Though its structural integrity is a bit cumbersome, the F1 car halo is credited for being a legit lifesaver — just ask seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
To the untrained eye, Formula 1 can be only explained as a group of professional drivers weaving around a glamorous circuit numerous times in hopes of finishing in first place and popping off a gigantic bottle of champagne on the podium. However, even the fastest of drivers with a Super License and plenty of experience are prone to accidents, and failure of the FIA to protect said athletes could be problematic in future competitions.
As the sport of motor racing evolves, so do the precautions. While we want to be entertained from start to finish, player protection should center that objective.
One of the more ingenious concepts introduced in recent times is the use of the Formula 1 halo device. A V-shaped bar installed in front of the driver’s seated position, it’s meant as a protective measure in the event of a collision or inversion. Once assumed a questionable contraption, its perceived importance as it relates to the ongoing safety of F1 drivers reliably increases after each on-track accident.
There’s a lot to learn about this rig, from its inception and design to a major moment in which one decorated driver credited it for saving his life. Let’s explore the history and functionality of the F1 halo.
What is the F1 Halo Device?
Although officially introduced in competition in 2018, conversations about the object began nearly seven years ago. According to Formula 1 tech contributors Mark Hughes and Giorgio Piola, serious injuries and unfortunate fatalities inspired a more serious discussion about security from everything from bouncing wheels or flying debris from other cars in a collision event.
The halo, as seen in the video above, is comprised of three structural elements:
- The front section at the center, referred to as the “V transition”
- A tube surrounding the cockpit
- Rear mounts
It’s constructed from Titanium Grade 5 6AL4V alloy, particularized by the regulations, and mounts to the framework at all three locations. Its design is strictly monitored, but teams do have a 20-millimeter area of freedom around the framework, allowing fairings — lightweight panels that protect the car’s chassis — to be fitted.
Lewis Hamilton: F1 Car Halo “Saved Me”
The halo device received ample credit following a serious accident involving Lewis Hamilton in September of 2021 at the Italian Grand Prix.
On lap 26 of 53 during the Italian Grand Prix, the Mercedes competitor was clipped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, causing his own car to drive over Hamilton’s. The crash was shocking from a spectator’s vantage point, so we can only imagine the seven-time world champion’s own fears at the time.
“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,” Hamilton said following the race. “We are taking risks, and it’s only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are. If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit.”
Ironically, the BBC notes that Hamilton harbored his own doubts about the Formula 1 car halo around its introduction. Seeing as we could have lost one of the greatest racers of all time that day at Monza, it’s safe to say both Hamilton and Mercedes have had a change of heart since last year’s incident.
“The halo definitely saved Lewis’ life today,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said. “Without it, it would have been a horrible accident which I don’t even want to think about. The championship was good fun up until now but we saw the halo save Lewis’ life today. We don’t want to see someone seriously hurt.”
Once introduced as a controversial gizmo, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing the Formula 1 halo device’s relevance climb in future races for years to come.
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