Halo and F1: Between a rock a hard place

Is Halo right for Formula One? (2:16)

Jennie Gow and Sam Collins talk at Force India's factory about how Halo will affect the cars in the 2018 season. (2:16)

The FIA got itself between a rock and a very hard place from the moment it was announced that something needed to be done about increasing head protection. The understandable discussion and outrage over the Halo is, regrettably, a waste of time. It doesn't matter that 99 percent of comment across social media is negative -- some of it vehemently so. The Halo is happening. Period. The problem is that this safety innovation, unlike others, is literally in your face. Or the driver's face, to be more precise.

Had nothing been done, the bottom line is that in the event of serious head injury, motor racing would be torn to pieces for failing to act on an area previously identified as having a safety shortcoming. It doesn't take much to imagine critics, led by misinformed columnists revelling in the poignant aftermath of tragedy, climbing on high horses and galloping across such emotionally fertile ground. Names such as Bianchi, Surtees, Wilson and Massa would be used as 'told-you-so' weapons without recourse to reality and the fact that, in some instances, the Halo would have not helped.

The need to immediately apportion blame in the absence of protection would steamroller reasonable argument about the sport's inherent hazards and make it seem callous: such is the price of social media fanning a sometimes hostile society's apparent need to instantly name and shame.

And don't think common-sense correspondents, whose job it is to report on F1 on a regular basis, would be able to offer the necessary balanced view. Their bosses, many of whom have no understanding of motor racing and see it as an expensive, self-serving irrelevance compared to the likes of their beloved football, would be only too ready to stick the editorial boot into such an easy target as a racing driver in intensive care.

And then there are the lawyers, perpetually poised on starting blocks positioned outside the medical centre; an unpleasant aspect of contemporary life that F1's American owners will be only too aware.

The FIA, for the best of reasons, have given themselves no alterative but to act. They've chosen the Halo, not on a whim, but on the best available evidence. The Halo would have made no difference in the case of Jules Bianchi; it probably would have done nothing to deflect the wayward spring heading towards Felipe Massa. But it might have saved Justin Wilson and, almost certainly, Henry Surtees. (And don't use the argument that wheel tethers have changed all that; Sergio Perez proved in Baku that wheels can still come adrift.)

The Halo is what it is. And, yes; it's definitely ugly. In the extreme. But here's the thing. Don't tell me the nose wings on current F1 cars are pretty. Compared to the front of, say, the McLaren MP4/4, they are an abomination. But no one says anything because we've grown accustomed to these ridiculously expensive pieces of aero excess that get snagged at the first hint of close racing and spray carbon fibre shards all over the race track.

On the other hand, we have accepted the increase in cockpit side protection that almost buries the driver, but does so for his own good despite the fact that spectators can no longer see him at work.

There are complaints that the Halo goes against the traditions of the sport; that there must always be some element of risk. That objection is raised each time an advance in safety is mooted, even though, despite these worthwhile steps, motor racing by its very nature will never be entirely without danger.

The Halo is indeed horrible -- at the moment. F1 ingenuity being what it is, the shape will be refined and, eventually, become an accepted part of the car. It's the least-worst option and, for better or for worse, it's going to happen. Because, sadly, it has to.