Formula 1 driver Zhou Guanyu probably wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the partially closed titanium device that formed a protective layer around the cockpit of his race car. Zhou credited the protective device, known as a halo, with saving his life after a horrific accident on the first lap of Sunday’s British Grand Prix, according to CNN.
“I’m fine, everything is clear. Halo saved me today,” Zhou tweeted Sunday, along with a selfie. “Thank you all for your kind messages!”
Zhou was one of several drivers involved in the first-turn crash, which saw his Alfa Romeo flip and skid across the track before crashing into the fence. The halo, which forms a partial shield around the cockpit, prevented Zhou from sustaining serious injuries.
Zhou’s car got stuck between the tire barrier and the catch fence, which is there to protect the fans. The awkward nature of the car’s placement meant that it took a while to extract it.
Mercedes’ George Russell, who made contact with Zhou during the collision, immediately got out of his car once it came to a stop and ran to check on Zhou.
The rookie, who is China’s first F1 driver, was eventually photographed being stretched by emergency medical personnel and later given the all clear after being assessed at the medical centre.
The halo, which was introduced by F1 in 2018, was initially resisted by some drivers – although many have since credited it with saving their lives. The concept leaked in 2015, following the death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson during a race when his head was hit by debris. (A number of other F1 and IndyCar drivers died in similar incidents.)
The Halo was originally designed by Mercedes-Benz Motorsports, but the FIA took over the development process and began a series of tests in the fall. Other designs were tested, including a similar design proposal from the Red Bull Racing team.
Since F1 is considered the most prestigious racing series, many have looked to it to lead the way in this arena, and in some ways it has. F1 originally planned to introduce halo cockpits to the sport in 2017, but the plan was delayed, citing the “relatively short timeframe” to implement the requirement. Halos were finally introduced the following year. Formula E, the electric motorsport series, also features halo cockpits in its race cars, including LED accents.
Halo cockpits have angered some motorsport fans due to how they can spoil aesthetics. But when you’re flying around a hairpin bend at 200 mph and the slightest contact with a bumper can send a race car flying through the air, the halo can mean the difference between life and death.