Formula One Says No to Halo for 2017, Bernie Ecclestone Says

Decision represents an unexpected change of course by the racing league.

Formula One drivers, keep your heads down. F1 boss man Bernie Ecclestone says F1 has voted not to implement the HALO driver protection system for the 2017 racing season, on the grounds that the thin head guard, like Bill Murray circa 1975, is not quite ready for prime time.

The decision was made by a panel consisting of Ecclestone, FIA president Jean Todh, and six of the leading F1 teams. The group, Ecclestone said, decided they needed to “look into it in more detail,” according to the BBC.

In a statement, the FIA declared it chose to delay the decision due to a comparative lack of time before the 2017 season begins.

“It would be prudent to use the remainder of this year and early next year to further evaluate the full potential of all options before final confirmation,” the statement read.

And the extra time could give organizers chance to come up with something superior to the halo, which stretches above the driver’s head but also blocks his eye line. “While the halo is currently the preferred option,” the FIA statement read, “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.”

The decision is somewhat of a reversal for Formula One, which had been preparing to implement the halo technology onto its cars next year. Two teams have been running with the safety system in place this year, and every 2017 F1 car has been designed to be capable of using the halo. Many drivers have been in favor of it, with such notable personalities as Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button asking why such a key matter of driver safety is even subject to a vote.

Alexander Wurz, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, spoke out against the decision. “Today’s strategy group decision, if ratified by the FIA World Council, represents much more than just a vote against halo, or a delay in the introduction of additional head protection,” he told the BBC. “Let’s wait for the reasoning behind the decision, but for now it could almost be seen as ‘business first and safety second.'”

Driver Sebastian Vettel was more outspoken about it when interviewed on Thursday. “I think 90-95 percent [of the drivers] voted for it,” he said on Thursday at the German Grand Prix, according to the BBC. “We don’t like the looks of it but I don’t think there’s anything that really justifies death.”

The decision also demonstrates the power of Ecclestone, who clearly hasn’t let the kidnapping of his mother-in-law soften his edges. Ecclestone has been noted in the past for his opposition to the halo. “We don’t need it because it won’t do any good,” Ecclestone told Telegraph Sport. “It won’t save anybody.”

The halo is a V-shaped titanium structure attached to the car via three hard points—one on either side of the driver’s head, and one directly in front of it. The device is designed to protect drivers from flying debris and other potentially lethal projectiles.

Whether it chooses the halo or something else, the FIA says Formula One will be implementing some form of improved cranial protection for the 2018 racing season.