TeamTalk: The Halo

TeamTalk: The Halo

The Halo, once again was the star of a Formula 1 weekend, as the head protection device saved the life of Chinese rookie Zhou Guanyu after his dramatic crash at the 2022 British Grand Prix.

“The Halo saved me today,” was the first message Zhou Guanyu sent out after his serious crash at the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix, after the Alfa Romeo driver was given the all clear from the FIA.

The Halo was rightfully the main talking point during and after the race, as thanks to it, we avoided a tragedy last Sunday.

The device was not always appreciated, but it is now credited to have done a great job on several occasions, most famous of which was Romain Grosjean’s horror crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, the Frenchman – ironically – one of the early critics of the device.

What happened in the race at Silverstone was the subject discussions within our GrandPrix247 group of writers and contributors, and while our editor-in-chief, Paul Velasco, expressed his opinion in his latest Inside Line, we thought that we would compile the opinions of the rest of our group here.

Kevin Melro: The Halo saves, but the FIA gets a failing grade

The Halo has thus far provided cockpit protection for drivers even in worst case scenarios, that’s the point of the Halo, but here’s some food for thought on recent events.

Sophia Flörsch’s F3 crash set a new precedent for the violence a single rogue car can generate. The lesson learned was the lethality of sausage kerbs. Safety may be paramount, but the Hauger/Nissany crash proves that despite gruesome experience, we’ve learned nothing.

There have been three incidents now where the Halo was rewarded for saving a life for a crash caused by sausage kerbs: Alex Peroni at Monza, Hamilton vs Verstappen at Monza, and now this latest F2 example.

With a deadly crash strike rate of approximately one per year why are they still in use? Let’s not forget all the broken backs these kerbs are responsible for as well. The FIA deserve a failing grade here.

Zhou’s crash was a reminder of the destructive energy a single rouge car can pose. Historically, a car which flips upside down falls to one side of the roll hoop allowing more of the car’s surface; usually including the tyre sidewalls to provide additional friction to slow or flip the car back over.

With the combination of Zhou’s initial roll hoop/blade damage and the Halo’s wide structure, an argument can be made that the Halo contributed in aiding Zhou’s car balance upside down in a turtle-like fashion creating a scenario that substantially reduced its ability to slow down with the absolute least possible area of the car touching the ground, similar to a car’s significantly reduced stopping capability on wet grass.

Formula 1 car’s entering a gravel trap typically dig in and stops or flip back over due to the roll hoop. By the time Zhou’s car entered the gravel trap his cars primary roll over protection had been entirely grinded off with the Halo remaining as his final layer of protection. It resulted in the aerial display showcasing the car’s full destructive energy clearing the tyre barriers and hitting the fence. His eventual resting location opens up a whole other can of worms.

In the case of Zhou’s crash there’s room for improvement such that the roll hoop and Halo work together instead of against one another. An investigation is already underway into the roll hoop/blade failure but I don’t expect anything but Halo worship.

David Terrien: Big Thanks to the Halo

Halo was highly criticized and controversial when first initiated by the FIA and most of the F1 lovers and specialists were very reluctant in view of the massive aesthetic impact it had on F1 cars, while its safety benefit was still to be proven.

It was initiated despite the skepticism, and we must thank the governing body for this. First, it doesn’t look that bad or at least, we got used to it while the 2022 cars really look great.

Second, the safety benefit is not arguable. Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton, Zhou Guanyu and Roy Nissany are the obvious illustrations of the Halo safety benefit, and we might soon stop counting when the benefit is so obvious and so undisputable.

The FIA was 100% right on this matter, and we all must agree to this, but they still have areas where they can improve safety, and this is a never-ending work.

We heard drivers requesting more Tecpro in specific sections of the Jeddah track earlier this year. We witnessed another atrocious effect of the sausage kerbs again last weekend in Silverstone and there is still no safe, unarguable, consistent and fair solution to monitor and/or prevent drivers to use and abuse tarmacked run off areas and gaining advantage of it. We also saw Grosjean’s car perforating through 2 layers of the Armco barriers in Bahrain which is quite scary.

