Romain Grosjean himself said it was unnecessary and annoying, the late Niki Lauda, a lifelong proponent of better safety standards in Formula 1 said that it destroys the DNA of a single-seater F1 car – however, last night at 2020 Bahrain GP, the Halo safety device proved to the world why it’s one of the greatest safety innovations in Formula 1.
Just seconds after the lights went out at yesterday’s Bahrain GP – Romain Grosjean tangled with Daniil Kvyat sending Grosjean’s HAAS Ferrari F1 car barrelling into a three-deck Armco barrier at roughly 200km. The subsequent impact split the racecar into two. The front half of the car consisting of the carbon safety tub, the Halo device, and crucially Grosjean - pierced through the barrier like a dagger.
I say that again – the entire assembly tore through the reinforced Armco barrier.
Almost as soon as the impact took place, the car erupted into a massive fireball, rising tens of metres into the air as race fuel combusted. The horrific and graphic accident had all the hallmarks of so many tragic crashes that have come before it, and taken the lives of so many talented Formula 1 drivers. The one difference this time: Grosjean emerged from the flames, was able to climb out of his cockpit by himself, and jump over the Armco barrier to safety.
Grosjean today said on his Twitter feed that he is being treated for burns, but for the most part, he is okay.
If not for the Halo safety device – a reinforced curved bar that rises above the driver’s head (and has a centrally mounted spine just in front of the driver) Grosjean's head would have had no protection as he came into contact with the barrier, which almost certainly would have resulted in serious injury or even death.
The Halo safety device withstood the massive impact, preserved the integrity of Grosjean’s survival cell and remained intact giving him an exit path to escape the burning remains of his car with moments to spare.
Image credit: Formula1.com
The controversial Halo safety device (which we suspect is no longer controversial) was introduced in the 2018 F1 season, following Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash (and subsequent death) at the 2014 Japanese GP. F1’s governing body the FIA, has since made the Halo mandatory on all F1, F2, and F3 racecars. F4 racecars will follow suit in 2021.
The Halo safety device is connected to three points of the vehicle’s frame. The Halo is constructed out of high-strength “Grade 5” titanium and is produced by three FIA appointed third-party companies, to exacting specifications for each team. The Halo itself weighs approximately 9kg but is able to withstand the weight of two African elephants (that’s 12,000kgs) in case you're wondering – and protect the driver’s head from an object/debris at speeds of up to 225km/h.
Image credit: FIA.com
Germany’s CP Autosport, one of the three official Halo suppliers (who supply 9 out of the 10 F1 teams currently) says that the Halo uses aerospace-grade Titanium that uses state-of-the-art pre- and post-machining and welding techniques.
The metal is heat-treated prior to the machining processes, even the welding process is performed in a closed chamber to prevent any foreign objects from interfering with the material. The whole device then undergoes further heat treatment for additional strengthening before it is sent for testing.
The Halo itself is built from five different parts. The half ring at the top is made from two-quarters of the circle. Then there are the two end pieces that attach to the back of the car and the centre pillar in front of the driver.
Main image credit: Formula1.com