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F1 Halo

The halo was introduced in Formula 1 in 2018 to improve the safety of the driver in the cockpit. You can read all about this important safety measure here.

Halo F1 © XPBimages

What is a halo in F1?

A halo is an important safety measure of the Formula 1 car designed to improve driver protection. The halo is a kind of bracket made of titanium placed on the cockpit and is meant to prevent objects from landing on the driver. This could, for example, be loose flying debris or another Formula 1 car coming over the driver. A halo is so strong that it can handle the total weight of about 12,000 kilos.

The introduction of the halo

The first ideas for cockpit protection emerged in 2014. There was a great need for more protection in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car, after a number of violent accidents had already occurred. Jules Bianchi, for example, collided with a crane at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. The impact was so great that his helmet was ripped off his head and he suffered serious head injuries. He died nine months later as a result of his injuries.

In 2009, Felipe Massa was hit by a detached spring from Rubens Barrichello's car during the Hungarian Grand Prix. As a result, Massa became unconscious and crashed his Formula 1 car. He survived the accident, but suffered a skull base fracture that prevented him from racing for several months.

Two ideas to give the driver extra protection were the halo and the 'Formula 1 windscreen'. The Formula 1 windscreen was also tested extensively, but it was not a success. Sebastian Vettel, for example, reported blurred vision.

The tests with the halo were found to be successful, however, and so the halo was officially introduced in Formula 1 in 2018. Formula 1 teams, incidentally, are not allowed to produce the halo themselves. The halo is supplied by three third-party manufacturers approved by the FIA, and all have to meet identical requirements.

Opposition to the halo

In the early stages, the halo received a lot of criticism for its 'ugly' appearance. For example, the halo was called a 'toe slipper' because it looked a lot like that. Formula 1 is always evolving and the appearance of the halo has also become a bit nicer over the years. There is no arguing about taste, by the way.

Another bonus is that the halo offers more space for sponsorship. Flip-flop brand 'Gandys' was quick to capitalise on the halo's nickname. During the Australian Grand Prix, this brand was featured on the halo of the McLarens.

Reduced visibility due to halo

The visibility of Formula 1 drivers was also reportedly reduced, several drivers reported. However, Valtteri Bottas refuted this point of view, stating that he quickly got used to it.

In addition to visibility, the halo initially brought challenges around the aerodynamics of the Formula 1 car, partly due to the extra weight. A halo can weigh around seven to nine kilos. But the introduction of the halo could also present opportunities to outsmart the competition, McLaren's Peter Promodrou told 2018.

F1 Halo onboard

The halo has proven itself

In theory, the chance of an accident with fatal consequences is 17% lower with a halo and in practice, the safety measure has been proven indispensable on several occasions.

This happened quite early in 2018 at the Spa Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso flew over Charles Leclerc's Alfa Romeo with his McLaren and hit the halo of the Monegasque's car with his front wheel.

The halo also saved Romain Grosjean's life during his violent crash in Bahrain in 2020, sending him under the crash barrier. The halo caused the barrier to be pushed up a lot, allowing Grosjean to fit between them.

In 2022, the halo was also indispensable during Guanyu Zhou's crash in Silverstone. He flew over several times and landed upside down with his Alfa Romeo behind the tyre stacks between the fence and the crash barrier. Fortunately, he was able to get out of the car unharmed, thanks in part to the halo.

At the 2021 Monza Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was protected by his halo when Max Verstappen's Formula 1 car stalled on Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes after a crash. In the process, Hamilton's helmet was briefly touched by Verstappen's rear tyre, but the halo was able to prevent worse. Toto Wolff stated afterwards that the halo saved Hamilton's life.

Despite the criticism and resistance to the introduction of the halo, the safety measure is now being praised. The halo saves lives.

F1 Halo Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crash 2021 Monza Grand Prix © FIA
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