Formula 1 has a reputation for being an extremely dangerous sport. The open cockpit nature of the cars leaves the driver exposed to the elements and, crucially, exposed during a crash. Several drivers have been injured and killed over the years, and this led to the introduction of the Halo in F1.
The Halo is a safety feature that was developed by Formula 1 and implemented in the 2018 season. The device aimed to offer more protection for the drivers’ heads as they were previously completely open and exposed during a crash. Strong helmets were not enough to keep drivers safe in modern F1.
The Halo was developed as a result of several accidents and a fatal crash, and it has been designed to protect the drivers in dangerous scenarios. Below, we take an in-depth look at the Halo in F1, considering why it was introduced, what it’s made from, and exactly how it works.
When Was The Halo Introduced To F1?
The Halo was introduced to F1 in 2018. Halfway through the 2017 season the FIA had announced that the Halo would be introduced into the sport during the 2018 season. The 2018 cars had to be developed with the Halo, and the first time we saw them in full force was during preseason testing.
Even though we didn’t see much of the Halo until 2018, there were times when it was being tested on Formula 1 cars before the 2018 season. During the 2016 and 2017 season, some of the drivers got the chance to test the Halo device on their cars.
There were different versions and different types of Halos built, and several drivers had it bolted onto their cars for a few practice laps during FP1 sessions. The Halo was not too well received, with many drivers complaining about the difference in visibility.
The aeroscreen that is now used in IndyCar (the Halo came first) was also considered. Red Bull and Ferrari developed and tested their own versions of the aeroscreen. However, ultimately, Formula 1 decided to go with the Halo.
Who Develops The F1 Halo?
The Halo was first developed in 2015 by Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes built the first ever prototype of the Halo device in their factory and recommended it to the FIA in order to make it a compulsory part for Formula 1 teams to use in the future.
Each team has to develop their own Halo for their cars. Although there is a set blueprint that must be followed, each team tailors it to fir their cars. That’s because each car is uniquely designed and one generic build of the Halo might not fit exactly on every car, although it is essentially the same on all of them.
What Is The F1 Halo Made From?
The Formula 1 Halo is made from titanium tubing. The Halo is fixed onto the carbon fibre chassis of the car at three points, one in front of the driver, and one on each side of the driver. This ensures the Halo stays above the driver’s head with a clearance gap to their helmet.
The Halo is light, originally weighing only 7 kilograms (15 lbs). So, it doesn’t have a big effect on the overall weight and performance of the car. The weight did rise to 9 kg (20 lbs) in later seasons, and the total weight increase varies depending on how the chassis needs to be modified. The Halo is also designed to be aerodynamic, with smooth curves allowing air to flow easily over the car.
The Strength Of The F1 Halo
The FIA claims that the Halo is the strongest part of the car, and that it can withstand 125 kN of force (12 tonnes, or 26,455 lbs) from above and from the sides. The Halo can withstand 12 tonnes (the weight of two elephants) for up to five seconds without the Halo or the mountings breaking.
It’s unlikely that this amount of weight will ever be put onto a Halo, considering that nothing on the racetrack weighs that much. However, it is still reassuring to know that the Halo is capable of taking that much weight off the driver’s head, and it is more important in terms of the load put on the car during a crash, rather than in strict weight terms.
Do F1 Teams Have To Use The Halo?
All F1 teams do have to use the Halo. All Formula 1 teams must design their car with the Halo in mind, and the car has to be built with the Halo in time for pre-season testing which, is normally between February and March.
The Halo must also pass all the necessary tests that are conducted before the season begins. All cars have to pass the pre-season crash tests under the supervision of FIA officials. If a car fails the crash test, teams will need to redevelop their car and make changes until their cars pass the crash tests.
The Halo device has been compulsory in Formula One ever since it was introduced at the start of the 2018 season. Ever since, there have been a couple of occasions where it has saved a driver from serious injury or even death. We’ll talk more about these specific cases soon.
Do All Formula Divisions Use The Halo?
