, and I have to say during the race I never noticed it anymore... Initially, it's something new, it looks different—some people say it's not nice at all," he said. "But I think it's only a matter of time everyone will get used to it, and if it can avoid even one injury—big or small—it's a good device."
Those sentiments were echoed by Fernando Alonso in a recent interview where he said that "there should not be any debate" on safety initiatives like the halo.