How a “halo” in Formula 1 saves lives

The scenes take your breath away. Fear the worst. Shortly after the start of the British Grand Prix, Formula 1 driver Zhou Guanyu slid headfirst through the gravel bed after contact with another car and was thrown over the tire wall. After anxious minutes it is clear: He is fine. How can that be? The answer: A part that was sometimes scorned and derided at the launch becomes a double lifesaver on this day at Silverstone.

It would not have needed further proof of the usefulness of the Halo cockpit protection. Not on this day and not in general anyway.

In 2018 it saved the young Charles Leclerc in Spa from brutal consequences after an accident at the start, in 2020 it helped Romain Grosjean survive the terrible fire crash in Bahrain and in 2021 it also protected record world champion Lewis Hamilton from a massive head injury when the Red – Max Verstappen’s Bull racer jerked over his head in Monza and came to a stop there.

We’re talking about the halo. In German “halo”. The simple and important task of the cockpit protection system: save lives. A roll bar with three struts made of the light metal titanium stretches over the driver’s head, weighs nine kilograms and is connected to the cockpit at three points. It should withstand the pressure of up to twelve tons.

Rosberg: Discussion closed

As sensible as the introduction in 2018 is and in retrospect seems overdue, the criticism of the component was immense. The Mercedes men Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff were against it, Max Verstappen found it ugly, Niki Lauda and Romain Grosjean also rejected it. The optics and aesthetics bothered many motorsport purists. Because the bar took the pilots the open cockpit. But there was much more in return.

Because the first bad crashes followed and the halo kept what the experts had promised. He simply saved lives. Cockpit protection had previously been discussed for years, after Jules Bianchi’s fatal accident (2014) the discussions picked up speed again. After test phases, the introduction in 2018.

After the Leclerc crash (2018), ex-world champion Nico Rosberg declared the discussions about the Halo introduction over. The criticism fell silent. It is probably one of the most spectacularly successful launches in the history of Formula 1. The former critics changed their minds. Hamilton knew exactly what he had on the halo after the 2021 crash. “Thank God the Halo exists. It saved me.”

Zhou Guanyu is walking through the paddock again

The same happened to Zhou. After the crash, he was checked through at the Medical Center on the track. The team quickly gave the all-clear. He’s fine. The Chinese even walked through the paddock again. The F1 rookie took to Twitter to say thank you. Its clear statements. “I’m fine, alright. Halo saved me today. Thanks everyone for your nice messages!”

A few hours earlier, the Halo system had probably saved a life. At the Formula 2 race at the same place. F2 driver Roy Nissany was hit by another car after a collision. The Halo system also helped here – at least the system repelled devastating injuries. But it did save his life.

Shortly after, Zhou got it too. The Alfa driver certainly also benefited from the improved monocoque, the survival cell in the car and the safety system HANS, the neck and neck protection. In addition, luck and Silverstone guardian angels. The main role, however, is likely to have been played by Halo – the most successful halo of all time.

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