Five times the Halo proved integral for driver safety
The 2022 British Grand Prix may have seen Carlos Sainz take his maiden victory in Formula One ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. However, the biggest winner at Silverstone is not even a Formula One driver, but the driver protection system called the halo.
First introduced in 2018, the halo was designed to protect drivers’ heads in the event of an accident. But of course, there are times when people are resistant to change, so it did not initially sit well among fans, drivers, and teams in Formula One.
A lot of times, it was ridiculed for making sleek F1 cars look like they were wearing flip-flops. Even I would admit I wasn’t a fan of halo when it first appeared. The same goes with F1 drivers themselves who thought the halo further obscured their already limited vision around the cockpit. Not to mention, the halo added weight to the cars, which of course was a no-no when it comes to performance.
But over the years, and with the recently concluded Grand Prix at Silverstone, the system has proved time and time again that it is a necessary part of protecting drivers from serious injuries. And honestly now, we couldn’t even imagine a current Formula car being safe enough to race without the halo.
If you’re not convinced yet, here are the most recent moments in racing where halo proved to be a lifesaver.
Guanyu Zhou, Silverstone 2022
During the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix, Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou was involved in a multi-car shunt going into turn one. Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri was sandwiched between Zhou’s Alfa Romeo and George Russell’s Mercedes, which caused Gasly’s car to hit the rear left tire of Russell and send the Mercedes in the direction of Zhou’s car.
The ensuing impact flipped the Alfa Romeo upside down while sliding towards the gravel trap and rolled over once again when it hit the catch fence. Once the Alfa Romeo finally stopped moving, it was clear to see the roll hoop was completely destroyed.
In the old days, only the roll hoop was intended to protect drivers' heads in moments like these. But thanks to the halo, it prevented Zhou from sustaining a serious, if not a fatal neck injury. Zhou was conscious after the incident. And after a series of medical checks from the FIA, Guanyu Zhou was declared unscathed and is fit to race in the next Grand Prix in Austria.
Roy Nissany and Dennis Hauger, Silverstone 2022 Formula 2 race
In the same race weekend as Zhou’s horrific incident, the halo also protected another driver’s head from being hit by a Formula 2 chassis.
At the Formula 2 support race, Roy Nissany and Dennis Hauger were battling for position on the opening lap when Nissany forced Hauger off-track while approaching the Vale chicane. Both drivers made contact which caused Hauger’s car to get a punctured front right tire. This made Hauger powerless to stop his car from skidding across the grass and into the sausage curb at the chicane.
Hauger was launched into the air once he hit the sausage curb with Nissany directly into the wayward car’s path. The sidepod and floor section of Hauger’s F2 car collided with the halo of Nissany’s car and sent both cars into the gravel traps.
Luckily for Nissany, the halo did its job deflecting the F2 chassis away from his head, and both drivers were able to step out of their cars without needing assistance from medics.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Monza 2021
Most Formula One fans could still remember the intense battle for the championship between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton last season, and the halo had a huge part in making that duel continue until the last race in Abu Dhabi.
On lap 26 of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Hamilton made an overcut and emerged from the pits ahead of Verstappen, who was leading before the first round of pitstops. The pair were side by side going into turn one with the Red Bull driver on the inside.
However, Hamilton held his line and forced Verstappen to run off-track and into the sausage curb. In a similar fashion as Nissany and Hauger, both drivers made contact which ended with the Red Bull car on top of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Fortunately, the halo was able to deflect the right rear tire of Verstappen’s Red Bull from completely running over Hamilton’s helmet which would have caused serious injuries for the Mercedes driver.
As we all know, both drivers lived to fight another day. But if it wasn’t for the halo, Lewis Hamilton may have not been out there on the Silverstone podium last weekend.
Romain Grosjean, Bahrain 2020
Romain Grosjean wasn’t initially a huge fan of the halo device. But in what would turn out to be his final Formula One race, the halo saved his life in a horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The French driver slid off the track on the first lap after being clipped from behind, sending his Haas straight into the barriers. Immediately upon impact, the car burst into flames as it was split into two. As the footage shifted over, it was clear to see that the other burning half of Grosjean’s car was wedged in the barrier.
Grosjean suffered an impact of 67G, but he was able to climb out of the burning cockpit. The halo, the Hans device and the survival cell were sturdy enough to protect him from getting serious injuries. Together with the fireproof overalls, the French driver escaped with only minor burns to his hands.
Without the halo, Grosjean could have hit the barriers head-first, in a similar fashion to Jules Bianchi’s eventually fatal accident at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014. The fact that the impact and explosion were strong enough to tear the car into two without harming Grosjean still blows my mind to this day.
Charles Leclerc, Spa 2018
On its maiden season in Formula One, the halo immediately proved itself after a harrowing incident between Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, and Charles Leclerc which happened at the very first corner of the Belgian Grand Prix in 2018.
Nico Hulkenberg hit the brakes too late approaching the La Source hairpin, sparking a chain reaction that wiped out a lot of drivers from the field. Hulkenberg then slammed into the back of Fernando Alonso which launched the Spaniard into the air.
As a result of the impact, Alonso landed right on top of Charles Leclerc's car which was halfway through the hairpin. Leclerc’s car suffered damage in the roll hoop and sidepod area, but it was clear to see the halo was intact. And more importantly, Charles Leclerc’s head was spared from being hit by the wayward McLaren chassis.
Since then, the halo was seen as a testament to the years spent by Formula One and the FIA to make the sport safer. Yes, it may have affected the overall look of open-wheelers, but it definitely is doing its job to increase the chances of survival for drivers in horrific accidents. After all, at the end of the day, we all just want to enjoy racing without anyone getting hurt.