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
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’s F3 car landed upside down before righting itself
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 car pierced the barrier – halo still intact
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.