Sebastian Vettel is a bit miffed with the recent criticism of the Halo cockpit protection system and has accused its critics as the harbingers of doom.
In a heated driver press conference, Vettel was pissed off with the opposition to the Halo preotection system that will be discussed by the FIA later today. Lewis Hamilton was one of the drivers to come out against the cockpit system after a presentation in Hungary.
— Tobi Grüner 🏁 (@tgruener) July 28, 2016
Vettel didn’t mince his words in his response to the criticism, he said,
“I am a bit surprised because it sounded as if we were clear about what we want in the future. We had a vote amongst the drivers and I think 90-95% voted for it so I don’t know why all of a sudden it comes up the way it does.
I think it is the wrong impression as the majority have said. We don’t like the looks of it but I don’t think there is anything that justifies death.
We’ve always learnt from what happened, incidents on track, and tried to improve. That will be the first time in human history that we have learned the lesson but we don’t change. I think it is up to us that it does happen otherwise I think we would be quite stupid.”
– Sebastian Vettel
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) July 28, 2016
Vettel is right that the aesthetic of the car is secondary to the safety of the drivers, but this is racing, not a world-leading health and safety conference. Some of the drivers who have tested the system have complained about visibility anyway, so what’s the point in adding a safety device that partially impairs the view of the driver? That leads to situation where there are more accidents, but better protection.
Nico Hulkenberg, who was sitting next to Vettel in the press conference, quickly added,
“I think there are some mixed opinions amongst the drivers. Some favour it, some don’t favour it. Obviously the aesthetics are not so good, it doesn’t look very attractive.
Yes, in some cases it would have been probably better and saved lives but as it is I think F1 is pretty safe and we also have to keep an element of danger there to keep it exciting, keep it spectacular.
It’s not in our hands what’s going to happen with it. Today there is a meeting about [the] Halo and we’ll wait and hear from that.”
– Nico Hulklenberg
— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) July 28, 2016
How safe does the audience want the drivers to be? Is the idea of safety in F1 something that would naturally emerge if it didn’t get any traction in the press? A byproduct of this potential amendment on driver safety is a direct result of the tragic incident that claimed the life of Jules Bianchi in 2014. But that incident was nothing to do with the safety of the Marussia he was driving, it was scenario based. If the crane recovering Adrian Sutil’s Sauber hadn’t been where it was (and it shouldn’t have been), then this paranoia surrounding safety in Formula One wouldn’t exist.
Maybe if the focus was shifted onto how to make all on-track recovery vehicles safer, then the racing cars would keep their ‘element of danger’, but the map in which they race would become a lot safer.
Of course, to focus on the safety of recovery vehicles would be an admittance by the FIA that something went wrong in Suzuka 2014 that makes them accountable. So let’s focus on how to make the racing cars safer, without paying much attention to how safety around the track would be much more beneficial.