Triple Formula One world champion Niki Lauda thinks the sport’s DNA could come under threat if its recent safety push, which includes the planned introduction of the Halo cockpit protection device in 2017, goes “too far”.
Having selected the Halo over the Red Bull-designed Aeroscreen, the FIA is currently carrying out a final series of tests on the system ahead of making a definite decision in the coming weeks.
The governing body has been looking to enhance driver safety for several years, with the deaths of Dan Wheldon, Maria de Villota, Jules Bianchi and Justin Wilson making the matter all the more urgent.
“If you go too far with these things [Halo], it’s no wonder that fewer people are watching these days,” Lauda wrote to Motorsport Magazine’s Nigel Roebuck.
“I think – in a very respectful way – that the DNA of Formula 1 should be maintained, and we’re slowly going to destroy it if we keep on inventing what are – for me – too many safety issues.
The Halo has drawn mixed reactions since Ferrari gave the device its debut in this year's pre-season testing. While some like Nico Rosberg are in favour of the system others are firmly against it, most notably Lewis Hamilton who called it the “worst looking mod in F1 history”.
Despite nearly losing his life at the 1976 German Grand Prix, Lauda fears the sport might become too sanitised and end up driving the fans away.
“Because of improvements in the cars and tracks, Formula 1 has never been as safe as it is today,” the Austrian added.
“So now the question for me is how far can we go on safety issues without losing the interest of the people? If someone says he wants to make $40m a year, with an easy car to drive, and no risk, this is not reality…”