The title battle reached new lengths in last week's Italian GP, when main contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton crashed, with Verstappen's car ending up on top of Hamilton's.
However, the Mercedes driver emerged from the collision mainly unscathed, considering the strength of the impact he suffered from, as the majority of impact was absorbed by the halo, a titanium safety device added in 2018. He was slightly hit on the helmet by one of Verstappen's wheels.
The Red Bull driver was believed to be at fault by the race direction, and he was handed a three-place grid penalty for the upcoming Russian GP.
The Mercedes driver feels extremely grateful for this extra measure: “Thank God for the halo, that ultimately saved me. I don’t think I have ever been hit on the head by a car before and it is quite a shock for me. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today.”
Mercedes's CEO Toto Wolff had been extremely critical of the halo when it was first introduced, going as far as to say he'd use "a chainsaw" to remove it, but definitely champ bed his mind after what happened in Monza, stating that it "definitely saved Lewis's life"
Motorsport MSc programme director at Cranfield University Clive Temple explained how engineering and technological progress saved the life of the reigning world champion:
''Hamilton was not lucky. It is a fact that engineering and science underpin all of this work which ensures drivers are safe. Safety is the primary concern in motorsport. The halo was introduced in 2018 and proved its worth in that season when Charles Leclerc, who was then driving for Alfa Romeo, was protected from [Fernando] Alonso’s flying McLaren."
But the Spa accident wasn't the only time the device proved its necessity:
"We also had the [Romain] Grosjean fireball incident in November 2020 and again the halo came to the fore there along with other safety measures such as the deformable nose cone protection, in-helmet safety system and the barrier, itself."
The halo is now compulsory in all the single-seater championships from F1 to Formula 4, and offers a strong protection from high-speed impacts or in a scenario like last weekend:
"As this crash has proven, the halo is exceptionally strong and is integral to other safety-critical elements within the car. Hamilton experiencing Verstappen’s car coming on top is probably around the equivalent of close to a London double-decker bus landing on top of the car.”
The importance of this newer step taken to increase the drivers' security was highlighted by Mercedes's strategy director James Vowles too:
"Really this is a testament to all the safety that has been put in place in Formula 1 across the last few years. The halo truly saved his life in this instance, the helmet took the impact and took it well without damaging him and again the HANS device acted as it should do."
"Those three devices all working together to ensure Lewis is a little bit bruised and hurting, but OK," he concluded.