The Halo is used from Formula 1 all the way down to Formula 4 and Formula Renault. The only major single seater series yet to adopt the Halo is the Formula Ford championship and the USF2000 series. However, this is sure to happen at some point in the future.
Ever since the introduction of the Halo, it has become a common sight in all junior single seater series. The safety of drivers is a top priority in modern motorsport, especially when it comes to the younger generation of drivers.
The majority of drivers who race in junior single seater series are under 18, with Formula 4 featuring drivers as young as 15 years old. Protecting these young drivers is vital, and the Halo plays a big role in the safety of these youngsters.
Despite IndyCar using the aeroscreen (a similar design to the Halo that can actually withstand more force), junior single seater series in the United States have also been using the Halo. Even US Formula 4 and Indy Lights are using the Halo, making IndyCar the only major racing series that uses the aeroscreen instead of the Halo.
Does The F1 Halo Affect Driver Visibility?
The F1 Halo doesn’t affect driver visibility in any notable way, although it is clearly in their line of sight. F1 drivers are always looking ahead to the corners, and so they’re rarely needing to look directly in front of them. Plus, their eyes quickly get used to it, as if it isn’t there.
One major argument against the Halo when it was first introduced in 2018 was that it would affect the drivers’ visibility. People assumed that having a strut directly in front of the driver would block their view of the cars ahead.
Drivers who tested the Halo during the 2017 season also complained about the Halo being distracting. However, this mainly came down to the drivers being used to the open cockpit cars that they had been driving throughout their entire careers.
Once the Halo was fully implemented in 2018 the drivers quickly got used to it. This is similar to the way that your nose is always in your field of vision, but your brain ignores it!
There weren’t many complaints as the drivers began to race with the Halo. This is mainly because Formula 1 drivers don’t necessarily need to see directly in front of them. The most important parts are the corners where the drivers look to the sides of the halo column, looking into the corner over the top of the tires.
Junior Series Training The Next Generation
Implementing the Halo into junior single seater racing has not only helped to promote the safety of younger drivers, but it has also helped these younger drivers to get used to the Halo, which will be beneficial to them in the future.
If junior series did not have the Halo implemented, it would be a big step for a driver to experience a Formula 1 car for the first time and have to adapt to the Halo, along with everything else they need to adapt to. Instead, drivers are being trained to be comfortable with the Halo from a young age, and while they would get used to it quite quickly, it’s one less thing to adjust to.
The Halo won’t be going away, no matter how many drivers complain about impaired visibility or how it makes the car look. So whether they like it or not, it’s here to stay, and drivers will simply have to learn to deal with the Halo.
How Does The F1 Halo Work?
The Halo works by protecting the driver’s head. It is essentially a roll cage or barrier that stops large objects from hitting the driver’s head or falling on top of the driver. This could be a car landing on top of another car, or a loose tire or other debris coming towards a driver.
However, the Halo is also designed to deflect objects from the front and sides. This comes as a direct result of Jules Bianchi’s crash in 2014, when his car went underneath a tractor at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Halo is strong enough to withstand 12 tonnes of weight, which is enough to keep any driver safe in a scenario where a car is on top of another, a car going into the crash barriers, or a car being buried under a pile of tires, as we’ve seen in the past with Heikki Kovalainen at the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix. The top of the Halo must be open to ensure that the driver can get out of the car quickly.
What If The Halo Does Not Work?
If the Halo doesn’t work, something will need to be done to further improve the safety of the sport. During the initial testing phase many ideas were thrown around, for example, enclosed cockpits such as the ones found on fighter jets.
Formula 1 will always continue to develop the safety of their cars in response to incidents. This is how the sport has created cars that are safer than your average road car (considering the speed and conditions in which they drive) and continues to develop new ways to make cars safer for everyone.
However, the Halo has been tested and proven to work on many different occasions, so it is safe to say that the device does work. That being said, there is still some room for error since it does not fully enclose the driver like the aeroscreen does.
