What is the Formula One halo, and how does it save lives?

Several drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Zhou Guanyu, Charles Leclerc and Romain Grosjean have admitted that the halo saved their lives.


What is the Formula One halo, and how does it save lives?

Zhou Guanyu's accident in 2022 British GP (Image via Daily Star)

The Halo is a safety device designed to protect drivers in case of a fiery crash or an accident. Formula One is all about speed and thrill. The drivers focus on the competition. They provide entertainment for the fans. Apart from the fun side, the sport can be really dangerous. Hence, the halo was introduced as one of the many safety measures.

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The halo is one of the best inventions in Formula One. It has protected several drivers and saved their lives. It was introduced in Formula One only in 2018. The other open-wheel racing series, such as IndyCaralso make use of the halo. The FIA made it mandatory for the series to use the halo. The drivers’ safety is the priority in Formula One. Over the years, the weight of the car has increased. This is due to additional features for safety concerns.

All the Formula divisions use the halo: formula 2, 3, 4, and Formula E. The teams must adhere to these rules set by the FIA. The halo is compulsory, every car must have one. If they do not, they will have to suffer the wrath of the FIA. It was introduced to improve the safety of drivers.

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What is the Formula One halo?

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Halo is made of titanium

The halo is a curved bar placed in the cockpit of a Formula one car. It goes around the driver’s head. Halo is made of titanium and weighs approximately 7kg. It is a cockpit protection device. The team does not develop this safety device, it is made by an external manufacturer chosen by the FIA. All the cars have the same specifications.

It is interesting to note that the FIA led a simulation. They used data from 40 terrifying crashes in Formula One. The results were unbelievable. With the use of the halo in the simulation, there was an increase in the survival rate of the drivers by 17 percent. This device is one of Formula 1’s biggest successes ever.

How does the halo save lives?

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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collision from 2021 Italian GP (Image via Marca)

The halo device is designed in such a way that it can withstand a lot of force. It does not get squished. It is made out of aeronautics-grade titanium. The safety device is very thin and allows the drivers to see past it. It protects the driver’s helmet and does not allow large debris to pass through.

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Many drivers are alive today because of the halo. In 2022, at the British Grand Prix, Zhou Guanyu met with a horrifying accident. His Alfa Romeo flipped over and skated through the tyre barrier. The teams and other drivers held their breath after this unfortunate event. The Chinese driver was thankful for the halo. He tweeted saying the halo protected his life. Zhou Guanyu’s accident was one of the scariest moments in Formula One.

In 2021, Lewis Hamilton barely escaped a terrible accident involving Max Verstappen. Both the drivers were fighting for the championship. During the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton met with a crash, and Verstappen’s car landed on top of his Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton’s words after the race outlined the importance of Halo. He stated, “I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on the head by a car before, and it is quite a big shock for me. I feel very, very fortunate today. Thank God for the Halo which saved me, and saved my neck.”

In 2020 Romain Grosjean met with a horrible accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix. He lost control of the car, and it slid across the track. It hit the barrier and ripped in half. It is regarded as one of the scariest crashes ever. The world stopped at that moment. Everyone wanted to know if Grosjean was all right. Thankfully the halo on his car remained intact. Hence, he did not have contact with the barrier and survived to tell the tale without any major injuries. The Formula One community was grateful he got out safely. Romain Grosjean’s car was now on display at F1 Exhibition in Madrid. 

The first incident where Halo was hailed as a lifesaver occurred in 2018.  Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc crashed in Spa. Fernando Alonso’s Mclaren was launched over Charles Leclerc’s Alfa Romeo. The Halo helped Leclerc from the highspeed hit of McLaren tyres which would have been fatal. 

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Formula 1 drivers initial thoughts on the halo

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Zhou Guanyu’s accident in 2022 British GP (Image via Autosport)

The halo initially attracted criticism from drivers and teams. They did not like its appearance. Max Verstappen felt that it took away the essence of a Formula One car. Lewis Hamilton mentioned in 2017 that it was the worst-looking modification. Charles Leclerc confessed in 2018 that he was not fond of the halo initially. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff also did not like the design.

Though the initial thoughts on the halo were negative, things have changed. The sport is thankful for this invention. The drivers now call it the best innovation in Formula One. It all comes down to safety. And the halo provides it. If it had been developed a decade ago, many lives would have been saved. It is not too late now, the Formula One world is grateful for the halo. If such safety devices were available, the F1 world might not have lost Ayrton Senna. 

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