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The Bahrain GP saw the Frenchman collide into the barrier on the first lap, which saw the race being suspended for almost an hour. The Halo was instrumental in his high-speed crash that saw him climb out of his burning car 15 seconds after impact.
The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix saw some spectacular racing from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (P2) and Alex Albon (P3) who took two of the three podium spots with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes winning his 11th race of the season. But the highlight from Bahrain cruelly was the fiery crash of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Haas F1, who veered off the track on turn 3 after contact with Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri and crashed into the barriers with his car splitting right into two and the cockpit erupting into flames immediately. Grosjean quite miraculously climbed out of his car and off the barrier before being tended to by the medical staff.
Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said that Romain was okay, having suffered light burns on his hands and legs and maybe some damage to his rib cage but was fine otherwise. Everyone who witnessed the crash feared the worst, such was the extent of the damage to the car and the intensity of the fire, a similar incident a few years ago would have sadly ended in a fatality. But it is due to the stringent safety rules of the FIA which includes the Halo which is mandatory on all F1 cars that has the most to do with the Haas driver’s safety. The Halo also protected Lance Stroll after he ended up being upside-down in his racing point post contact with an Alpha Tauri, the Canadian driver was suspended upside down by his seatbelt while the Halo successfully protected the cockpit from any other contact.
The Halo is an object that motorsport fans are familiar with, it is a crash protection system that is fitted onto the open-cockpit of the car and has three curved legs, which resembles a curved ‘Y’ if viewed from the top. It is made out of titanium alloy and weighs around 7 to 9 kilograms depending upon customisations done by the respective teams. The Halo has been designed to withstand weights equivalent to 12 tons while stationary. Introduced initially in the 2018 season, it was met with criticism-pointing out that it interfered with the driver’s view-angle and took the essence out of open-cockpit racing. But the Halo has proved instrumental in saving driver’s from harm, notably Charles LeClerc who was right below Fernando Alonso’s flying McLaren walked away unscathed with the Halo taking the brunt of the damage and maintaining its structural integrity.
Now in 2020 drivers, teams and the fans have gotten used to the Halo and regard it as an integral safety device. The accident which Grosjean was involved in could have easily had a very different outcome when the wreckage was inspected, the cockpit along with the front half of the car was charred with bits of the crash barrier around the cockpit. The beams of the crash barrier could have easily sliced their way into the cockpit and fatally injured Grosjean, but as can be seen, have been successfully stopped by the Halo. FIA rules also have made the chassis of the car stronger, more resistant to impact, the car except being split into two showed amazing shape retention even after crashing into the barrier at considerable speed.
The safety systems onboard the Haas, the Halo, the chassis, the seat belts and other harnesses worked perfectly, and Romain was able to escape the flaming car in about 15-20 seconds. The Survival Cell, which is the monocoque body surrounding the driver’s seat made out of carbon fibre composite with kevlar layers also performed well and kept the driver safe, and enabled him to escape hastily. The HANS-Head and Neck Support device, which harnesses the helmet and the neck of the driver, to ease the effect of the extreme G-Forces and crash impact, which helps in preventing neck and spine fracture both of which can be fatal. A lesser-known safety device also helps the team’s keep track of the driver’s vitals, the Biometric gloves transmit live data to the team and the emergency personnel making it easier to decide course of action after a crash.
Jackie Stewart, Three time Formula 1 World Champion is to be credited with a lot of the safety regulations which FIA imposes, like Seat belts and Full-helmets, better crash barriers and mandatory medical personnel. He welcomed the introduction of the Halo and compared it to seat belts, stating how they were initially criticized and later have become the norm in all cars around the world. Initially critical of the Halo, Toto Wolff- Mercedes Team Principal stated that the system was vital in saving LeClerc.
Today the safety systems aboard the F1 car, and the efforts of the Track marshals and swift intervention of the Medical Personnel proved that the sport has come a long way, with the last death on the track being that of the French driver Jules Bianchi in 2014. Safety regulations have been made stringent post fatal accidents, like that of Ayrton Senna in 1994, which led to track reconfigurations. Today it has become the FIA’s norm to implement the best safety measures possible to keep the sport safe, keep the drivers at their best and the fans happy.
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