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Charlie Whiting press conference


Charlie, the Halo decision, what is the objection from the FIA to just bringing it in on safety grounds?
Charlie Whiting: The FIA has decided that we would go through the governance procedure as has been well stated in the past. The first step was yesterday in the Strategy Group, so that is exactly what we did. The decision was taken, as I believe you know, that simply because only three drivers have ever tried it, and they have only done a total of four laps, this was something that everyone felt was quite a relevant thing and it wouldn't really be feasible to expect, in the short term, to get the relevant number of laps with the Halo. That was the reason for introducing if for 2018 instead of 2017.

Was it yesterday an argument that in a worse-case scenario that if we have an accident that people will not say, 'well, the FIA had the Halo but did not introduce it'? Are you not afraid of this?
CW: It was mentioned, of course. But I think, equally, it would be very difficult to roll these things out at the beginning of the year and then find you've got a fundamental visibility problem. They felt that that was a real possibility and until it has been tested properly in the right environment, everyone felt it was best to defer it.

As far as the decision or clarifications that were taken yesterday, we were talking about the Halo, we were talking about the radio, we were talking about track limits and talking, possibly I believe, starts in the rain under safety cars and I believe there was one other you can't work under a red flag or something. Which of these has to go through the due process and which can be sorted out in a clarification?
CW: Let's start with radios: that's always been done under the heading of an interpretation of Article 27.1 and that is driver aids. What we decided was that we would be happy to take a more relaxed position on that provided that the full content of all the conversations was provided to the broadcaster with the sole intention of making sure spectators and fans get better content. Then, track limits; it was proposed by some that we should take a completely relaxed view on track limits but I felt that was inappropriate and I think we should carry on doing what we do. My principal aim has always been to get the track to enforce the track limits, if you see what I mean. I think by and large we have done that, but there are certain corners on certain tracks that do present us with little problems but we are getting rid of them one by one. Here we have a similar position to Hungary - Turns 4 and 11 in Hungary - Turn 1 here appears to be a similar sort of thing, with 93 cars going across there today. So we have to think carefully about what to do for tomorrow. The difficulty of allowing complete freedom and letting them go very wide there and no longer taking any notice of it, is that simply there would be a different track fundamentally and it would be faster and there would be less run-off area - so we couldn't possibly contemplate it. Safety Car starts, yes it was agreed that that should be done in the future, but that needs to be a proper rule change that goes through the process. But everyone seems to agree with that and we had a Sporting Working Group meeting on Wednesday afternoon in which the team managers also agreed with that. Red flags: a similar situation, the rules just need to be changed, but they agreed yesterday and that will have to go through the due process.

Regarding the Halo, you mentioned that it has not been tested properly in the right environment, but from the moment we first saw it in pre-season to the Strategy Group meeting we've just had, there have been 11 grands prix. Why was the Halo not run more during practice sessions than the four laps we saw it over the course of that period of time?
CW: This is something that we had to leave to the teams because we couldn't at that point feel as though we could actually insist upon trying to put it on one of the current cars. But there are also problems. If you talk to anybody from Red Bull, for example, they say they can't run Halo for more than two laps before the air intakes for the cooling of the engine and cooling of the gearbox start to be affected. What we are looking to do is make it clear that every driver has to try it for a whole free practice session during the course of this year. That would give us a proper way of going forward, to make sure that we don't get caught out by something that is very hard to change back. That's really the idea.

A Halo that springs out when a danger is present, how technically feasible is that in your point of view and what type of time frame would we face there?
CW: Are you talking about a sort of airbag-style deployment of a Halo? I've seen someone has sent me one of these designs, but I think it would be wholly impractical personally. I can't see how you would deploy it in the right period of time and the inventor, if we may call him that, misunderstands because the drivers are not going to see something coming and think 'oh, my goodness! I know, I'll push that button'. Honestly, I don't think that's feasible, but as you know we have tested extensively with the Halo and to a slightly lesser extent the Aeroscreen, but we think we are submitting those things to possibly the worst-case scenario and I think it is better to continue down that path and not try to do something completely new that might need another three years of development.

