Six times the F1 halo proved its worth – and changed driver minds

F1

Be it F1, F2, F3 or W Series, the halo has been called into action more than a few times – and passed its tests with flying colours

TOPSHOT - Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) and Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen collide during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza, on September 12, 2021. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Hamilton was almost certainly saved from serious injury by the Halo

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

There was almost nothing in it at last weekend’s Italian GP – Max Verstappen’s right rear wheel was mere millimetres away from causing potentially serious injury to Lewis Hamilton as the Red Bull rode up onto the Mercedes: Pirelli tyre making contact with reigning champion’s crash helmet.

It could have been so much worse, and what prevented it from being so was the most significant Formula 1 safety development in recent years, which stopped the Red Bull wheel from settling fully on Hamilton’s head.

“Thank God for the halo,” Hamilton later said. “That ultimately saved me. I don’t think I have ever been hit on the head by a car before and it is quite a shock for me. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today.”

Toto Wolff said that he didn’t want to think of the consequences of the same crash without the halo; one of F1’s many converts to the device after initially saying that he wanted to take “a chainsaw” to the halo when it was first introduced.

First appearing on F1 cars, the titanium device, which is strong enough to support a double-decker bus, has since been extended to junior formulas, including F2 and W Series, keeping drivers safe from serious injury or worse.

Below, we look at six times the halo has emphatically stepped up to the plate when required.

 

Tadasuke Makino / Nirei Fukuzumi – Formula 2 – Barcelona, 2018

Early on after its introduction, the halo saw action when 2018 F2 rivals Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino came together, the former’s car landing on top of the latter’s in much the same way as Verstappen and Hamilton’s.

“I understand how the halo works now,” Makino said afterwards. “I don’t know what happened. It was a big surprise for me but without the halo I think the tyre would have hit my helmet.”

 

Charles Leclerc / Fernando Alonso – Formula 1 – Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

Leclerc Alonso

Alonso takes part of Leclerc’s Alfa with him after narrowly avoiding the Monegasque’s head due to the halo

Grand Prix Photo

The first shunt in F1 to involve the halo was Fernando Alonso’s smash with Charles Leclerc, the former’s McLaren launching over the latter’s Alfa Romeo.

An investigation afterwards confirmed that the halo was paramount in protecting Leclerc from injury, Alonso’s right front wheel imparting a 58kN impact upon Leclerc’s safety device – 46% of its 125kN FIA-prescribed load requirement.

Though the report deemed the McLaren wheel wouldn’t have made contact with the Monegasque’s crash helmet, its front wing endplate certainly would have done were it not for the halo – once more proving its worth.

“I have never been a fan of the halo but I have to say that I was very happy to have it over my head today,” Leclerc said later. “I felt the impact and looking at the image of my car it is quite spectacular.”

 

Alex Peroni – Formula 3 – Monza, 2018

Peroni

Peroni’s F3 car landed upside down before righting itself

DPPI

Heading out of the Parabolica at 2019 FIA Formula 3 meeting at Monza, Alex Peroni ran wide and hit a sausage kerb, launching his car into a huge aerial accident.

The car landed up-side down on top the barriers, also smashing through an advertisement hoarding en route.

Despite being knocked out and suffering a broken vertebra, the shunt could have been much worse – had the halo not been installed Peroni’s head and neck might well have taken the full force of the impact.

“The first thing that went through my mind when I watched the replay was that the halo saved my life,” Peroni said in an interview afterwards.

“I landed directly on my head and even though the halo was there, my helmet still hit the barrier. Without the halo, who knows what would have happened.”

 

Romain Grosjean – Formula 1 – Sakhir, 2020

The front part of Romain Grosjean's wrecked Haas on fire and embedded in the barrier

The front part of Romain Grosjean’s car pierced the barrier – halo still intact

DPPI

Last season, the halo underwent perhaps its greatest test and came through with flying colours.

At the 2021 Bahrain GP, Romain Grosjean’s Haas connected with Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri and speared into the barrier, suffering a now infamous fiery crash from which he was lucky to survive with only relatively minor burns.

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The Haas, aside from the monocoque and halo, was completely destroyed as it torpedoed through the barriers, the car’s split fuel line causing man and machine to be engulfed in a fireball.

Grosjean emerged from the flames before being pulled to safety by F1 medical staff – and was unequivocal in his stance on F1’s newest safety feature after that crash.

“I wasn’t for the halo some years ago but I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve brought to Formula 1,” Grosjean admitted in a video filmed from his hospital bed. “Without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.”

This was in some contrast to the verdict that he – the head of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, which often pushes for safety advancements – had had given in 2017.

“We don’t need anything,” he said. “I am against every halo or shield or whatever, it is not F1.”

 

Sarah Moore / Beitske Visser – W Series – Spa-Francorchamps, 2021 

It’s not just in F1 that the halo has shown how crucial it is to driver protection. Earlier this year the W Series witnessed a six-car pile-up at Spa-Franchorchamps’ Raidillon, which saw Sarah Moore’s halo deflect a wheel over her head and Beitske Visser’s car end up upside down, both protected by the safety device.

“Given the crash the worst could have happened quite easily,” Visser said afterwards. “Without the halos we believe there could have been multiple deaths.”

“For myself, Abbie [Eaton] came over the top of my car and the wheel of her car hit the halo and it damaged the plastic part on top of my helmet,” added Moore in an interview The Yorkshire Post.

“The halo saved me from having a big blow to the head. I am very thankful for that. When accidents like that happen it goes to show why all these things were brought in.”

 

Lewis Hamilton / Max Verstappen – Formula 1 – Monza, 2021

Last weekend’s crunch-up at Monza’s first chicane between the two 2021 title contenders once again brought the halo into sharp focus.

Verstappen’s right rear-wheel was still moving as it went over Hamilton’s crash helmet, the latter clearly saved from likely serious injury in the incident.

As mentioned above, the Mercedes driver was grateful for safety device’s protection, but this wasn’t the case several years ago.

“Please no!” he posted on Instagram at the time of its first test. “This is the worst looking mod in Formula 1 history.

Max Verstappen launched into the air by Lewis Hamilton at Monza 2021

Hamilton comes under scrutiny of Verstappen’s right rear tyre

Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

“I appreciate the quest for safety but this is Formula 1, and the way it is now is perfectly fine.”

His team boss Toto Wolff is another whose opinion has done a hairpin turn.

“I’m not impressed with the whole thing,” he commented at the launch of Merc’s ’18 car. “If you gave me a chainsaw, I would take it off. We need to look after the drivers’ safety but what we have implemented is aesthetically not appealing. We need to tackle that and come up with a solution that looks better.”

After last Sunday’s accident, Wolff came out saying “I don’t even want to think about if we didn’t have the halo.”

Though these drivers have certainly been saved from injury by the halo, has it been a matter of life or death every time? Martin Brundle, speaking in his Sky column yesterday, said it was difficult to conclude.

“I’m reticent to count the number of certain lives saved due to the halo, in my own personal experience I’ve been hit on the head three times by a flying racing car (Ayrton Senna 1983 F3, Patrick Tambay Monaco 1986 F1, and Jos Verstappen 1994 Brazil F1),” Brundle said.

“I also managed to hit my head on the barrier and racetrack in the same accident in Monaco 1984. We did survive incidents, but these latest safety additions are very much proving their worth not least in shunts like this one and Romain Grosjean’s in Bahrain last year.”