George Russell, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Russell grateful for Halo after “scary” collision with Giovinazzi’s wheel

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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George Russell was thankful for Formula 1’s Halo driver protection system after colliding with a wheel which came off Antonio Giovanazzi’s Alfa Romeo during the Belgian Grand Prix.

Giovanazzi lost control exiting Fagnes on lap 11 and collided with the barrier. His car and a loose wheel from it rebounded onto the track into the path of Russell’s Williams. Unable to avoid it, he crashed into the wheel and hit a barrier on the other side of the track.

While the wheel did not strike Russell’s Halo, the Williams driver says the experience made him glad it was there.

“I saw Antonio hit the wall and I managed to have a second to decide whether to go left or right,” explained Russell. “I think suddenly he got flicked over by one of his rear wheels and that launched across and hit my car.

“I was doomed if I went right as I’d have crashed to him and I was doomed if I went left because I hit his wheels. So for a very split-second, it was pretty scary seeing that massive rear tyre flying across the circuit with no idea where it was going to go.

“So I’m thankful for the Halo, because obviously I know in hindsight, even if that was headed towards me, I would have been safe. So we’re all very lucky just to have that system.”

The wheel broke free from Giovanazzi’s car despite being attached to the cars by tethers, which have been strengthened in recent years. Russell believes more work can be done to help prevent similar accidents in the future.

“I actually find it more surprising how it doesn’t happen more often,” says Russell. “The amount of force you hit the barriers at, you need something incredibly impressive to be able to hold it on. And obviously, that’s what we need to work towards.

“Obviously, I was unfortunate for the hit my car today, but that could hit a marshal or somebody in the crowd, if there were crowds there today. So that’s the most important thing.

“Year on year, Formula 1 is taking massive steps in safety. And from every incident, you learn the limitations. It’s just something that needs to be improved.”

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2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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15 comments on “Russell grateful for Halo after “scary” collision with Giovinazzi’s wheel”

  1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    30th August 2020, 21:22

    Scary stuff – at first, it looked like they had been injured but then they came out. Nonetheless, the accident should be analyzed and more improvements should be made. This could have easily resulted in a repeat of last year’s tragic accident.

    Part of the wing hit Russell’s helmet. He’s lucky it wasn’t something sharp or heavy.

    1. Martin Elliott
      30th August 2020, 21:53

      Yes, of course it should be analysed, with all the other ‘accidents’ in the confidential FIA database.

      There are two ways to work out how ‘lucky’ it is. One is to actually model the dynamics of the accident, the other is to simply use the afore said historical data just from frequency of collision with specific outcome. Or even combine the two so get a level of uncertainty of the theoretical model.

      The real Risk (frequency of a specific injury) is often a lot lower than imagined.

      Worse already, with this specific accident is that nobody I’ve read has mentioned that FIA had already ‘stopped’ most of these accidents. They even increased the total strength of the wheel tethers this year for slight increase in wheel mass.

      I wonder what the FIA data says about how often wheel tethers fail in crashes – not 0% as we saw today.

    2. I don’t think the halo would helped if one of those suppesion rods were the first coming to his cockpit they look long enough to reach the helmet. Als his helmet was peppered with parts i think a screen i.c.w. the halo is what going to happen.

      1. @macleod thanks for raising the issue about all the parts that showered his helmet. Some came from above. Really only closed cockpit would have prevented any contact with debris (not saying I advocate that).

        1. And yet not a hair on his head was ruffled. For 100% safety, stay home.

          1. You realize not everything is binary, right? I’ve never heard a driver, team, fans of the FIA saying they expect “100% safety”. Adding a Halo or a fully enclosed cockpit *improves* safety but will never reach “100%” safety as you put it. But they’re still better than doing nothing. It doesn’t have to be an argument between “100% safe” or leave the cars totally open-cockpit. There is a middle ground, you know?