It's likely that Halo is a structural element of the car, so how would it be possible to consider to use it on next year's car if the monocoques of next year's car need to be ready by this stage at the end of July?
CW: The Halo is going to be a structural part of the car, yes. It's going to be the secondary roll structure which was formally, basically, the front roll hoop of the car, but I think now the teams have been designing the cars with Halo in mind but not with complete certainty. Now they have certainty about next year's design and they can adapt accordingly. I think there are some fundamental decisions that need to be made: weight distribution, for example, would be dependent and wheel base would be dependent on whether or not the Halo is nine kilos up high and all those sorts of things. They would all need to be taken into account, so the designers needed some clarity as well. They know now that they don't have to design for Halo for next year.

Are there any plans to have at least one or two cars run it in Spa because of the visibility in Eau Rouge, in Singapore at night time, in day and night in Abu Dhabi and whenever it is raining hard?
CW: We asked the teams yesterday all to look at the possibilities of running a car in Spa and Monza but that was before the decision was taken to defer it until 2018. But now I think we should look towards a structured plan where all teams can run it at some point during the season at all tracks. But my aim would be to get every driver to try it.

If the plan is for all teams and drivers to run the Halo at some time, are they going to use a standard version of the Halo or will they all have to produce it themselves?
CW: It will be a standard version of the Halo. A standard shape, of course, but dummy versions. They wouldn't be actual production Halos. They've all got the drawings, they all know exactly how big they have to be and where they have to mount, but they could make what is effectively a dummy one.

You keep talking about the Halo coming in in 2018; is the intention to introduce the Halo or is the intention to introduce frontal protection?
CW: At the moment it's Halo, but there will be some form of additional frontal protection. If, for example, the Aeroscreen can be redesigned to fit the free head volume - which is one of the stumbling blocks at the moment - that might be the way to go. But I think we need to look at visibility first, because that is the thing that is a little bit of an unknown. So we really do need to make sure that is not a sort of showstopper. But it really would be similar between the Halo and the Aeroscreen, I would imagine.

The clarification of radio that we've got at the moment, does this mean driver coaching is back on the agenda?
CW: Yes.

Is that a good thing?
CW: Yes.

Do you have a long-term view on it?
CW: My view doesn't actually matter, but being serious we have to look back to when the Strategy Group decided that there was too much radio traffic and it was detrimental to the sport. We were getting quite a few complaints, if I remember, from fans saying 'Why are they being told all these things? They should be driving them for themselves'. In the August of 2014 the Strategy Group decided that we should cut out nearly all radio conversations. We issued a note reflecting those views and everyone said 'Oh, it's too much, it's too much'. So we scaled it right back and we introduced bits and pieces and then we went to single clutch paddles and those sorts of things. Now the feedback is that we've gone too far and this actually has not been the best thing and the Commercial Rights Holder feels he can improve the content for the fans with the radio conversations. This is contingent upon the teams providing all the content from their discussions with the drivers, because before they had privacy buttons and they were chopping out great big chunks of it. So now they've got to provide everything to the broadcasters and this is seen as a way to improve the experience for the fans and spectators.

Charlie, is there no compromise with regards to the radio? As you said, initially it was cut out to get rid of things like driver coaching, lift and coast. Surely there must be some compromise solution that can be reached all round?
CW: There didn't seem to be much stomach for that yesterday. The feeling was let's keep it absolutely simple and as long as Bernie gets what he wants - the Commercial Rights Holder gets what he wants - for the show then I think we've done the right thing.

Looking purely at the safety research that has been done into the Halo, is it 100% proven it has a net safety gain or is there still the need to analyse for other unintended consequences in maybe other type of accidents where it can pose a safety risk?
CW: No, I think we've done a good enough risk assessment. The thing that is missing is the driver experience.

