Criticism of the Halo from Formula 1’s drivers has “surprised” FIA president Jean Todt because he says it is they who pushed for its introduction in the first place.
The FIA had announced it would introduce the Halo ahead of the 2017 season but then deferred its implementation by a year in order to carry out further testing. A number of drivers were outspoken about the cockpit protection device last year and a few remained so after the launch of the 2018 cars, but Todt says the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association [GPDA] were central to its approval.
“It is short memories… I was trying to remember how it came [about] and it was a completely legitimate request from the drivers,” Todt said. “16 December 2015, I got a letter that was signed by [GPDA directors] Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Wurz, urging us to decide for head protection for the drivers. And I said, ‘We are there, also to listen.’
“So immediately we asked the technical people as a priority to see what they could come out with. On July 27, 2016 they [the drivers] knew a meeting was going to happen, they said: ‘Don’t be weak. Please respect what we have asked you on safety.’ So we committed to taking their request into consideration because it’s a fair request. And here came the Halo.
“I must say I am so surprised, and you know I love F1 but I hate this part of F1. You have people who don’t [keep] their word. For me we are talking about the biggest asset in life: it is loyalty and [keeping] a word and having respect of what you have been undertaking.
“So we have respected that and some have forgotten that, but that is where we are.”
Todt says there should be more acceptance from those involved in motorsport because the Halo has been introduced to reduce the likelihood of a fatal accident.
“For me, the Halo is no problem and I would have hoped we would have had more support from everybody – the fans, the media – for something which is for safety. I mean, I’m amazed to hear some people say, ‘OK motor racing has to be dangerous, if [the worst] happens, it happens.’
“If we can avoid that, why should we not protect a life? Because we’re not only talking about Formula 1. In Formula E I did not hear one complaint, incidentally. Everybody is happy and saying, ‘Look what we’re going to do about it.’ I didn’t hear any complaints in Formula 2 (pictured above), I didn’t hear any complaints in Formula 3.”
With Mercedes’ Toto Wolff having said he would remove the Halo with a chainsaw given the chance, asked to reply to those comments Todt said: “If you allow me, I will not react to whatever has been said. It is a childish game.
“For me I love Formula 1. I think we should all love Formula 1 if we are in this business of motor racing. So I think it’s very inappropriate, whoever you are, to publicly deny something which is introduced.
“For me, constructive criticism is always good because it helps you move forwards. So constructive criticism is good, but public criticism which is not good for the sport, I don’t see the value.”