- Romain Grosjean climbing out of his burning Haas car.

The F1 aesthetic vs safety debate is over forever

Romain Grosjean's crash has silenced any previous discussions about the halo.

7w ago

Fans, drivers and engineers alike watched in horror as Romain Grosjean's Haas hit the barriers and burst into a ball of flames. Grosjean climbed over the barrier with one shoe on, his suit still on fire, covered in dust from the fire extinguisher. The very fact that he managed to climb out of his car is testament to the FIA's safety measures.

The staggering extent of the damage to his car was made clear as the camera panned to his smouldering Haas, which had been ripped entirely in half.

Thankfully, neither Grosjean nor the nearby marshals were seriously injured, although the full extent of Grosjean's injuries remain to be seen.

What does become apparent, however, is how much worse it could have been. Sky Sports commentator David Croft remarked that "years ago it would've been a very different story".

2018 saw the introduction of the "Halo", a frontal head protection device meant for extra cockpit protection. Footage shown after the incident at Bahrain showed Grosjean's protective Halo battered, but intact. Without the Halo, he likely would not have survived the crash.

Yet upon its introduction to F1, the halo was criticised for a number of reasons: driver visibility and extraction, but primarily aesthetic. Its naysayers included both drivers and fans, as they branded the safety device "ugly", "unnecessary"; and a change that would ruin the previously iconic open cockpit appearance of Formula One cars.

Today this debate has been decidedly won: in favour of safety. A collective agreement appears to have settled upon F1, in the understanding that the driver's lives are of the utmost importance, more so than the aesthetic of the cars they drive.

This horrific event emphasises that the sacrifice of motorsport entertainment can often be a human cost, as well as providing a reminder of all those we have previously lost in the pursuit of their dreams.

Lewis Hamilton echoed this sentiment, commenting in a post-race interview that "it's a reminder to us, and the people at home, how dangerous the sport is". Still, Grosjean's crash is not the only reminder that serves to highlight the importance of the Halo in F1.

In 2018, Charles Leclerc praised the safety device after an incident at the Belgian Grand Prix, where the Halo similarly saved him from grievous injury. The Halo on Leclerc's Sauber bore the brunt of the force as Fernando Alonso's car was launched into the air and landed on top of Leclerc's car - an accident that could've been completely different had it not been there.

Given the dangerous nature of F1, there will likely come a time again when another event comes to remind us of how far we have come from the 1950s, and just how essential the FIA's safety precautions are and continue to be, regardless of aesthetic.

For now, we should feel thankful that the safety measures of the modern F1 era allowed us to watch Romain Grosjean walk away from his crash alive.

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Comments (9)

  • It brings up the “how much is a persons life worth” all over again.

    Safety has to be paramount, the drivers need to be able to walk away from a bad shunt and see their families again.

    It’s remarkable that an impact of 50g didn’t kill him anyway!

    That just shows the fitness level these guys are at.

    I’m old enough to remember F1 back in the late 60s when it would have been a very different story.

      1 month ago
  • Agreed

      1 month ago
  • great article!

      1 month ago
  • Agreed. We don’t want to lose another (future)hero.

      1 month ago
  • It's up to designers to infuse halo into aesthetic design. Hopefully the new car will look good in 2022

      1 month ago