In Zhou’s case the Halo definitely saved his life, but I was left wondering about other matters such as the efficiency of the roll bar since that section of the car seemed really close to the ground to me.

When seeing Zhou’s car flying above the tyre wall, I immediately remembered Allan McNish in Le Mans when his Audi landed in the Marshals/Media area after flying above the Armco barriers.

In that sense, the Silverstone crash looked better “controlled” since not only the car roll was stopped by a very efficient debris fence stopping the car to end up in the public area but there was no track marshals nor photographers between the Armco and the debris fence.

The debris fence bent but resisted and by doing so it did the exact job it is designed for which is to bend and absorb part of the energy but also resist to protect the public and stop the car.

Getting back to the Halo, I think there is no more possible discussion about it. Motorsport is dangerous and it is in its DNA, but the FIA has to keep working on other safety matters as suggested above so we can keep enjoying great battle on track as we all did in Silverstone.

Sean Stevens: Halo and thank you..

Zhou: I am ok, Halo saved me today

Do I like the FIA “Halo”? Visually no, but it could have been worse, the solution by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) a clear example. Their design was clearly left in the hands of an aesthetically challenged under manager and stopped only inches short of turning the IndyCar single seater into a Le Mans prototype.

Someone once said the safety regulations of motor racing are written in blood. Sadly it’s true but this doesn’t mean anyone is necessarily at fault. As with many things in life, sometimes we can only be wise after the event. The deaths of Jules Bianchi, Justin Wilson and Henry Surtees can be attributed as the catalysts for the Halo’s inception and I can think of a number of drivers who are only here with us today because of it – Romain Grosjean being one of them and last weekend Zhou Guanyu, as well as Roy Nissany. Without the Halo, we could have been faced once again with two fatalities over one Grand Prix weekend. So yes, I like it.

Motorsport is dangerous, but as the cars get faster, particularly cornering speeds, different and/or new hazards present themselves. Therefore, there is a need to develop safety regulations on this basis. Last weekend the FIA visually witnessed once again, a clear message that “the Paddock” have been telling them for sometime, i.e., Sausage Kerbs are dangerous. Sausage Kerbs launch cars.

I find it ironic that a race can be delayed because of rain and water, but allowed to proceed with a known threat. Nissany would not have needed a halo to save him if the Sausage Kerbs were not there.

I know what the FIA are trying to achieve with them and applaud that intention, just not the execution. The threat presented by the Sausage Kerbs doesn’t require the hindsight of the Halo, as it is there right in front of us!

Jad Mallak: Without the shadow of a doubt, Halo saved the day

guanyu zhou big crash silverstone 2022 f1

I was part of a group that was the staunchest critics of the FIA when they introduced the Halo. I believed it destroyed the sexy look of an F1 car and it did, despite it becoming easier on the eye with the new 2022 generation. Either that, or it just grew on us.

But as time passed by, it seemed that we are having more incidents where the Halo has been saving the day, incidents we might not have had before, and I am not sure if the evolution in the designs of modern F1 cars is the trigger behind such situations.

For that, I would have to admit that I was wrong about the Halo, because I can always stand to look at an ugly F1 car, but I can never tolerate the loss of an F1 driver’s life, so with that in mind I am more than happy to accept it as a necessity in modern F1.

Looking back a bit on the Zhou Guanyu incident at Silverstone last Sunday, there was no doubt the Halo saved his life, as seeing the car after the crash showed that the roll bar area was almost flat, which means the only thing that prevent Zhou’s head from scrapping the tarmac was the Halo.

Moreover, how the whole system worked to stop the Alfa Romeo seemed harmonious, from the gravel trap, to the tyre barrier as well as the fence in the end.

My only note here would be that the area between the tyre barrier and the fence was a bit tight, which in some situations, might hinder the marshals’ capability of doing their job extracting the driver from a stricken car. However, that was not the case with Zhou, thankfully.

I am not concerned however, as I feel that F1 and its safety have organically developed together in parallel of the course of the years, and the FIA will undoubtedly be looking at the replay from Sunday’s crash, extracting new lessons and finding more ways to make the F1 a safer sport.

But without the shadow of a doubt, the Halo saved the day, and I would have to stand corrected after my initial stance against it.