A shock accident at Silverstone shows once again how safe Formula 1 has become. Alfa driver Guanyu Zhou is already fit for the next race – and knows what he has to be thankful for.

After his horror accident at Silverstone, Formula One driver Guanyu Zhou sees the once controversial cockpit protection as his lifesaver. “The Halo saved me,” said the Chinese driver, reporting fit for the next race in Austria next Sunday. Images of the crash in his Alfa Romeo headfirst into the catch fence had caused horror and concern for the 23-year-old’s health at the British Grand Prix. “It was a serious accident and I’m glad I’m OK,” Zhou said.

Once again, the roll bar known as the “halo”, which has been compulsory in Formula 1 since 2018, paid off. Protected by the seven-kilogram titanium ring over his head, Zhou survived the frightening slide over asphalt and gravel and the crash into the fence without any major injuries. “If it wasn’t for Halo, he wouldn’t be there. Of course he was very lucky,” said world champion Max Verstappen after viewing the accident video.

Before the introduction of the “Halo”, there had been heated debates among the drivers, some of whom feared that the field of vision was too restricted. “Today showed again that the halo really belongs in Formula 1,” Verstappen said. Alfa team boss Frederic Vasseur noted, “The work on improving safety in our sport is never done. This day reminds us how important that is.”

The cockpit protection had been developed in response to several high-consequence incidents. Brazilian Felipe Massa was seriously injured in the head by a metal spring in Hungary in 2009. In 2009, 18-year-old Henry Surtees was also fatally injured by a flying tyre at Brands Hatch in Formula 2.

“Safety is our top priority”

According to the FIA, the world governing body, the “halo” has to withstand the weight of two African elephants (around twelve tonnes for two males) and a full suitcase fired at 225km/h. “Safety is our top priority,” FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem stressed at Silverstone. Williams driver Alexander Albon had also survived a serious accident at the start without major injuries and had been released from hospital on Sunday evening.

Sainz: “The Halo probably saved two lives today”.

The “halo” had also prevented worse things in the Formula 2 junior class on Sunday. In a collision, the car of Norwegian Dennis Hauger landed at cockpit height on the car of Roy Nissany. The Israeli remained unhurt thanks to the titanium bar. “The Halo probably saved two lives today,” said Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz after his Formula 1 victory in Silverstone and, referring to the increasingly comprehensive safety measures, emphasised: “I’m very happy to be driving in Formula 1 at this time.”