Comparing F1's Halo to IndyCar's windshield

Up close with Williams' FW41 (1:10)

Get a closer look at Williams' 2018 challenger, the FW41. (1:10)

And so the Halo debate gathers further momentum as the first 2018 cars are unveiled.

Difficult to tell from the images but, on the face of it, the black Haas Halo blends reasonably well into the car -- or should that be, into the crafty charcoal background -- whereas the Williams version in white sticks out like the sore thumb it undoubtedly is. But as mentioned before, it's here to stay whether we like it or not.

Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe isn't necessarily making excuses for the Halo when he says "by the second race nobody will notice it any more". Perhaps not the second race, but certainly by Abu Dhabi in November when, if the coming season is like any other, the fuss over the Halo's undeniable ugly appearance will have been buried beneath any number of issues that are waiting to ignite social media.

More significant is Lowe's assertion that the intention of the Halo is to deflect chunks of debris rather than the wayward spring that struck Felipe Massa such a potentially devastating blow. Is it fair to ask 'Why not?' and cite the aeroscreen tested (briefly) by IndyCar?

In theory, a screen would do the business in the case of small objects but the Indycar test (and the positive but largely uninformed hype generated in social comment) has actually muddied the waters at this stage. These are early days in the screen's development, much as it was when F1 investigated the so-called Shield and rejected it.


IndyCar's first on-track test of windscreen prototype

Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon tested the windscreen prototype at the ISM Raceway in Arizona.

This was explained during an FIA briefing at the Hungarian Grand Prix last July. Laurent Mekies, the safety delegate and F1 deputy race director, went to great lengths to detail the comparison tests between the Halo, the shield and other devices such as roll bars in front of the cockpit.

On the evidence available at the time, the Halo came out (no pun intended) on top. Since the teams were desperate to get on with their 2018 designs, a decision had to be made -- with 'let's wait a bit longer' not being an option given the FIA's public commitment to offering protection in what Lowe describes as "the biggest remaining risk in Formula One to the drivers".

It's no surprise, then, that Mekies should now be talking about reducing the thickness of the Halo's 20mm central strut. This is not, as has been suggested, a knee-jerk reaction, but part of the on-going process outlined in Hungary. The reduction will improve visibility, but that is not to say the strut is a hazard in the first place. The only visual offence is aesthetics since drivers will apparently quickly forget it's there, much as you do windscreen wipers.

In any case, the FIA is observing IndyCar's progress with the aeroscreen and the hope has to be that it works sufficiently well to encourage change in F1 -- albeit some way down the road now that the Halo route has been chosen.

The most telling comparison for the moment is that the Halo is ready to race -- and potentially save lives -- whereas the aeroscreen, despite early enthusiasm, is not.