FIA president Jean Todt admits he was surprised so many Formula One drivers spoke out against the Halo device, as the biggest push for cockpit protection came from them.
The Halo has been introduced for 2018 amid significant controversy. Although drivers have now accepted the device, many had been vocal critics of it, particularly about how it looks on top of an F1 car.
Todt was unimpressed to hear those criticisms as he says the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) played an important role in it being made mandatory for the coming season.
“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.”
When told of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s statement he would take a chainsaw to the Halo if he had the chance, he said: “I will not react to what has been said. It is simply a childish game.
“I will only tell you for me, I love F1, and I think we all should love F1. I think it is very inappropriate whoever you are, just to publicly deny something which is introduced. For me, constructive criticism is always good because it makes you move forward. But public criticism which is not good for the sport – I don’t see the value.”
Todt is also surprised at how widespread the criticism of the Halo has been among fans considering the fact the Halo was introduced to reduce the risk of fatal accidents. “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 of whoever? Because we’re not only talking about F1. 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, I didn’t hear any complaints in Formula 3.”
“Halo is a safety device. It is human attitude to be reluctant to change, but once we know the change, after a lot of experiences and a lot of testing is good, we should implement it. Can you imagine how we will all feel if something would happen and if we would have had the halo it would not have happened?”