Belgium Grand Prix News: Charles Leclerc saved by the halo during the Belgian Grand Prix
The first lap crash during the Belgium Grand Prix was a heart-stopping affair for everyone watching. Nico Hülkenberg locked up heading into the first corner and plummeted into Fernando Alonso's car, which in turn was launched up in the air and over Charles Leclerc’s Sauber.
Halo was introduced as a cockpit protection device during the 2018 Formula One season and the incident in Spa provided a good argument for why the device is important for the safety of the drivers.
FIA Global Institute have released the results of the inspection after analyzing the data from the cars as well as the video footage in the weeks after the accident. The results provide conclusive evidence that the halo was monumental in saving Charles from a major injury.
They also demonstrate how the cockpit protection device held up against the McLaren’s front wing endplate. The halo endured a 58kN impact, and stayed “structurally intact and in a usable condition”. Later, Sauber were successful in removing it from the C37 without any hassle.
As the device aided in ricocheting Fernando’s car off the Sauber, only small carbon debris pieces from the McLaren went on to strike Leclerc. While the findings proved that Leclerc was not in the path of the front-wheel’s trajectory, but the front wing endplate could have possibly hit Charles’ visor.
Talking to Autosport, FIA’s safety director, Adam Baker, said, “From the available data and video footage, we are confident that the wheel would not have hit Leclerc's helmet.
“But, as Alonso's car continued to yaw relative to Leclerc's, we believe that Alonso's front wing endplate would have just contacted Leclerc's visor. It is difficult to predict the severity of the contact with any precision, though,” he continued.
The locus of the crash was found to be Alonso’s right front-wheel colliding with the right-hand upper side of Leclerc’s halo. The crash report has divulged that the relative velocity between the Sauber and McLaren was approximately 30km/h (19mph) and that the angle of impact is considered to be at 90 degrees.
The strike between the two was powerful enough to break the McLaren’s suspension. However, the tyre looked to have remained inflated while the right-front wheel rim was not damaged.
Key report findings:
* The estimated peak force imparted on the Halo was 58kN, this being 46% of the 125kN FIA prescribed load requirement for the Halo and chassis attachment points. The contact position during the crash was close to the load application point for the homologation tests.
* If the wheel had contacted Leclerc's helmet with a similar force, there would have been potential for a very serious head or neck injury.
* The energy and force of a wheel impacting the halo is inherently limited by the speed and mass of the wheel assembly and strength of the attached suspension.
If the full mass of the car had impacted the halo loading through the primary structure, the impact energy would have been approximately 30kJ (based on 840kg at 30km/h). Such energy would have devastating consequences if it loaded directly onto the driver.
However, the halo would not be able to absorb all this energy without significant deformation and probable failure.
* An investigation by Sauber has confirmed that the halo structure, its attachments, and the chassis were not damaged or deformed due to the engagement with the wheel.