Categories: News

From ugly duckling to guardian angel: how the ‘halo’ also saved the life of Formula 1 driver Guanyu Zhou

©  REUTERS

“If I had a circular saw, I would take that thing off immediately.” Those were the words that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff uttered before the start of the 2018 F1 season. ‘The thing’, that was the halo, the ugly cockpit protection that has been mandatory on every F1 car ever since. When Lewis Hamilton crashed hard at Monza last year, Wolff rang another bell: “Lewis Hamilton owes his life to the halo.” Guanyu Zhou, who crashed heavily in Silverstone last weekend, can also count himself lucky that the halo is there.

Gert Vermersch, Jonas Withouck

It was sacrilege, introducing that ugly halo. Not only was it an aerodynamic monstrosity, it went against the principle of the single-seater, which has been racing with an open cockpit since the early days of motorsport. Opponents were soon silenced, however: Charles Leclerc already escaped serious injury in 2018 when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren flew over his car in Spa. Romain Grosjean also owes his life to the halo when his car pierced the barrier in Bahrain in 2020 and in September last year it was Lewis Hamilton’s turn to praise the cockpit protection properties after Max Verstappen’s car ended up on his car. . Without the halo, it would probably have inflicted serious head and neck injuries. Or worse.

On Sunday, the Chinese F1 driver Guanyu Zhou came out of a terrible crash, partly thanks to the halo. The Alfa Romeo driver was hit by George Russell’s Mercedes before the first corner, after which the car of the Chinese was launched and slid off the track upside down. It was breathless for a while, but Zhou got away completely unharmed: a minor miracle.

collect 12,000 kilos

“I’m okay, the halo saved me today,” Zhou wrote on social media afterwards. The three-legged rod is completely made of titanium and weighs about seven kilograms, but can withstand immense forces. “You can put a London double-decker bus on it, it won’t budge,” Mercedes engineer James Allison once joked. After all, vertically, the halo must be able to absorb 12,000 kilograms. Loose parts from other carriages can also be averted by the rods.

What the halo looks like:

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