Watch: Titanium 'halo' saves more lives in huge race crashKevin J. Harrigan | August 30, 2021
Last weekend, a Women's Series single-seater race was held at the Spa-Francorchamps race circuit in Belgium, in support of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix. The weekend forecast called for soaking rain, which complicated the weekend for all competitors and races.
Most notably, the wet conditions and dangerous track layout resulted in a massive pile up during race qualifying. As evident in the video, disaster was almost certainly averted by the halo innovation, introduced to Formula 1 in 2018, and which has trickled down into F2, F3 and Women's racecars.
The halo is a semicircular device that encloses the drive cockpit above head height. Composed completely of titanium, the halo weighs just 20 lb but must withstand 125 kN of force from both the top and sides, for at least five seconds, without any signs of deformation or stress. CP Autosport of Germany is one of three suppliers for the halo, but regardless of manufacturer each halo is the same.
CP Autosport receives heat treated blocks of titanium, which the company machines and drills into five components: two tubular arcs and three mounting components. These components are TIG welded in a closed chamber before further heat treating. Surface treatment follows, which aids in the adhesion of painted liveries and aerodynamic components. Quality analysis and non-destructive testing, including x-rays and crack tests, of each component is also completed before being shipped to race teams for installation in the vehicle.
“You need state-of-the-art machining parts to do the pre-machining and the post-welding final machining,” said Steffan Zacharias, a business executive at CP, to FIA.com in 2018. “You need a welding chamber in a closed atmosphere to do the welding process, and you need the supply chain for the material.”
The halo is ultimately connected to the driver's survival cell at three points. The survival cell is a reinforced, 6 mm thick carbon fiber shell that protects the driver from extreme impacts. It features an additional layer of strong aramid fiber and a fire suppression system.
Thankfully, all six drivers lived through the collision, although two needed hospitalization. As for the track, circuit owners were already planning a redesign for 2022, as there have been several high speed crashes in this section in recent years, including a fatal F2 crash in 2019.