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End of discussion? Halo faces first real world F1 test at Spa

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End of discussion? Halo faces first real world F1 test at Spa
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Aug 27, 2018, 2:52 PM

Having been introduced at the start of this season, the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix encountered the first live F1 test of the halo safety...

Having been introduced at the start of this season, the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix encountered the first live F1 test of the halo safety device. Does the incident finally vindicate its introduction and put the debate to bed?

The start of the 2012 race is still fresh in the memories for many Formula One fans. A collision in that race resulted in Romain Grosjean's Lotus flying over the top of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and coming dangerously close to making contact with the driver.

It was incidents like this that prompted the FIA to go ahead with introducing the halo device, with a mixed reception from fans and drivers alike.

The halo has already been praised after it was needed in an incident between Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi at a Formula Two Sprint Race in Barcelona earlier this year.

In an incident similar to Spa 2012, Sauber's Charles Leclerc was the unfortunate victim of a big multi-car collision at La Source on the opening lap of this year's Belgian Grand Prix.

The spectacular incident was triggered by Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, who was starting far down the order after picking up a back-of-the-grid penalty for numerous power unit component changes.

He uncharacteristically misjudged his braking point and locked up his Renault under braking for turn one and clattered into the rear of Fernando Alonso's McLaren, something which the German admitted blame to after the race.

“When I hit the brakes, it locked up the front wheels and I slid. These cars are aerodynamically sensitive, especially with cars bunching up ahead as you lose a lot of grip and load," said Hulkenberg.

"I have to admit it caught me by surprise today. It was probably a misjudgement from my side as I was a bit late on the brakes, so it’s frustrating for me, the team, and the other drivers caught up in the incident."

The knock-on effect of the incident was even greater; Alonso's car was then sent into the side of Leclerc's Sauber, which was already part-way through navigating turn one.

The angle of the collision launched the McLaren over the top of the Sauber roolover hoop. Whilst the majority of the McLaren went over the Sauber, the front of Alonso's car dipped towards Leclerc's cockpit.

Whilst it can only be hypothesised just how close the McLaren would've come to making contact with the driver, the device withstood the impact and deflected the flailing front-right wheel away from Leclerc's cockpit, minimising the risk to the driver.

Speaking to press after the incident, Leclerc conceded that he didn't realise the intensity of the situation at the time but, on reflection, felt lucky to have had the halo on his car.

"I don't know how it would have ended up without it, but looking at it, I'm happy it was there," said Leclerc.

"I've been lucky on this one. Looking at the halo, it's not looking good."

Hulkenberg handed grid penalty & licence points

As a result of triggering the incident, Hulkenberg was penalised with a ten-place grid penalty for the Italian Grand Prix and given three points on his superlicence.

A statement given by the stewards, they made reference to the 2012 incident and reiterated that the current penalty points system was not in place until 2014.

"The driver of car 27 stated that he completely misjudged the situation and freely admitted it was his mistake.

“It should be noted that since 2014 the FIA has introduced the penalty points system which takes into account previous offences by a driver and can lead to a race suspension if 12 points are accumulated within a 12-month period.

“This system was not in force when an incident not dissimilar to this, occurred in 2012.”

When asked about the punishment, Leclerc said he did not think the incident merited a ban.

"Nico is not a driver that has a past and you can see it's not deliberate what he did," said Leclerc. "I don't think [a ban is right] for this type of mistake.

"If something is deliberate and dangerous than a ban should occur but not in this situation."

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

Have your opinions of the halo changed over the course of the year? Do you think the grid penalty is a fair punishment for Hulkenberg? Leave your comments in the section below.
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Series Formula 1
Author Luke Murphy
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