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Why are we still moaning about safety?

IndyCar

07 Oct 2019

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media

Last week IndyCar rolled out its new ‘Aeroscreen’ cockpit protection device for the first time, with Scott Dixon and Will Power sampling the Red Bull-designed device at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unlike ‘other’ similar solutions for open-cockpit cars, the Aeroscreen was met with a mostly positive response from onlookers. However, a selection of fans bandied around words and phrases like ‘hideous’, ‘overreacting’, ‘a mistake’, ‘grotesque’, ‘stupid’, and annoyingly, ‘danger is part of it’. That last one in particular irks me.

Drivers are humans. Sure, they risk their lives every weekend to keep us entertained, but they have family, friends, and in some cases, kids; yet we’re supposed to rob them of a chance to be safer just because the cars of yesteryear were inherently more dangerous? Of course motorsport is dangerous, it always will be to an extent, but to brush off a safety advancement simply because once upon a time it didn’t exist is, frankly, ridiculous.

Then there’s the pointless argument about aesthetics.

When the Halo was introduced in Formula 1 last year, there was talk from keyboard warriors about boycotting races simply because of the addition of a structure around the drivers’ heads. They worship these drivers, but they seemingly aren’t happy with seeing them protected. Strange.

 

The main complaint about the Halo is that they make F1 cars look ugly. A hilarious notion really, because in my opinion F1 cars haven’t looked great for several years. If looks were everything, wouldn’t the anti-halo brigade have walked away a long time ago? And anyway, watching Grands Prix nowadays I barely even notice the Halo. I won’t be alone either. It’s become part of the furniture, much like front wings that are as wide as the channel tunnel and wheelbases that are longer than the great wall of China.

The Halo has already saved lives – most notably Charles Leclerc’s at Spa in 2018 – and will continue to. The Aeroscreen will as well, and probably could have saved Justin Wilson’s life too. The Brit was killed after he was struck on the head by debris at the 2015 Pocono IndyCar race.

Who cares what it looks like? Of course the Aeroscreen solution isn’t the most handsome of things, but it looks a damn sight better than the Halo which is now used in almost every single-seater series on the planet. Even so, what something looks like is hardly the be-all and end-all.

If you’re still of the belief that looks are key, it’s worth noting that we’re seeing it tacked onto an existing car. When IndyCar introduces its all-new car in 2022 (it’s first since 2012), the aeroscreen will be fully integrated into the vehicle’s design, much like how the Halo blends in seamlessly with the second-generation Formula E car (below) which debuted in 2018.

Credit: Nissan/Newspress

The drivers, the only people actually affected by the Aeroscreen’s implementation, were extremely positive following its first roll out.

“I’m so happy that we have it,” said Power. “It’s really a huge step in safety, and I think it’s the best of both worlds. You’ve got the halo and you’ve got a screen, so I think that you’ll see other open-wheel categories follow suit. When you’ve driven it for a day, you’re going to feel naked without it.”

Five-time IndyCar champion Dixon added: “There’s actually a lot less load on the helmet. Visually, there’s been no issue.”

So there we have it. Drivers like it, it’s safer, and even if it mattered, it doesn’t look all that bad. Safety should always come first, regardless of what is does to a car’s appearance, and regardless of what people online who’ve never even sat in a racing car think.

It’s 2019. Safer racing cars you say? Bring it on.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media