Jules Bianchi’s father Philippe feels Formula One “must go further” with cockpit safety after being left unconvinced by the new Halo device.
Kimi Raikkonen became the first F1 driver to run with the Halo closed cockpit system during Thursday morning’s testing in Spain. Raikkonen tested the driver’s visibility of the Halo for two laps at the Circuit de Catalunya – the first time the system has been seen on an F1 car during a public session – before his Ferrari team removed the installation.
The Halo, which features a single column down the centre, is designed to shield drivers from flying debris and prevent the sort of accident that killed Henry Surtees last summer. Surtees, the son of the 1964 world champion John, was killed after he was hit on the crash helmet by an errant tyre while competing in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch.
The F1 driver Bianchi also succumbed to the devastating injuries he sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix in July, although it is not believed improved head protection would have saved the Frenchman. But Bianchi’s father says the Halo device does not provide a total fix for the dangers of an open cockpit and called on F1’s governing body, the FIA, to do more when it comes to driver safety.
“I consider that this is a step forward in terms of security,” Bianchi told the French television channel Canal Plus. “It is obvious that in the case of when a wheel comes off, this system would be effective. However, in the case of small debris, as Felipe Massa and Justin Wilson [the Indycar driver who was killed last August] had, that wouldn’t have changed anything. So this is a step forward, but it does not solve everything.”
Bianchi says such a concept would not have helped his son in his accident at Suzuka in October 2014. “For Jules, it would have changed nothing, because it’s the extremely violent deceleration that caused the damage that we know to his brain,” Bianchi said. “I think developments of the HANS system to better absorb big deceleration in a severe impact could help in this case.”
Standing for Head and Neck Support system, the HANS device works in conjunction with the driver’s helmet and seatbelts to drastically reduce the forces exerted on the head and neck during an accident.
“This is obviously not me who would raise myself against something that brings more security to drivers, but the version of this Halo system did not convince me and has yet to be perfected,” said Bianchi. “Aesthetically, it’s pretty bad, and I wonder what the driver gets to see behind the Halo. The FIA wished to act after Jules’s and Justin’s accidents, but it must go further.”