We’ll answer this question at the beginning. We don’t know. But it’s going to be a big question of 2018 and 2019.
Open wheel racing, whether internationally in Formula One, or domestic with IndyCar, is facing an uphill battle in the fight for relevancy. With a youth culture continually moving away from a love of high powered automobiles, and major automotive manufacturers moving marketing and development resources toward movements like autonomous driving and eco-friendly, it’s an interesting period in automotive history.
One thing that’s universally bad for business, however, is death. Hence, major movements from both series to provide relevant head protection for open cockpits. Opting to move quickly in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s death at the Japanese Grand Prix, Formula 1 has opted to implement the maligned “halos” as a means of deflecting major objects.
Indycar, however, has put the movement on hold for a year, working to continue its development of a more revered deflection screen. Looking more the part of a jet fighter, the screen still requires a year of development, and in such IndyCar has instead opted for no extra protection in 2018 to “do it right” in the future.
Universally, F1’s “halo” systems are considered ugly. Distractingly so. In an era when the sport needs to hold on to the viewers it has, can they survive an era of even uglier cars in the name of safety?
Some would argue yes, they’ll be fine. An ugly overhead device doesn’t change the quality of the racing, or the sophistication of the cars, and at the heart of it that is, theoretically, what viewers look for.
IndyCar, on the other hand, is taking risk on another year of exposed drivers in favor of a more appealing look for the future. To their credit, it’s universally revered by fans.
Will it matter? Will F1 lose popularity? Will IndyCar gain popularity? Only time will tell.