FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting believes Charles Leclerc would likely have been struck in the helmet by part of Fernando Alonso’s car had it not been for his Halo in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Alonso was launched over Leclerc’s Sauber after being hit from behind by Nico Hulkenberg at the start of Sunday’s race, with the floor and front right wheel of the McLaren making contact with the Halo. The speed at which the incident happened, coupled with Leclerc’s on-board camera being blurred by fluids from Alonso’s car, make it difficult to determine where the McLaren would have made contact without the Halo, but Whiting believes the marks on the cockpit protection device suggest Leclerc was likely to have been struck.
“I think it would be a little bit speculative, but it doesn’t take much imagination to think that the tire marks could have been on Charles’ head,” Whiting said. “It would have been a bit of a miracle if they weren’t had the Halo not been there. There’s a huge extent of the tire marks. So it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think that that probably would have made contact with his head. But it is slightly speculative.”
Regardless of the hypothetical outcomes, Whiting says the FIA will be using the incident to learn more about the Halo and how it performs in order to make any required improvements to future versions of the device.
“We’ve already had a cursory examination of the parts,” he said. “A little early to say [what its role was]. The high-speed camera won’t tell us an awful lot, the on-board camera that we’ve seen so far is not particularly clear. What is clear is the significant tire marks on both the tire and the Halo.
“We take a lot of photographs and our researchers will be contacting Sauber [on Monday] morning to make sure we understand, for example, when they take the Halo off to see if the fixings and the bolts that fix it are in good shape, and more importantly, to see if it’s been distorted. It’s being held in by the bolts at present, but see if it springs into a different shape.
“Let’s hope we can try and learn whatever we can from that. Looks like it’s had a fairly hefty whack, though.”