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Sir Jackie Stewart: Halo opposition similar to criticism of my 1960s safety push

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Is Halo right for Formula One? (2:16)

Jennie Gow and Sam Collins talk at Force India's factory about how Halo will affect the cars in the 2018 season. (2:16)

Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart says the opposition to Halo is no different to the criticism he received for trying to "kill" Formula One by pushing for safety in the 1960s and 1970s.

Stewart is credited for helping F1 reach its current level of safety through a one-man crusade he started during his years as a driver in one of the sport's most dangerous eras. Though seen as a pioneer today, at the time Stewart was attacked by media, fans and even some of his fellow drivers for what they perceived to be ruining the fundamentals of the sport.

The decision to implement Halo for the 2018 season has been hugely controversial, with Mercedes chief Niki Lauda claiming the cockpit protection "destroys the DNA" of a sport which has always featured open cockpits. Stewart says the tone of the criticisms of Halo sound familiar.

"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]," Stewart told Autosport. "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 One 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 One -- I mean, the full-face helmet was criticised because you couldn't see the driver's face so much."

The Halo is part of motorsport's governing body the FIA's push to prevent future injuries and deaths caused by flying pieces of debris. Research into cockpit protection started in 2009, when Felipe Massa suffered life threatening injuries when he drove into a loose coil at the Hungarian Grand Prix just a week after Henry Surtees was killed by a flying tyre in a Formula 2 race.

In 2015, calls for cockpit protection intensified after former F1 driver Justin Wilson was killed by loose debris in an IndyCar race at Pocono. The Englishman died just a month after Jules Bianchi succumbed to injuries suffered in a head-on collision with a recovery vehicle at the Japanese Grand Prix, though the inquest into that incident found cockpit protection would have made no difference to the outcome.

In 2016, F1 extensively tested the Halo device, while Red Bull also trailled a concept known as Aeorscreen. At this year's British Grand Prix, championship leader Sebastian Vettel tested the Shield device but complained it made him feel sick, prompting F1's Strategy Group to vote in the Halo for 2018.

It is expected several new Halo designs will be tested before the end of this season, with the FIA keen to find a thinner design to those seen so far.