Yesterday’s Italian Grand Prix at the famed Autodromo Nazionale Monza saw sparks fly yet again between title rivals Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. After an uncharacteristically slow stop from the Red Bull pit crew left Verstappen under pressure, a slow stop from Mercedes saw Hamilton exit the pits alongside his rival.
The two drivers negotiated the first part of the first chicane side by side, before contact with a ‘sausage kerb’ on the apex of the second part lifted Verstappen’s RB16B causing him to collide with Hamilton’s rear left tyre. This in turn launched Verstappen's car over Hamilton with the tyre of the Red Bull momentarily making contact with Hamilton’s helmet.
Although both drivers were uninjured, the incident will still be investigated as it has been deemed unusual. Michael Masi, FIA race director and safety delegate said: “Incidents that are different, so it’s not necessarily a high G impact or anything like that, or are unusual, we do look at.
“Our safety department does look at them in detail, investigate and see what we can learn and what we can improve for the future.
“That’s how we have a whole lot of the safety features that we have today, and will continue to evolve into the future.”
Masi went on to praise the safety of modern F1 cars, citing the incident in question as well as Carlos Sainz’ FP2 crash at the Ascari chicane, as encouraging signs of the safety features at work.
However, there is always room to improve when it comes to safety. The use of ‘sausage kerbs’ has proved dangerous on various occasions, look no further than Alex Peroni’s 2019 F3 crash at the same circuit, which led to him suffering fractured vertebrae.
Today’s incident also highlights both the effectiveness and shortcomings of the Halo. The Halo has been widely praised in keeping Hamilton safe during the collision, with Red bull team boss Christian Horner saying “You can see Max’s car ride up the Mercedes and without the halo there would’ve been no protection for the weight of that wheel coming down on top of Lewis, the halo has again demonstrated its purpose in Formula 1.”
It's days like today, I am reminded of how lucky I am. It takes a millisecond to go from racing to a very scary situation. Today someone must have been looking down, watching over me! #TeamLH: I'm so thankful for each and everyone of you, you are truly the best. Still we rise! pic.twitter.com/H2sGtXPKrr— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 12, 2021
While the Halo did undoubtedly save Hamilton from serious injury or death, the seven time champion was suffering from neck pain as well as a headache following the incident, highlighting a possible area of improvement for the halo, to prevent similar tyre to helmet contact happening in the future.