Unveiling the Halo: The Future of F1 Driver Safety


Image Source: ESPN India

In Formula 1, driver safety is super important. After Jules Bianchi's crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, they introduced this new safety gadget called the Halo to keep drivers safer. People had mixed feelings about it at first, but now everyone sees how it saves lives.  Just look at incidents like Charles Leclerc's at Spa, Romain Grosjean's fiery crash in Bahrain, and Guanyu Zhou's car flipping at Silverstone. Thanks to the Halo, drivers have walked away from these serious crashes with just minor injuries.


Defining the Halo

It's a titanium bar that protects drivers from rollovers. It didn't win any beauty contests when it first came out, and even drivers weren't fans. Lewis Hamilton, who's won seven world titles, called it the worst-looking mod in F1 history. But since its debut in 2018, it has saved a ton of lives. The idea for better cockpit protection started in 2014 after several nasty crashes. Jules Bianchi's accident was a big wake-up call. He hit a crane at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, and the impact was so severe that his helmet came off, leading to fatal injuries nine months later. In 2009, Felipe Massa got hit by a loose spring from Rubens Barrichello's car during the Hungarian Grand Prix. He passed out and crashed, suffering a skull fracture that took him out of racing for months.


They considered two options: the halo and a 'Formula 1 windscreen'. The windscreen was tested but didn't work out Sebastian Vettel even reported blurred vision. The Halo, however, passed all tests and was officially introduced in 2018. F1 teams can't make their own Halos; they are supplied by three approved manufacturers who meet the same standards set by the FIA.


Opposition to the Halo

People weren't big fans of the halo at first, calling it 'ugly' and even comparing it to a 'toe slipper.' But as Formula 1 keeps changing, the halo's look is getting a bit better. And hey, everyone has different tastes. Another plus is that the halo gives more space for ads. The flip-flop brand 'Gandys' jumped on this and had their name on the McLaren halos during the Australian Grand Prix. Some drivers said the halo messed with their visibility, but Valtteri Bottas disagreed, saying he got used to it quickly. The halo also posed some initial aerodynamic challenges because of its weight of around seven to nine kilos. But McLaren's Peter Promodrou mentioned that it could be a chance to outsmart rivals.


Manufacturing Process of the Halo

Halo in F1

Image Source: Wikipedia

Since they needed non-standard tube sizes, manufacturers had to start from scratch. Titanium oxidizes when heated, so they use 'cold bending' to shape the tubes slowly and consistently. Welding titanium is tricky, too, because it needs to be shielded from oxidation to keep the weld strong. The V transition and rear mounts are made from titanium billet using 3 and 5-axis milling machines, taking at least 40 hours to machine due to their complexity. After welding and cooling the tube sections, they are attached to the V transition, and the rear mounts are welded to the structure. The final step is machining the whole assembly to fit the chassis properly.


Rolling structures are designed to keep the car safe in a rollover crash. The main one is the roll hoop right behind the driver, and the backup is the halo. Teams try to make the roll hoop as light as possible, but it's super strong and can handle up to 11,000 kg. There are various types of roll hoops, but they all have to meet FIA standards for safety. The wing on top of the roll hoop isn't just for the onboard camera; it also helps tell drivers apart on the same team. The first car gets a black one, and the second car gets a fluorescent yellow one.


Unlike the roll hoop, the halo has a standard design. It's got three parts: the V transition, the front tube, and the rear mounts. The halo can support up to 12,000 kg, which is the weight of a double-decker bus. Made from a titanium alloy with a carbon cover, it's both strong and light. Teams can't build the halo themselves since it's a safety feature, but they do modify the car's chassis to fit it. This creates a super tough survival cell, or monocoque, made from carbon fiber and nearly indestructible.


You May Also Like: Unleashing the Speed: A Closer Look at F1 Pit Stops


Halo Safety Tests & Aerodynamics

Each Halo design has to go through strict safety tests set by the FIA to get 'FIA approved.' This means testing at the Cranfield Impact Centre (CIC), the only place in the world that can crash test the Halo. Once it passes, the structure's strength is confirmed. But it's tested again when attached to the chassis to make sure there's 'no failure of any part of the survival cell or of any attachment between the structure and the survival cell.' With the halo, teams had to get creative to make up for the lost aerodynamic edge. Some teams added small winglets on the V transition, while others left it empty and tweaked the rear mounts a bit. Sure, the halo might not look great and mess with aerodynamics a bit, but it does its job in keeping drivers safe, which is what really matters.


The driver's position also matters! Think about standing in the car while it flips the halo wouldn't really help you out much in that case. For the halo to work, you need a bar from the top of the roll hoop to the front of the halo, and there's gotta be at least 75mm between the bar and the driver's helmet. Jim Watson, Engineering Manager at CIC, said that the Halo testing consists of two static tests. For the first test, the load comes from above at an angle of 22.5 degrees and that is the more straightforward test to do. The more difficult one is where the load comes in from the side. Both tests reach 125kN and then the load comes off, so we don't test the ultimate strength of the part, only to the required load specified in the regulations.


The Halo is an Important Safety Tool

Halo Effect

Image Source: FIA

Theoretically, the chance of a fatal accident is 17% lower with a halo. In practice, it's been a lifesaver a few times. Like in 2018 at the Spa Grand Prix, when Alonsos McLaren flew over Leclercs Alfa Romeo and hit the halo. Or when Grosjean had that fiery crash in Bahrain in 2020the halo pushed the barrier up and gave him space to escape. Then there was Zhou's crash in Silverstone in 2022; he flipped and landed upside down but got out okay, thanks to the halo. And at the 2021 Monza Grand Prix, Hamilton's halo protected him when Verstappen's car ended up on top of his Mercedes. Despite the initial pushback, people are now praising the halo. It saves lives.


Daniel Chilcott, Managing Director of SST Technology, said, "We have to gun drill the bar and then turn the outer diameter before the tube could be bent. Due to the tolerance required between the rear mounts and the main Halo structure, the Halo is actually made from two tube sections that are welded together, not a single piece bent a full 180 degrees. The only reason we are able to do that is because we use a fully electric tube bending machine. This applies the same amount of torque throughout the process, achieving a proportional bend rather than using a hydraulic machine that may not apply a consistent load, leading to breakages.


We have developed a bespoke shroud technique that welds the parts within using a unique gas mix to ensure that the welds don't oxidize in any way. The tolerance across the bolt holes in the rear feet is 100 microns which is a challenge on what is ultimately a fabricated structure. We address that by securing the Halo by the nose and finish machine the rear mounts and without this final process, the Halo wouldn't fit to the chassis."


Similar Reads You May Enjoy: Discover the Fuel Behind the Fast: What Kind of Fuel Is Used in Formula 1 Cars?



The Halo's a big deal for driver safety in Formula 1, showing everyone's serious about keeping drivers safe and cutting down on risks in high-speed racing. With a mix of lightweight titanium and carbon fiber, plus a tough manufacturing process, it's super strong and reliable. The Halo's really raised the bar for motorsport safety, letting drivers go all out with more confidence.