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It was a victory for safety technology.
Alfa Romeo Formula One driver Zhou Guanyu escaped a serious injury thanks to a Halo device protecting the cockpit when his car overturned during the British Grand Prix.
The halo was created during the 2018 season. It consists of a hoop above the driver’s head and a strut just in front of them, which serves as both a strut and a means to deflect debris approaching the vehicle at high speed.
Zhou was entering Turn 1 of Silverstone at the start of the race when he was clipped from behind by Mercedes-Benz driver George Russell, who had called Alpha Tour driver Pierre Gasly at 140 mph.
Zhou’s Alfa Romeo was flipped upside down and proceeded to slide straight down and through a gravel trap before hitting a safety barrier and tipping him into a fishing fence.
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The car then landed on its side between the bulkhead and the fence, causing the race’s red flag to be raised and a long delay before Chu was taken out of the car.
Close-ups of the accident show how Halo managed to prevent Zhou’s head from pressing into the road, despite the apparent malfunction of the car’s collar above it, which is supposed to be the primary means of protection in a rollover accident.
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In a show of sportsmanship, Russell got out of his car and ran to Zoe to see if he could help the hosts and later described it as “one of the scariest accidents I’ve ever seen.”
Zhou was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but amazingly he did not suffer any injuries in the accident.
He is not the first driver to be rescued by the device.
During last season’s Italian Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton were jostling for the lead when their cars rammed and fired Verstappen’s car on top of Hamilton.
Halo kept Hamilton’s head from collapsing by Verstappen’s rear tire as it rolled over the cockpit.
“Thank God for the aura that finally saved me. And it saved my neck. I think in the actual moment it was a big hit, but all I could think about was getting back in,” Hamilton said.
IndyCar added a similar device it calls the Aeroscreen for its 2020 cars, which adds a polycarbonate windshield for extra protection, especially on the high-speed ovals the Series races on.
It was highly effective during training for this year’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, when Calum Ellot’s car hit a suspension rod that had fallen off a car that crashed in front of his car.
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Several open-top cockpit series have also included Halo, including Formula E, Formula 2 and the all-women’s W series.
Russell was not allowed to re-enter the race for a restart because he got out of his car, and the car was pulled into the driveway. Teammate Lewis Hamilton finished third in the race behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in first and Sergio Perez in Red Bull’s second place.
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