What is the halo? F1 cockpit system explained and why drivers are criticising it

THE HALO cockpit has been part and parcel of F1 for the last few seasons – for good reason.

It helped save Lewis Hamilton from serious injury after he crashed out of the Italian Grand Prix.

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What is the halo cockpit system?

Safety is paramount in Formula One and sadly down the years some haven't been as lucky as Roman Grosjean at the Bahrain GP last year.

Jules Bianchi was killed after a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, losing control of his Marussia in treacherous conditions.

And his mother was quick to point out that the halo – which wasn't a feature of the cars six years ago but was being worked on by the FIA – had 'saved Romain's life'.

The halo was introduced back in 2018 and is an added safety feature now included on all F1 cars, acting as titanium ring of protection around the driver's cockpit.

It is designed to prevent drivers from getting injuries from flying debris or suffering head trauma like in the tragic case of Bianchi.

The F1 governing body took a long time to research and test the design, which does slightly impact the field of view for drivers.

When it was launched there was also criticism from some fans, who believed the hefty new structure around the cockpit meant they couldn't see the racers properly.

World champion Lewis Hamilton revealed back in 2018 that he felt it could be the first step towards a closed cockpit around the driver, but that hasn't yet come to fruition.

He said: "I think we’re moving towards a closed cockpit, I think that would look better, there’s some real great concepts online of a closed cockpit.

“It’s a difficult one as when they introduced it, talked about it, they mentioned a 17 per cent improvement in safety and it’s difficult to really ignore that.

“It definitely doesn’t look good, we know that, we’ve said that."

How did it save Grosjean in Bahrain crash?

Grosjean's car snapped clean in half at the force of the crash, with the impact measured at a scarcely-believable 53G.

Despite the fireball that consumed the wreckage of his vehicle, Grosjean was saved from major burns by his four layers of protective clothing and was able to jump to safety.

The sturdily-built halo is designed to take the full force of impact first, protecting the drivers head from serious injury.

In this case, it appears to have worked with Grosjean suffering just minor burns to his hands and miraculously avoiding serious trauma to either his body or head.

Ross Brawn, F1 managing director, was adamant after the race that without the halo we could have been looking at another tragedy.

He said: "There is absolutely no doubt the halo was the factor that saved the day – and saved Romain."

And world champ Hamilton said after winning the race in Sakhir: "It was such a shocking image to see.

"His car, the cockpit, I don't know what Gs he pulled, but I'm just so grateful that the halo worked.

"I'm grateful the barrier didn't slice his head off. It could have been so much worse."

Grosjean was immediately air-lifted to hospital after the crash and praised the F1 safety system for saving his life.

He said: "I wasn't for the halo some years ago, but I think it's the greatest thing that we brought to Formula 1 and without it I wouldn't be able to speak to you today."

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