F1 deal with halo safety device glitches


Melbourne (AFP)

Formula One bosses say they are working on glitches with the new cockpit protection halo device after concerns over the visibility of grid starting lights and impaired on-board camera shots from cars.

The halo was introduced to F1 this season after years of research and development to protect drivers from flying debris and crashes following the fatal accident of Jules Bianchi at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

The new protection device has been met with a mixed reception, with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff theatrically declaring he would take a chainsaw to the safety system if he could because of its weight.

Following opening practice for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix season opener in Melbourne, a few more niggling problems emerged.

Some drivers expressed concerns about whether the introduction of the halo would make seeing the start lights more difficult, depending on where they were on the grid.

The sport's regulators FIA responded by adjusting the start light gantry in Melbourne to allay any worries about visibility.

It reduced the height of the main set of lights at Melbourne's Albert Park track and instructed the rest of the circuits on this year?s calendar to follow suit.

Another issue was the interference of the halo in on-board camera shots from cars.

The F1 organisation is limited on what it can do to improve the situation with available camera housing points.

All 20 cars are currently obliged to carry a camera for the overhead shot from the top of the airbox.

The noticeable issue was with the "chassis shot", which provides a view over the driver's shoulder that is now almost completely obscured by the halo.

"One thing that strikes me is that a good 50 percent of the useful screen is black," Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said.

"It's early days. I'm sure with feedback we'll think of clever ways to do it."

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel reckons he has a way to help fans identify drivers now that they can no longer rely on their coloured helmets, which are obscured by the halo.

"We can't negotiate the position of the halo, we can't put it at the back of the car so maybe it should be up to us to design the halo, just to add an element to what makes it different from the rest," the Ferrari driver said.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting doesn't believe the halo stops fans from identifying drivers.

"We've made sure that all the numbers on the cars are in exactly the same places (as last year)... I'm fairly convinced that fans won't need to resort to try and identify drivers helmet colours to know who's in the car," he said.