Renault driver Jolyon Palmer has described Formula One’s move to improve cockpit safety as unnecessary as the sport is already very safe.
The sport’s governing body, the FIA, are keen to increase driver head protection and a meeting of the Strategy Group in Geneva on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to develop the so-called ‘shield’.
The shield, a transparent screen which sits in front of the driver, was presented at the Chinese Grand Prix earlier this month, and it has now surpassed the halo, a device which was trialled last year but attracted criticism for its ugly appearance, as the FIA’s preferred option. But Palmer, who was also critical of the halo, is against its introduction.
“I am pleased that the halo is not coming, but I don’t want the shield either,” Palmer, now in his second season in the sport, said. “My views have not changed.
“Formula One is safe enough as it is. Drivers would not be racing in it if they were worried for their own safety. Everyone is still racing and Fernando Alonso is going to race in Indy 500 which is way more dangerous.
“I prefer the shield to the halo as it is less offensive visually, but it is still not necessary. It goes halfway. It can maybe stop some things, but not others. It is not as good looking as just a normal Formula One car and I prefer normal Formula One.”
The drivers had been asked to vote on the halo ahead of the new season, but their feedback was mixed. And the shield has also caused division in the paddock.
Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas are among those in favour, but Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean joined Palmer in their opposition.
However, Lewis Hamilton, who had described the halo as the “worst-looking modification in Formula One history”, and labelled the canopy – another concept trialled last year – as “a bloody riot shield”, is more sympathetic towards the shield.
“I quite like it,” Hamilton, 32, said. “It is pretty cool and definitely better than all the other options that have come to light so far, but whether they can make it work we shall see.”
The FIA are keen to improve cockpit safety following a number of high-profile incidents in recent years. Henry Surtees – the son of former world champion John Surtees – was killed in a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch in 2009 after he was struck by a tyre.
British driver Justin Wilson died at an IndyCar event in 2015 when he was hit on the crash helmet by flying debris.
Big Question: Is the aero screen safety device necessary for Formula 1 safety?