Stewart: Halo criticism akin to 1960s F1 safety backlash
Sir Jackie Stewart says the current outrage surrounding the planned introduction of the Halo to Formula 1 reminds him of the backlash against his own F1 safety push half a century ago.
The triple world champion led a safety campaign in grand prix racing in the 1960s that was not popular with many fans and observers at the time.
And Stewart feels that people these days would not be so swift to condemn the Halo if they considered the toll of death in motorsport.
Stewart, who was speaking ahead of the launch of the Great British Racing Drivers Season on UKTV channel Yesterday, outlined his belief that using the Halo was a price worth paying if it kept drivers safe.
“My view is: if you can save a life and if some of these people – if they had been to as many funerals as I’ve been to and wept as much as I have and seen close friends die [they wouldn’t object],” he told Motorsport.com.
“That’s all finished because we’ve got technology that’s taken away that.
“I’m afraid I don’t have a negative of the Halo. I read correspondent’s columns that [say] ‘this is the end of Formula 1 for me, I’m out of it, I can’t stick with this.’ Well that was like people saying ‘Jackie Stewart’s going to kill motorsport’ because of track safety.
“I think that you have to have as much safety as you can find and to think that you are destroying motorsport and Formula 1 – I mean, the full-face helmet was criticised because you couldn’t see the driver’s face so much.”
Stewart also explained that, from his point of view, it is better to adopt a pre-emptive position when it comes to driver safety.
“Preventive medicine is considerably more important than corrective medicine,” he said. “Corrective medicine is [also] considerably more expensive than preventive medicine.
“The Halo, in my opinion, [is necessary] because Henry Surtees got killed – not by his wheel but by somebody else’s – well, that can happen any time.
“That was just bad luck – but why depend on luck?”
Stewart, who won 27 F1 races during his nine-year career in the category, went on to explain that advancements in safety areas did not excuse drivers from acting in a dangerous manner.
“There’s no point in me saying [previous eras were] ‘just dangerous and then you had to be careful and cautious and when men were men’ – bullshit,” he said.
“A racing driver hasn’t changed from [Tazio] Nuvolari and [Rudolf] Caracciola and before them.
“However, if you start taking liberties because you can have huge accidents that you know the fellow is going to survive, you might be a little bit more liberal with your driving behaviours.
“You can’t overdrive – you’ve got to drive in a manner which doesn’t create a situation where life is going to be taken.”
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