Where did the F1 Halo come from?
Was Mercedes really the first one to come up with the Halo?
The inaugural season of F1's most talked about safety feature is over. Although the Halo arrived with a ton of backlash it proved it's worth in the Belgian Grand Prix were it prevented Fernando Alonso's airborne McLaren from hitting Charles Leclerc's head. Drivers became used to it and so did the fans as most of us sort of forgot about it because the racing was still good.
There's still some debate over the time it takes for drivers to get out, if they even can. Hulkenberg's scary flip in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix made him "hang like a cow" and not able to get out the car while it was still upside down. Situations like this still raise plenty of questions. "Why?" and "How?" being the most predominant. But one question nobody seems to ask is "Where?"
Where did they get the idea of putting a solid bar in front of the drivers to protect them from debris? Ferrari was the first team to do a track test with the Halo in 2016 but it was Mercedes who designed and proposed the first Halo in 2015. Does this mean Mercedes invented the Halo out of thin air? I don't think so.
The first F1 car to stick something right in front of the driver was the 1972 Eifelland-March E21. It was the first German F1 car since the Porsche 804 back in 1962. The name Eifelland comes from the team owner, Günther Hennerici. He turned to the world of F1 to advertise his caravan manufacturing business with the same name.
When self proclaimed aerodynamic expert Luigi Colani saw the first press release drawings of the E21 he contacted the team and proposed he'd design a better, more aerodynamic body. A job that usually takes weeks of designing and wind tunnel testing was done in just a couple of days by Colani and his team.
The car now sported an almost entirely enclosed body with a big intake placed right in front of the driver that would feed air directly into the engine. Placed on top of that intake was the rear view mirror. Due to it being well within the sight lines of the driver, it was a quick and easy way of seeing what was behind you without having to turn your head. Something you had to do with conventional side mounted rear view mirrors.
only the rear view mirror and central cooling vent were left.
Colani's outrageous design proved to be fast but very unforgiving when it came to cooling. The central intake just wasn't enough and the body was quickly ditched for a more conventional one with a more exposed engine.
Years later, in 1979, Colani would propose yet another idea to a different team. Porsche was keen on running the Indianapolis 500 and Colani graciously provided them with some drawings of three different cars, ranging from relatively sane to insane, which they could use without expense.
One thing shared across the three concepts is the same sort of rear view mirror placement as the one found on the Eifelland. Unlike the Eifelland however this mirror was integrated into a much stronger spine like structure that started at the front of the car. This would protect the driver from any large pieces of debris in case of a crash.
Porsche did show some interest but their IndyCar ended up looking nothing like one of the crazy designs from Colani. If they did it would have been the first open wheeler with this sort of driver protection.
Back in the present day the Verizon Indycar Series has chosen not to adapt the Halo from F1, quite ironic seeing as they almost were the first to feature a car with a Halo. Instead their focus has shifted on developing an Aeroscreen.
Where do you think the Halo came from? From the mind of the mad genius Colani, the labs of Mercedes or maybe even a different third party? Let me know in the comments.