The sport of Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing, it is high speed and high drama, but this comes with risk.
Deaths in F1 are thankfully a rare occurrence.
The last driver killed in a racing incident was Jules Bianchi who collided with a recovery vehicle in wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014, he died from his injuries nine months later.
F1 is always cutting edge when it comes to technology, this can be in terms of performance, reducing the sport’s impact on the environment or in this case driver safety. In that regard the biggest safety improvement in F1 has been the invention of the Halo device.
The Halo is a titanium bar that surrounds the driver’s head and is connected to the frame of the car. It is designed to protect the drivers from a range of dangers they can experience whilst racing. Whether that is flying debris such as tyres or parts of an F1 car or protecting them when their cars flip or crash hard into barriers.
It came into effect in 2018 and was rolled out through the range of Formula classes. In the short time that it has been used, there have already been several high-profile incidents when it has prevented serious injury and potentially death.
Zhou Guanyu's horrific crash at last weekends British Grand prix 😫 someone was looking down on him as he did well to survive that thank god 🙏 pic.twitter.com/LIVHIHQT1T— Karl Zielinski (@VKzkz5) July 7, 2022
Romain Grosjean hit Daniil Kvyat at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 and then went hard into the barrier. A year later Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came together at the Italian Grand Prix, the impact sent Verstappen’s wheel into the air and it hit Hamilton’s Halo. Without it, there would surely have been serious ramifications for Hamilton.
Perhaps the worst incident of all was at the recent British Grand Prix when George Russell clipped Zhou Guanyu at the start of the race.
The impressive slow motion computer simulation below – brought to us by YouTuber ‘Crashalong‘ – shows how the incident unfolded. You can see the contact from Russell caused Zhou to somersault in the air and then land on what would have been his head, were it not for the Halo’s protection.
He then slid along for 92 metres before hitting the tyre wall and flipping into the catch fencing.
The simulation allows you to really understand what happened and how the Halo safety device ensured the Chinese driver was able to come out of the crash relatively unscathed.
Whilst the catch fencing ensured the spectators who had front row seats to the horror were kept safe. A reminder to all of the inherent dangers of high-speed motor sport and the need to constantly improve the safety measures in place.