We’re just a month from the start of the 2018 Formula 1 season, and that means it’s debutante season, where squads take the wrappings off situations of extreme machines they’ve expended the offseason build. So far, the topic has appeared to be retro-chic. McLaren has gone for an “papaya” orange and blue livery for its MCL3 3 vehicle, inspired by the very early 1970 s racing machines. Ferrari’s SF-7 1H has returned to a classic ruby-red, dropping last year’s splashings of white. Cherry-red Bull is being cagey about its competition colors, disclosing its new RB14 in a “special edition” black livery.
When the cars line up on the grid in Melbourne, Australia, on March 25 th, they will share one feature that is totally new to the sport: a clunky seeming loop-the-loop of metal and carbon fiber, directly in the drivers’ eye line. This is the “halo, ” a T-shaped safety cage designed to protect the driver’s chief in crashes, protecting children by deflecting winging objects, like a wheel tos loose from a smash up ahead. This sort of threat is only one of the few remaining security hazards in F1 that hasn’t been engineered away, and killed Henry Surtees in Formula Two racing in 2009, and Justin Wilson in an IndyCar race in 2015. In 2009, F1 driver Filipe Massa was knocked unconscious by a thunderbolt that winged off another car.
F1′ s governing body, the FIA, has been considering ways to protect its drivers noggins since at least 2011. One possibility was a cockpit canopy, much like what you recognize on a fighter airplane. That came with questions about how drivers could exit their vehicle after a crash, and troubled devotees who have always known F1 as an open cockpit racing sport.
The thing we’re getting to know as the halo was first proposed by Mercedes in 2015 as a kind of compromise: It should deflect big winging perils, without too drastically changing the appear of private vehicles. A slim central pillar supports a loop-the-loop that wraps around the cockpit, only above the level of the driver’s helmet. Starting this season, it’s a must-have, and with everything else, comes with strict rules. The halo must withstand a force-out of over 12 tons in static tests, which entails all the manufacturers have had to add extra support to their automobiles. “You’ve got to design your chassis to take these loads–and they’re nothing trivial, ” McLaren chief technical officer, Tim Goss said in a press release. “You’re talking about a London bus sitting on the side of the halo.”