I think Niki [Lauda] expressed yesterday the concern for what happens if the car is lying upside down on fire, for obvious reasons. I know it's a very unlikely scenario nowadays but the Halo protects against very unlikely scenarios, especially next year when the tyres will be tethered much stronger than now. So why do you neglect one concern over the other?
CW: We're not neglecting it, it has been thought of. Now, for example, if a car turned over and was on fire I think it's quite unlikely … if it has been in an accident big enough to cause a fire then the driver probably can't get out by himself anyway. Then the first course of action will be for marshals to get there and turn the car over and this is the sort of thing you see quite regularly. So I have always felt that a car being upside down is always a worry, but the marshals are normally there very quickly and they would turn it back over. That's the way we've always felt about that particular scenario.

Coming back to the radio if we can Charlie, Christian Horner was just saying he wants the messages allowed to be broadcast from team managers to you. Would you be happy for that to go out?
CW: No, I don't think I would. I told him that yesterday, I think we need to sort this lot out first. We need to sort out all the team radio to the drivers before even contemplating something like that. We have private conversations with the teams and I don't think it's right… because the teams wouldn't feel comfortable about asking us the sort of questions that we get asked in the race if they knew the rest of the teams could all actually listen, or anyone could listen in to that. So I think that's a step too far.

I don't understand how you can differentiate - obviously at the start of a race and the end of a race parc ferme is over and you can do whatever you want to the cars - you are going to suspend that when there is a red flag?
CW: I'm sorry I'm not quite with you…

What you said about the red flags is that you might be able to change whatever you want on the car…
CW: That's right. Basically the principle is that when we suspend a race it is normally done after the safety car has been deployed - pick the cars up, then we bring them into the pit lane and we suspend the race, say after a couple of laps. If the safety car continued the teams would not be able to work on the car, they wouldn't be able to change the tyres and they wouldn't be able to do anything unless they came into the pits and suffered this time penalty concerned. So this is just the same thing. The timing doesn't stop either, it is a stationary safety car if you like and that is what we want to try and achieve, to make sure it is exactly the same as leaving the safety car out, only it's stopped. If you remember in Monaco in 2011, when we were building up to a great climax in that race with Vettel on very worn tyres and Jenson and Fernando had pulled right up and it was looking like a really good end. It was stopped, [they] changed tyres and the race fizzled out. That is what happened. I have been trying to talk them into it for 5 years.

Like in Australia this season?
CW: Yeah, but it is the same thing of course. They are allowed to change tyres and work on the car but now if the rule goes through next year we will not be allowed to work on the car or change tyres.

I believe there was a discussion about double yellows and potentially using a red flag to neutralise things and stop people improving. Is that correct?
CW: That is correct.

From this weekend?
CW: Yes. Ever since we had the Virtual Safety Car in 2015 and then this year we use it in free practice - well, we can use it in qualifying really but we tend now to stop if there is going to be a yellow flag for any length of time. The reason we didn't show a red flag in Hungary was simply that session had ended but some cars were behind Alonso's car and some in front, so I think the procedure would be to red flag it any time there is a double waved yellow flag. Then there will be no discussion.

Coming back to the Halo, are you happy as the FIA with the result of yesterday because there were some very good explanations to back it up but are you happy with that? And if so why did it go to the Strategy Group in the first place if you accept it wasn't ready for implementation?
CW: I think you misunderstood things slightly. My opinion doesn't matter when it comes to introducing something like that, it is a complete change of rules, a lot of rules had to be changed. We prepare the rules. We have done all of the testing and the only bit the Strategy Group felt was missing before they could finally confirm it was the drivers don't have any experience of it. That is the point that they needed before it could be properly introduced that is it really.

If you are going to red flag a situation like the Alonso one in the last race, do you leave yourself open to any driver who mucks up sector one on his final run is going to spin his car and it is going to lead to a lot of Monaco 2006s?
CW: Quite possibly, but I think we would be able to see that happening and I don't think that is any different to now because it could happen at any time, couldn't it? If you see what I mean: just a yellow is normally enough to prevent a driver improving but what we saw in Hungary it wasn't quite enough.

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