There is no denying that Formula One is a dangerous sport. The driver’s bodies are pushed to the limit and crashes are a common occurrence. After the tragic death of Ayrton Senna, Formula One’s focus shifted to the safety of its drivers. One of the most recent safety measures introduced to the sport was the Halo device. At the Bahrain GP on Saturday, this device saved the life of Romain Grosjean after his car burst into flames and split in half after hitting the safety barrier. It was nothing short of a miracle that Grosjean walked away with only second degree burns to his hand.
The Halo was introduced in 2018 as a way of preventing head injuries for drivers by blocking debris from entering the cockpit. A consultation period occurred before the Halo was made mandatory by the FIA, as it was found to be the only safety measure that could protect the driver from a wheel travelling at 150mph.
It was controversial due to its lack of aesthetics and how it brought an end to open cockpit racing. The Halo sits above the driver’s head and is a three-pronged titanium bar connected to the vehicle.
When the Halo was first announced, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff went on record saying “I’m not impressed…and if you gave me a chainsaw, I would take it off”.
Wolff and other critics of the Halo device are now having to take back their prior criticism after Saturday’s crash. Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director for motorsport, said that while the Halo had been controversial when it was introduced, that it prevented Grosjean from sustaining any upper body or head injuries.
Grosjean himself was a sceptic of the safety device, appearing from his hospital bed he said: “I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve brought to Formula 1, and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak with you today”.
Lewis Hamilton echoed Grosjean’s words when he said: “I am just so grateful the halo work…it could have been much worse. It’s a stark reminder that this is a dangerous sport”.
Along with the halo device, the Hass driver was also protected by his fireproof race suit made of Nomex. It took Grosjean almost 30 seconds to get out of his vehicle after the crash, just short of the amount of time the fabric can withstand a maximum of 840 degrees.
Grosjean is being replaced by reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
FIA has launched an investigation into Grosjean’s crash, but there’s no doubt that the Halo device was responsible for saving his life. The fact that Grosjean could walk away from a crash of this magnitude, the worst in recent F1 memory, is something that wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. The safety of drivers must come before aesthetic, and the Halo device has shown why it was worth fighting for in the face of vocal opposition.