  2. It’s getting a bit tiresome. People with short memory seem to forget that there were hundreds of accidents like this in the 1990s and 2000s and I can’t remember a single person barring Felipe Massa who got injured by debris entering the cockpit. Senna’s accident was different because it was against a wall and so the debris has nowhere else to go. With Leclerc in Spa, Alonso’s car hit this huge structure surrounding the driver (Charles) and people jumped to their own conclusions.

    Now, every accident we get is ‘thank God for the halo’ this and ‘well done the halo’ that. I remember watching the aftermath of Ericsson’s crash at Monza and someone actually posted ‘thank God for the halo’. Unquestioning, echo chamber responses: ‘yeah yeah thank God man’, ‘yeah bro’, ‘thank God for the halo’.

    It’s not even as if being struck by debris means instant death. Martin Brundle got his ON THE HEAD by a wheel ATTACHED TO SOMEONE’S CAR in 1994 and he was fine. Look at the start crash of Spa, 1998. Debris everywhere. Drivers were sitting in little piles of carbon fibre that had landed in the cockpit when they pulled up for the red flag. No injuries from debris. People are obsessed.

    I’m not against it in principle, but the affirmation bias on display is maddening. The halo played no part in this accident.

    1. Surtees actually got killed in an accident pretty similar to this one. It may not have been F1, but it happened. Wilson died getting a piece of debris on his head. Again, not F1, but this happens. Then you have the Massa incident.

      It’s not because people don’t die, that they don’t get hurt. Brundle was just VERY lucky. I still can’t believe how he could walk away from that. It’s often overlooked just how lucky he was.

      In Spa, multiple drivers were limping after the crash (Barrichello and Irvine for example) and had bruises and cuts. Again, nothing serious happened, but people did get hurt and lucky.

      It’s like being in a car-crash yourself. The chances of you actually not surviving or not that high, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look out for safety or that you weren’t damn lucky that you did.

      1. wow… just watched the accident on youtube… he was very lucky indeed…
        could have snapped his neck.
        The halo, ugly as it is, and useless in some cases, would have prevented this hit on the helmet.
        Therefore, keep the halo, and improve it. My opinion

    2. Brundle:

      “My first race at McLaren nearly killed me, too. Verstappen and Irvine crashed behind me and Verstappen’s car rolled over mine and knocked my head. My mind’s never been the same. If you hear me slur a word on TV or forget something, it’s from that massive hit on the head.

      Don’t trivialise & talk down.

    3. 100% agree.

      It’s not that the halo is a bad idea, or it have to be removed. It’s that in most accidents since the halo deployment, people are saying “Thanks for the halo” when the consequences of the accident without halo, would have been exactly the same, as in this case. Giovinazzi’s wheel touches Russell car on the side, it doesn’t even pass near his head, but hey, Thanks for halo. I’m noth critizising halo (and I think OP neither), I’m critizisign extremely political correctness from people who probably thinks making this type of comments may make them look “cool” or something.

      Russell reflexes have saved him, not halo. This not means that halo is a stupid thing or that it is useless. It’s only means that I have eyes in my face.

  3. It wasn’t just a wheel, it was a complete rear suspension assembly.

  4. I think this incident highlights the tire barriers have a rebound problem. This was what got Hubert, and it could have been a problem today. The Alfa didn’t rebound far, but he still returned to the track because there was little space

    I’m sure tire walls are cheap, but it seem they need replaced in locations where a strong rebound is a problem.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st August 2020, 14:08

      There was a discussion on the rebound issue under this article:

      “Tyre barrier changed at scene of Hubert’s fatal crash
      2020 Belgian Grand Prix Posted on 26th August 2020, 17:20 | Written by Dieter Rencken and Keith Collantine”

      You’re absolutely right there’s a rebound issue. You might also say there’s an FIA issue, but that’s just my opinion.

  5. fom using the halo to cheap out on safety, tyre stacks everywhere.
    this crash shows what the halo brings. in my view the 2nd crash I’ve seen where the halo would have worked.

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