One of the biggest debates in formula one has been put to rest after the sport’s new ‘halo’ head protection device saved Charles Leclerc from what could have been a potentially serious impact.
His Sauber car bore the scars instead on Sunday, tyre marks showing where Fernando Alonso’s McLaren had bashed against the bodywork and halo as it flew over the 20-year-old rookie’s head.
“We can end the HALO discussion now. It will save lives,” tweeted 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg after seeing the images.
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) August 26, 2018
The ring-like ‘halo’ was introduced this season to protect the drivers’ exposed helmets from precisely such sideways glancing impacts as well as frontal blows.
“I felt the impact and looking at the image it is quite spectacular. It was lucky,” said Leclerc, whose family have close ties with late French driver Jules Bianchi who died of head injuries in 2015.
“I got quite a lot of messages. My mum called me quite a lot of times. Everyone was quite worried.”
Alonso was the blameless party, his car sent airborne after Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg misjudged his braking into the first corner and smashed into the back of the McLaren, sending the Spaniard flying.
“The Halo was a very good thing to have today. I think for him, it helped, looking at the replay,” commented the double world champion.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 26, 2018
Formula one race director Charlie Whiting said the motorsport governing body, the FIA, would be contacting Sauber for more information about any damage to the halo.
“I think what is clear is the significant tyre marks on both the chassis and the halo,” he said.
“It looks like it’s had a fairly hefty whack.
“It doesn’t take much imagination to think that the tyre marks would have actually been on Charles’ head. It would be a bit of a miracle if they weren’t, had the halo not been there.”
The last driver to die after a formula one accident was Jules Bianchi in October 2014, who lost control of his Marussia in wet conditions and collided with a recovery vehicle suffering a major head injury. He remained in a coma until his death in July 2015.
Hulkenberg was handed a 10-place grid penalty for next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix for causing the collision that brought out the safety car.
“It was nasty, it doesn’t look great. It’s bad, my mistake. Today it went wrong quite badly. I’ll accept it and move on,” he said.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won the race to trim Lewis Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ championship to 17 points with eight races remaining.
Hamilton, last year’s winner in Belgium, started from pole position but finished second for Mercedes while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen gave his army of Dutch fans something to cheer with third place.