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Inevitably, nothing focuses emphasis
on racing safety like tragedy, and the loss
of both Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson
to head injuries in racing accidents has
helped spur the drive to enhance
open-wheel cockpit head protection.
The FIA’s “halo” system was given a
trial run by Ferrari in Formula 1’s
pre-season testing, and the governing
body indicated it likely would be instituted
for F1 in 2017. That didn’t sit well with
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg,
although other drivers seemed at least
grudgingly accepting of the concept.
Pre-season attention on cockpit head
protection advances gets side-swiped
by Alonso’s Melbourne barrel-roll
TO A CRUNCH
Then came F1’s Australian season-
opener, and the first big shunt of the year
as Fernando Alonso’s McLaren climbed
over the back of Esteban Gutierrez’s
Haas and into a sickening series of flips
that obliterated his new MP4-31 (and its
Honda engine, scratching one precious
power unit from Alonso’s stash of five).
The two-time world champion climbed
from the wreck seemingly unscathed,
although he was later determined to have
suffered a partial lung collapse and rib
fractures that forced him to miss the
subsequent race in Bahrain.
The FIA was fine-tuning its clampdown on F1
pit communications to the drivers during the
races up to the last minute. Team principals
warned of safety implications, likely ensuring
plenty more banter on the subject.