Christian Horner: Halo push could lead to autonomous F1 cars

Christian Horner believes the FIA was backed into a corner before announcing the introduction of Halo for 2018, a safety push the Red Bull boss is concerned could have drastic consequences on all forms of motor racing.

Formula One will introduce the controversial cockpit protection device for next season, which will be one of the most significant regulation changes in the history of the sport. The issue has sparked fierce debate in F1, with drivers split on its introduction and many fans upset with how it looks on the cars, while Mercedes chairman and three-time world champion Niki Lauda has claimed the device will destroy the DNA of F1.

The decision to implement is the culmination of the FIA's push to reduce the risk of drivers being fatally injured by flying objects and its belief the Halo presents the best existing solution. Red Bull trialled a concept of its own last year called Aeroscreen, while Ferrari tested a similar canopy-style device called Shield at the British Grand Prix -- though Sebastian Vettel cut that test short complaining the screen made him feel dizzy.

The Halo, initially designed by Mercedes, emerged in pre-season testing ahead of the 2016 season, a moment Horner feels left the FIA with no alternative but to ensure F1 had some form of cockpit protection in future.

"It's very difficult because when the Halo went on a car that created a very difficult position for the FIA, because as soon it was run, if ever there was to be an accident or a fatality and the Halo could have saved a life then it could be culpable for why didn't it introduce it when that technology existed," he said. "That's why we set off to have a look at the Aeroscreen to look at a more aesthetically Formula One-type introduction rather than the flip-flop you see as the Halo.

"Then out of that came the latest Shield that was quite immature but aesthetically was more pleasing than the Halo but has not had enough investment into it or enough time. The FIA have sort of been backed into a corner where the Halo is the only thing available to them."

F1 is the only series confirmed to be running the Halo currently, though the FIA hopes cockpit protection can be rolled out to every level of racing. Horner is concerned the push for safety could have unintended drawbacks and thinks the FIA needs to agree on a minimum amount of risk it accepts can never truly be eliminated from the sport.

"As a purist and a former driver, everything I drove in single seaters was open cockpit racing. You got into the car and you accepted the risks involved with open cockpit racing. The worry is with the introduction of the Halo is it will obviously now incorporate all formulas -- what do they do with go-karting now? There's hundreds of thousands of go kart drivers around the world, where does it stop?

"If you look at MotoGp, they don't have a roll-bar or stabilisers and there comes a point... the worrying thing is if you keep going down this avenue its safer to take the driver out. And then why do you need the driver? The car can be autonomous.

"But that's not what the concept of the sport is, there has to be an element of driver and the driver is accepting risk whenever they get out of the car. Now, what level is acceptable is something the FIA have the responsibility as the governing body to decide."

The FIA expects the final Halos will look better than the prototypes as they will be incorporated into the design of 2018 cars.