Halo Saved Zhou Guanyu’s Life, But The Incident Brought Up Two New Issues For F1 Safety

zhou-guanyu

Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou tweeted that the Halo cockpit safety device in his car had saved his life following his crash at the British Grand Prix.

After years of FIA study exploring measures to better protect a driver’s head in open-cockpit racing, the Halo became required on Formula One vehicles in 2018. Although the idea behind it—a titanium hoop placed above the driver’s helmet—is very straightforward, it has proven to be extremely successful and has saved drivers from major injury and even death on a number of times since its invention.

Nevertheless, Zhou’s disaster on the opening lap of the Silverstone race won’t stop the sport’s regulatory body, the FIA, from searching for measures to increase safety. The FIA will conduct a thorough investigation into the event, as it does with all catastrophic accidents, to determine how to make future races safer.

Following the collision on Sunday, there are two very obvious areas of worry, even if the FIA has not yet specified what the investigation will concentrate on or when it will be finished.

The first was the location of Zhou’s car’s final resting place. George Russell knocked the Alfa Romeo over, which then went upside down through the tarmac run-off area, dug into the surrounding gravel, and barrel-rolled over the tyre barrier.

The catch-fencing did an admirably good job of stopping Zhou’s car from flying into an area near marshal posts, photographers, and a grandstand, but in doing so, it also forced the vehicle to drop into a small space beyond the tyre barrier. Emergency personnel had a harder time freeing Zhou from the wreckage because he was wedged between the catch fencing and the tyre barrier. This situation would have been even more dangerous if the Chinese driver had sustained serious injuries or if the car had caught fire.

Russell, who exited his car in the run-off area and raced to check on Zhou, said the sport needed to take lessons from Sunday’s disaster on the placement of crash barriers and catch netting.

The absence of the roll hoop on the car after it had stopped was the other key cause for concern. All F1 cars must have the roll hoop, which is located behind the cockpit, in order for the vehicle to pass the required crash tests and be allowed to race. The roll hoop must withstand forces of 60 kilonewtons laterally, 70 kN longitudinally, and 105 kN vertically. The roll hoop is intended, in principle, to absorb the majority of hits when the car is inverted while still giving room for the driver’s head protection.

Halo was the only thing left to protect Zhou’s head in his accident because it looks that the car’s roll hoop was torn off when he skidded trough the run-off area.

If the roll hoop can be strengthened to function better in such a circumstance, it will likely be a target of the FIA’s investigation because Zhou would have been trapped within if the car had come to a stop upside down.

The FIA’s procedure for investigating and drawing lessons from each significant F1 incident is demonstrated by the fact that Zhou and Alex Albon, who was engaged in a horrific accident of his own further down the order, avoided serious harm in their collisions. It’s possible that the lessons learnt from Zhou’s tragedy at Silverstone will save a life in the future, much like it was with the accidents that led to the development of the Halo.

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