Use of Halo in Formula 1 gains popularity after nasty Belgian GP crash

Charles Leclerc's halo protects him from Fernando Alonso's right tire
Charles Leclerc's halo protects him from Fernando Alonso's right tire
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Despite the controversy initially faced by Formula 1’s head-protecting crash structure, aka the “halo,” general consensus within the racing community is now nearly unanimously positive.

The change seems to be due to the crash at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix where Nico Hülkenberg ran into the back of Fernando Alonso, tossing the Spaniard and his McLaren over the top of the Alfa Romeo Sauber of Charles Leclerc.

The impact knocked all three cars out of the race, and is estimated by Automoto to have cost 3,665,000 euros ($4.3 million).

Damage done to Charles Leclerc's halo
Damage done to Charles Leclerc’s halo

Inspection of the footage since has revealed that Alonso’s front right tire directly impacted the halo, and did so with enough force to break the McLaren MCL33’s suspension. Had the halo not been there (or not designed to withstand the weight of a bus), Leclerc may have been seriously injured, or worse, killed.

Eerily, the halo’s integration was partially motivated by the death of Leclerc’s godfather Jules Bianchi, whose Marussia sailed under a recovery vehicle at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, resulting in injuries that would eventually kill him. It has been speculated since whether or not Bianchi’s life too could have been saved by the halo.

Alonso himself watched the crash footage afterward, and immediately remarked positively on the halo.

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“I saw the replay and how good was the proof for the halo,” Alonso told the BBC. “We didn’t need any proof, but it is a good thing.”

Williams’s technical director Paddy Lowe also spoke out, taking a congratulatory stance to those who campaigned for the halo’s integration.

Others to speak favorably about the halo in the wake of the accident include FIA president Jean Todt, former Marussia driver (and teammate of Bianchi) Max Chilton, and former Williams driver Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian even went as far as lashing out at IndyCar for not following suit, calling attention to the serious accident endured by Robert Wickens at Pocono a week ago.

Though extreme, Massa’s stance is understandable given the head injury he sustained when a loose part collided with his helmet in 2009, nearly killing him. The halo (or a structure similar to it) seems to be a way forward for saving lives in motorsport, and if it hasn’t already faded into the background as a part of the cars, it will in time.


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