F1’s Halo system not under scrutiny after Nico Hülkenberg crash

Renault driver couldn’t get out of his car after it caught fire during Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Nico Hülkenberg was involved in an opening lap crash in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty

Nico Hülkenberg was involved in an opening lap crash in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty

 

The FIA race director Charlie Whiting insists the halo cockpit protection device did not prevent Nico Hülkenberg from exiting his car after his dramatic accident at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With his car upside-down and briefly on fire the Renault driver had urgently requested that he be freed, raising questions over whether the halo was an obstacle to him getting out.

Having clipped Romain Grosjean on the opening lap of that race Hülkenburg’s car had barrel-rolled into the barriers and he was inside with the rear of his car on fire. “Get me out of here – there is fire, there is fire,” he said. “I’m okay but I’m hanging here like a cow. Get me out of this car.”

Marshals quickly extinguished the fire and righted the car, from which Hülkenberg climbed unharmed. The halo device, which was introduced this year, had been designed to help protect drivers in incidents such as this but had prompted debate on how easy removing drivers would be when inverted.

Whiting said there had been no issue with the halo and that marshals had been following procedure in not attempting to free the German immediately. “When you have an accident like that the radio from the car is automatically routed to race control so we get immediate information,” he said. “Drivers normally say: ‘I’m OK’ or ‘I’m fine,’ and we relay that to the doctors on their way to the scene. Then they can take their time to get the car righted and let him get out.”

Despite Hülkenberg’s radio message, having established he was unhurt, the FIA officials continued accordingly. “We knew he was OK and there was nothing to worry about there,” said Whiting. “So the routine under those circumstances is to put the car back on its wheels, which has to be done carefully of course. Once back on its wheels he was able to get out by himself. It was very controlled from what I could see, and our medical delegate was more than happy with the way it was done. It all worked exactly as it should.”

Driver extrication was a key part of the halo’s testing process and Hülkenberg admitted he was unsure if it had any detrimental effect. “I don’t know, if the halo blocked me or not,” he said. “To the right I had the barrier anyway and then there was a very small gap. I was just sitting tight waiting for the marshals and they reacted very quickly and got me out.”

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