Formula 1 faces a crunch meeting at Heathrow on Friday, when technical chiefs are due to get together to try to make progress in agreeing a 2017 rules overhaul to make cars faster.

By: Adam Cooper, F1 reporter

Formula 1 faces a crunch meeting at Heathrow on Friday, when technical chiefs are due to get together to try to make progress in agreeing a 2017 rules overhaul to make cars faster.

But while there remain disagreements over the scope of aerodynamic revisions, there is one key item on the agenda where all those present will be pulling in one direction and hope to produce some definitive answers.

Following years of research, and growing pressure following the deaths of Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson, understands that the FIA's Charlie Whiting will propose that a cockpit protection system is introduced in 2017.

There is strong support for the move from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), who are keen to see something implemented sooner rather than later.

And the bigger picture is that anything that F1 decides upon will eventually been introduced to other categories around the world, so this is a key decision for the sport.

Halo concept

Whiting and FIA safety expert Andy Mellor have been examining a range of solutions in recent years, starting with the jet fighter canopy idea, and that process took a huge step forward in 2015.

The Halo idea – originally suggested by Mercedes – has emerged as the best of the three options which have all undergone extensive testing.

It remains a concept, and the details are up for discussion, as there are still some question marks over forward visibility at places like Eau Rouge, and even in regard to the start lights, and the structural implications for the chassis will have to be fully examined.

However, the FIA is now determined to introduce it for 2017. In essence it's time to stop talking and get on with it.

Driver support

The GPDA has thrown its weight behind the plan for a change as early as 2017, with chairman Alex Wurz having kept a close eye on developments.

"They've done a lot of tests and it has intensified over the last year," Wurz told "It was intensified because of all the accidents we've had, and not just in F1.

"As a result the research became very thorough, and everyone was looking for a solution which is implementable in F1, but also other racing categories, and which doesn't throw up any negatives, like extraction.

"But it also had to have cost efficiency, weight and so on. And in order to be very swift in its implementation, and ticking most of the boxes, the best solution now is the Halo."

If you think it is odd for cost to be mentioned in connection with such a key F1 safety feature, when teams spend hundreds of millions, it has to be pointed out that this is a design that it is hoped will trickle down to other more cost-mindful series.

Wurz added: "Maybe in the far future we will move to jet fighter cockpits with the closed canopy, but that is too heavy at the moment, it's too expensive, it would need a longer time to look at this solution.

"Maybe that will happen, because it has a few other interesting aspects. But the experts and drivers agree that the Halo should come in, and we hope it's just a formality on Friday that the technical directors agree.

"They will have lots of things to discuss, and one of them will be the frontal head impact protection. But they should be well aware of the research.

"It's on the grounds of safety, and in theory the FIA could decide it by themselves, but it requires a structural change to the chassis, and it's obviously in the nature of everyone involved to work together."

Recent tests

Wurz took part in presentations in Austin, where the various solutions were shown to the drivers, and later to the media. At that stage it was not clear whether 2017 was a practical date for implementation, but now it is.

"It has accelerated, because in Austin they were still waiting on field tests, which Andy Mellor finished last week," he said.

"They fired objects at various of the protection methods, from different angles and so on. And the Halo came out as the fastest way to tick most boxes, for debris and heavier objects."

And does that includes impacts with flying cars?

"I'm not sure with the scope of current knowledge you can construct a car where you can protect a driver 100 percent from a sideways flying car," explained Wurz.

"All of these things you have to trust the experts, they are doing as much as they can without changing everything and we are driving in tanks that weight 2000kgs.

"With what we know now, everyone in the loop is satisfied, and in agreement for a swift implementation. That's how I understand it.

"I don't know of course the technical aspects of implementation speeds and any issues that one of their clever brains might come up with, and which was not thought about.

"There's a lead time of 12 months, and many things have been implemented in a shorter notice period. But it's not that it's demanded or decided, it is still in an open loop conversation. I would think it should come, and I would hope so."

FIA dialogue

The important thing is that the drivers want something to be done. Their support has been communicated to the FIA.

"We had a meeting last year, with all the drivers, where we said we wanted increased head protection," continued Wurz.

"We put our trust in the FIA, and as a consequence they have shown us this research, and now we've said, 'Yes please go ahead we really like it, and you have our full support.'

"In fact we had two meetings and lots of emails and letters, and that's where we are.

"We trust the FIA researchers, because they are very good in what they do. We've seen it in the past. Don't forget where F1 has gone over the last 30 years with safety."

New-look F1

Any solution will inevitably make cars appear very different, and that new look will take some time to get used to.

However, the 2017 package already includes cosmetic aspects such as swept back wings and sidepods designed to make cars look more exciting. The halo could be part of that overhaul.

"In the research world it's always function first, and then design," says Wurz. "The function is kind of signed off in most of the aspects.

"It still needs to be calculated for strength and load, but there's enough time to do that. I'm sure that it can be made so that it looks cool, and maybe even looks cooler.

"But at the end of the day it's really uncool if we have another injury or accident."

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