Felipe Massa In 2009
One of the arguments against the Halo is that it does not fully block debris from hitting the driver. A prime example this was Felipe Massa’s crash during qualifying at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
During the session, Massa’s Ferrari was following a Brawn GP car during a flying lap. A heavy-duty metal spring came loose from the Brawn GP car and was bouncing on the circuit. Massa was traveling at around 150 miles per hour when the spring struck his helmet, knocking him unconscious.
Massa’s Ferrari headed straight into the tire barriers with the throttle still applied. Thankfully, Massa survived the crash, but had to sit out the rest of the season. Even though it was a freak accident, the Halo has less of a chance of blocking small but still dangerous debris than the aeroscreen does.
What If A Driver Is Taller Than The Halo?
All drivers have different heights in Formula 1, with some being taller than others. This makes it challenging for teams to determine what height they need to put the Halo device at when building their cars.
However, all drivers have their own setups which are in part determined by the driver’s height. Taller drivers have higher roll hoops (where the onboard camera is mounted) and the gap is measured to ensure that the driver’s head does not touch the ground if the car is laying upside down.
The drivers’ seats are also adjusted depending on their height. All drivers have custom seat setups, not only determined by their comfort but also by their height, weight and shape. These custom seats help different drivers to comfortably fit into the same car.
Similarly, the Halo will be built slightly differently for taller drivers, however this is simply done by adjusting its height. George Russell is a great example of this, as he is one of the tallest drivers on the current grid, and you can clearly see how much higher up he appears to sit in the car, so naturally the Halo may need to be adjusted to accommodate this.
When Has The Halo Worked?
There have been several different occasions where the Halo has saved a driver’s life or prevented them from serious injury. Although seeing these examples might not be nice, it proves that the Halo is a necessary safety device that drivers must have in modern Formula 1.
There were many doubts about whether the Halo would work or not. So far it has proven to be very useful as there have been numerous incidents where the Halo has prevented drivers becoming seriously injured or even killed.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2021 is a prime example, when Max Verstappen’s car went over the top of Lewis Hamilton’s, with his rear tire coming down onto Lewis’ head. Without the Halo, Lewis’ head and neck could have been seriously injured.
In Charles Leclerc’s 2018 rookie season for Sauber (and the Halo’s), he was also involved in an incident at Spa where the Halo saved his life. Going into La Source, the first corner on the circuit, Nico Hulkenburg and Fernando Alonso made contact with each other behind Leclerc. The incident sent Alonso’s McLaren flying into Leclerc’s Sauber, with Alonso’s right front tire impacting Leclerc’s Halo.
After the incident, images of Leclerc’s Halo show the amount of damage that was done by the McLaren being launched into the Sauber, with paint being scraped off the Halo. The area where the impact took place is exactly where Leclerc’s head was in the car.
Another clear example of the Halo working was at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, when Romain Grosjean had a fiery crash in the barriers. The Halo undoubtedly saved him from serious head injuries, and most likely saved his life, as it split the metal barrier in two, allowing the front half of the car (and importantly him) to go through to the other side.
Did The Halo Save Romain Grosjean’s Life?
The Halo allowed Grosjean to remain conscious and relatively unharmed. However, as the car burst into flames, it made it even clearer that the Halo must still keep the cockpit open, as this allowed Grosjean to get himself out of the car, rather than being trapped in the flames.
Examples In Junior Series
It’s not only in Formula 1 that the Halo has worked and saved drivers’ lives. Shortly after the Halo was introduced into Formula 1 and Formula 2, it had proved its worth to the young Formula 2 drivers fighting for a place in F1.
At Barcelona in the 2018 Formula 2 championship the Halo saved the life of Tadasuke Makino. Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi made contact at turn 4, which sent Fukuzumi’s car up into the air. His car landed directly on top of Makino’s car, and luckily the Halo took all of the weight off the driver’s head.
Makino was sceptical of the Halo when it was first introduced as he said that it interfered with the driver’s vision too much. However, after this incident took place, he quickly changed his mind, stating that the Halo had indeed saved his life. This incident showed the importance of the Halo not just in Formula 1, but also in junior single seater series as well.
