How a fan-hated safety device saved a Formula 1 driver’s life at the British Grand Prix

SILVERSTONE, England (WFRV) – Driving 200 miles per hour in a vehicle is already dangerous, but what about going upside down at that speed?

Well, that’s exactly what Formula 1 rookie Guanyu Zhou did at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday morning.

After the start of the race, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly collided with George Russell’s Mercedes, which then collided with Zhou’s rear wheel. The Alfa Romeo took to the air and flipped upside down, buzzing over the gravel trap and into the crash barriers.

Zhou escaped the horrific accident with only minor injuries thanks to safety improvements, but 20 years ago we may have been talking about another fatality in the sport.

  • Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou of China crashes at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, England, Silverstone, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
  • Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou of China crashes at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, England, Silverstone, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
  • Rail workers remove the car of Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou from China after a crash at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone circuit, in Silverstone, England, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
  • Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou of China crashes at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, England, Silverstone, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
  • Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou of China, center, receives medical treatment after he was involved in a crash at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone circuit, in Silverstone, England, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou of China crashes at the start of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, England, Silverstone, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

With the invention of the halo protecting Zhou’s helmet, the rookie was safe from any damage the surface would have caused.

The halo has the shape of a wishbone and is made of titanium. The bar sits on top of the cockpit and wraps around the driver’s head. It was designed to carry enormous amounts of weight for any extreme accident and in Zhou’s case it saved his life.

Great Britain's McLaren driver Lando Norris sits in his car during the second free practice session at the Silverstone circuit, in Silverstone, England, Friday, July 1, 2022. The British F1 Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo / Matt Dunham)
Great Britain’s McLaren driver Lando Norris sits in his car during the second free practice session at the Silverstone circuit, in Silverstone, England, Friday, July 1, 2022. Norris is sticking to the vehicle’s “halo” safety system. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Although initially negative reviews were received from fans for the aesthetics of the halo, the safety device was crucial in many crashes.

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren flew over the head of Charles Leclerc during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. Had it not been for the halo, Alonso’s vehicle could have fatally injured Leclerc.

  • The car of Spain's McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, top center, is involved in a crash along with Monaco's Sauber driver Charles Leclerc.  bottom center, during the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, August 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
  • The car of Mclaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain, center, is involved in a crash during the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, August 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
  • Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain crashes with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix, at Monza Circuit, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, September 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
  • Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, right and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain crash during the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix, at Monza Circuit, in Monza, Italy, Sunday, September 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca bruno)
  • FILE - Staff extinguishes flames from Haas driver Romain Grosjean's car after a crash during the Formula 1 race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, on this Sunday, November 29, 2020, file photo.  Mercedes announced on Wednesday 5 May 2021 that Grosjean will drive Lewis Hamilton's 2019 championship-winning car at the French Grand Prix on 27 June, before a full day of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard two days later.  (Brynn Lennon/Pool via AP, File)
  • Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France has his car impounded after crashing during the Formula 1 race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, November 29, 2020. (Hamad Mohammed, Pool via AP)
  • Staff put out flames of Haas driver Romain Grosjean of the French car after a crash during the Formula 1 race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Brynn Lennon, Pool via AP)
  • FILE - Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France comes to the paddock to thank marshals at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain on this Thursday, December 3, 2020, file photo.  Grosjean escaped with only minor burns when his Haas car exploded into a fireball after crashing on the opening lap of the Bahrain GP.  Mercedes announced on Wednesday 5 May 2021 that Grosjean will drive Lewis Hamilton's 2019 championship-winning car at the French Grand Prix on 27 June, before a full day of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard two days later.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

Romain Grosjean had one of the most famous accidents in recent years when his Haas crashed into the guardrail in Bahrain. Grosjean’s vehicle broke in two and burst into flames. Without the invention of the halo, he would have been beheaded.

During the battle of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at Monza in 2021, Verstappen’s vehicle landed right on Hamilton’s head. Without the halo protecting Lewis, he would have been crushed by the wheel.

Click here to sign up for the Local 5 Community Newsletter

Formula 1 remains one of the most dangerous sports in the world. With vehicles over 200 miles per hour, safety is one of the most critical things the competition has been working on. Although the halo received negative reviews in the beginning, it is one of the most successful inventions in Formula 1 history.

For more information on the halo invention of Formula 1, click here

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.