Sauber’s Charles Leclerc felt the Halo cockpit safety device helped the him from injury after Lap 1 crash in Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
The incident was caused by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg after he rammed into the back of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who flew over Leclerc’s car into Turn 1 at the start of the race. Hulkenberg misjudged the braking and caused a chain reaction.
While Alonso was the initial victim but he collected Leclerc and also hit Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who in turn ran into Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The Renault driver admitted his mistake and has been handed a 10-place grid penalty for Italian GP.
“It did look scary from the outside, not a great thing happened there obviously,” said Hulkenberg. “Probably, I misjudged my braking a little going into Turn 1. I thought there would be more grip going into Turn 1 but I found myself with very little front grip.
“I instantly locked up the front axle, it all happened fast and then there was Fernando right in front of me, I would have avoided him if I could but there was no chance. It was frustrating for me, for him and for everybody, so not a great start.
“It is good that Monza is around the corner because the weekend like that you want to forget quickly and get back in the car.” Team principal and most of the grid were surprised by the uncharacteristic mistake from the German.
Alonso, in fact, reminded media about the 2012 crash when Romain Grosjean was banned for a similar type of crash in Turn 1. The Spaniard feels any driver in Hulkenberg’s position should now think twice before such move and praised the Halo.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “We made a good start. There were a couple of possibilities of overtaking in Turn 1. You play it cautious, you brake at the same point, then you look in the mirrors and see the guys behind you behaving as if this was the last corner of the championship.
“I saw Nico in the mirrors coming with all four wheels locked, at a very high speed. He completely missed the braking point by a long way, not just a couple of metres. There was no way I could avoid that, then I felt the impact and flew over Charles’ car. Nico played bowling a little bit with us today.
“It’s sad to see this happening, because usually these kinds of accidents have major consequences, but on the positive side, everyone involved is fine, especially Charles, as I flew over his car. [The incident] was something similar to 2012, the start.
“When you miss so much the braking point and you hit someone at that speed, you need to think twice the next time. On the positive side we are all OK and also Charles with the Halo. It is a good proof [even though] we didn’t need any but it is a good thing.”
While Hulkenberg and Alonso escaped any injuries but the biggest save was for Leclerc who could have had a head injury after Alonso flew over him and even brushing his Halo as the TV replays showed. The floor of Alonso’s car touched Halo when he flew past him.
The Monegasque was also in praise Halo – of which he wasn’t a fan – that helped him in the race. “I definitely did not expect it [the crash],” he said. “It was quite sudden and I did not have the vision of Fernando in my mirrors, so yeah it is a big shame.
“Obviously, I believe the Halo has been quite useful today. I am not sure how it would have ended without it, but [now] looking at the Halo [on my car], it is not great. So, I think it has proved that it’s probably that it is the right place to be.”
Several drivers took to social media to talk about the Halo after the race:
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) August 26, 2018
— Felipe Massa (@MassaFelipe19) August 26, 2018
— M A X Chilton (@maxchilton) August 26, 2018
— Jean Todt (@JeanTodt) August 26, 2018
End of the race in the 1st corner. Frustrating.
Never been a fan of the halo but I have to say that I was very happy to have it over my head today !
📷: @f1gregoryheirman / @fotoformulak pic.twitter.com/QILqoVtjVh
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) August 26, 2018