Alex Peroni is an ex Formula 3 driver who was saved from severe injuries by the Halo. This was a freak accident that has never been seen before in the Formula 3 series, and it scared many drivers.
During the Italian race of the 2019 Formula 3 championship, the Australian driver hit a kerb coming out of Parabolica, the final corner of the circuit. In what seemed to defy the laws of physics, looking like something from an F1 video game, his car was thrown up into the air.
His car eventually landed upside down on top of the tire barriers before bouncing up again and landing upright. The Halo, despite remaining fully intact, showed a lot of damage. Peroni’s life may have been saved by the Halo, preventing the entire car’s weight being pushed down onto his head and spine when the car landed upside down.
Amna Al Qubaisi
During the 2022 F3 Asia series race in late January at Abu Dhabi, a car stalled on the grid. Young Emirati driver Amna Al Qubaisi was unable to avoid the stationary vehicle and ran straight into the back of it.
The damage on Al Qubaisi’s Halo device showed how dangerous the crash was. The impact scrubbed a significant amount of paint off the Halo. If it weren’t for the Halo, the incident could have been much worse.
Why Is The Halo Controversial?
Ever since its introduction in 2018 the Halo has been criticized for several different reasons. This criticism came from different angles between both fans and drivers. However, over the years the Halo has become more accepted in the sport.
While many were against the introduction of the Halo, several others were for it. Many drivers and fans stated that the drivers should not have to risk their lives every time they get into the car to participate in a race.
At the end of the day, the Halo will remain in the sport whether it is controversial or not. After numerous incidents have proven that the Halo works, the impressive safety device will remain a part of the cars in the long term.
Why Are People Against The Halo In F1?
People were against the Halo being introduced into Formula 1 for several different reasons. These arguments ultimately did not consider the benefit that the device would bring to the overall safety of the drivers in the sport.
Even with some drivers being sceptical and disliking the Halo at first, many of them have changed their minds of the years after seeing the lifesaving results. The majority of drivers nowadays are willing to put up with the sacrifices they need to make for the safety of the Halo, which are relatively minor.
The first complaint about the Halo was about the look of the cars. Formula 1 cars are meant to be small, sleek and aerodynamic. Many argued that the Halo was an eye sore that made the cars look bulkier. If you compare 2017 cars to 2018 cars, you may think they look better without the Halo, but you quickly adapt to the look of new cars in Formula 1.
“DNA” Of The Sport
Another argument that fans and drivers had against the Halo was that it goes against the DNA of the sport. The argument here is that Formula 1 has always been an open cockpit series, and taking that away will make it “less Formula 1.”
It was also argued that Formula 1 has always been, and will always be, a dangerous sport, and that “the drivers understand the risks involved.” However, no driver should have to risk their life for the sport.
Getting Out Of The Car
One concern about the Halo was that Formula 1 drivers would not be able to get out of the car quick enough. One of the basic requirements in Formula 1 is that a driver must be able to get out of the car within 20 seconds (in case of a fire). This has been tested and perfected over many years.
The argument was that the Halo would get in the drivers’ way, preventing them from exiting the car quickly enough. However, Romain Grosjean’s crash proved this theory wrong, as he was able to get out of the car in under 30 seconds after an excessively massive impact, while the car was on fire.
While the 20 second limit takes into account most variables, it can’t account for the time the driver spends in the car not trying to get out of the car, such as if they are temporarily unconscious or dazed. This happened to Grosjean, so while he was in the car for 30 seconds, not all of this time was spent actively trying to exit the car.
One of the biggest arguments against the Halo was that it was actually more dangerous because of the fact that the strut in front of the driver blocked their view. Although drivers did state it was annoying at first, they were quickly able to adapt to the view that the Halo gave them. We have not seen an incident caused by the Halo obstructing a driver’s view.
The Halo is a safety device that was introduced into Formula 1 at the start of the 2018 season. Despite only being used in motorsport for a short period of time, we have already seen several incidents where drivers were saved from serious injury or even death by the Halo device.