By Alan Baldwin
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The 2015 death of British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson is reason enough for Formula One to introduce the ‘halo’ cockpit protection system, Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday.
Wilson, an ex-Formula One driver, died after being hit on the head by debris from another car while competing at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway.
Speaking at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Vettel said the device — fixed at three points including a central pillar in front of the driver with a protective loop above his head — was not pretty.
The safety arguments outweighed any aesthetic objections, however.
“I can understand why people say it does not belong on a Formula One car,” he told reporters. “But on the other hand times are changing and we are moving forward.
“Offer that to Justin Wilson some time ago, and he would take it and we would all be happy to take it to help save his life,” continued the German, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.
“You can’t turn back the clock, but in knowing that something is there which helps us to save others, it would be ignorant and stupid to ignore it.”
The governing FIA announced last week that the halo would be introduced next season as the best solution to a problem that has troubled the sport for years.
The FIA presented its findings to reporters on Thursday, saying the halo offered more protection against both larger objects such as bouncing wheels and also smaller, scattered debris.
Visibility was better than on a Le Mans sportscar and only one of the 20 drivers had raised getting out of the cockpit quickly as a critical concern.
The halo will have a sole manufacturer and can be painted to fit in with team liveries. All new cars in other FIA open cockpit series will ultimately incorporate it and it could also spread to America.
Vettel, a four times world champion, tested a transparent ‘shield’ in practice for the British Grand Prix but reported that alternative device made him feel dizzy.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso was among a majority agreeing with Vettel on the halo.
“If this is the most effective way to protect heads, it’s more than welcome,” said the Spaniard.
A handful remained opposed, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean saying the announcement marked “a sad day for Formula One”.
Renault’s Jolyon Palmer went further, telling reporters it would “be the end of Formula One as we know it”.
“I think it’s an over-reaction to problems in other series,” he added.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)