Jolyon Palmer feels that Formula 1 cannot “put a bubble” around drivers in its bid to prevent freak accidents with safety improvements such as the planned introduction of the Halo cockpit protection device for 2018.

Palmer has been a staunch critic of any kind of cockpit protection despite the FIA’s push to introduce the Halo for 2018, having completed a significant study into incidents it would have offered a more positive outcome in.

One of the most notable incidents studied by the FIA was the accident involving Henry Surtees in a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009, where Palmer was also racing.

Despite having a strong memory of the incident, Palmer refused to let it change his view on the essence of open-cockpit racing, putting it down as a freak accident.

“I was literally the car ahead of Henry, and saw the wheel that hit him in my live view. At the time, I didn’t even imagine that could happen to be honest,” Palmer said.

“I was a young, naive, racing driver. When that happened then of course it surprises you that there is actually some danger in motorsport, but I’ve carried on racing in my career for eight years and not had a worry at all about that, and that incident couldn’t have happened closer to me.

“I am not naive or disrespectful to that. I just think the whole essence of single seater racing is open top and I think Henry’s incident, we were racing on Brands GP, there were very fast corners, very little runoff, we were doing high speeds.

“The wheel tethers, they were already up to FIA spec at the time and they got improved after that, in Formula One we have even stronger wheel tethers.

“I think the problems from F2 back then and in IndyCar with Justin [Wilson’s] incident, they’re not problems we experienced in modern Formula 1 circuits where you’ve got huge runoffs at Copse or something.”

The FIA’s analysis found the Halo would have helped with incidents such as Romain Grosjean’s crash with Fernando Alonso at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix when he glanced across the cockpit.

“I have to take onboard what they say. I have not experienced it but it should help,” Palmer said.

“Maybe we’ve been very lucky, but for 60, 70 years in Formula 1, there has not been a fatality because of that reason.

“Maybe it could not happen in the future. I am not ignoring the risk because I have raced every time knowing there’s a bit of risk.

“But you cannot put a bubble around the drivers. There’s always going to be some problems.”


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