Jules Bianchi: F1's White Knight
Eight whole years have passed, and many things have changed, since the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, that marked another black page in Formula 1's history books.
In 2014, Jules Bianchi had one of the most terrifying crashes of the sport's recent years, sustaining injuries that resulted to the death of another star that never got to shine as bright as it could.
In wet conditions, double yellow flags were waved when Adrian Sutil crashed his Sauber at T7 on lap 42, with marshals rushing to the scene to extract the car from the track, using a tractor crane. One lap later, Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia, due to the deteriorating weather conditions and crashed into the crane that was removing Sutil's car from the track. Marshals and medical crew attended the scene of the crash, after Bianchi was reported unconscious, as he didn't respond to his team's radio message, and extricated him from his destroyed MR03.
Due to the heavy rain that kept getting worse, the medical helicopter was unavailable, so Bianchi was transferred to the nearest hospital by ambulance. His injuries proved to be fatal, as he left his last breath 9 months later, on July 17th 2015.
And then: Change
Bianchi's crash was the foundation of what F1 has achieved in terms of safety: Most safety systems that now prevent such crashes from being fatal, were introduced after F1's greatest mechanics, engineers and designers, studied the physics of the tragic accident that took place on this day under Suzuka's heavy rainfall.
It was the beginning of a new era, as the FIA examined the findings of their studies, and introduced a new form of Safety Car, well known as the Virtual Safety Car, that helped reduce the speed of the drivers when conditions impose it, as well as new safety device that proved to be life-saving for many drivers, who would've most likely have the same ending as Jules.
F1's most important safety device was first introduced in testing sessions in 2016 and in July 2017. Since the 2018 season the FIA has made the halo mandatory on every vehicle in F1 and all of F1's feeder series, as well as Formula E.
It has been proved, not only statistically and theoretically, but in action as well, that the Halo is really what its name suggests: A protector, a saviour, a life-saving feature.
What are 5 times that the Halo saved the life of an F1 driver?
Zhou Guanyu - Formula 1, 2022 British Grand Prix
During this year's British Grand Prix, Zhou Guanyu was collected by George Russell's Mercedes, after the Brit was tagged on the rear by Pierre Gasly, in an overtaking attempt during the race start. Zhou's Alfa Romeo was flipped and sent directly into the barriers, getting trapped between the Armco and the fence. Hadn't it been for the halo, Zhou would most likely be severely or even fatally injured.
Alex Peroni - Formula 3, 2019 Italian Grand Prix
Racing in Formula 3 in 2019, Alex Peroni went over a sausage kerb at the apex of Parabolica in Monza, resulting him to land on the fence at the exit of the corner.
The Australian Campos driver retired from the Championship and returned to his homeland to recover, as he suffered a broken vertibra during his terrifying crash.
Charles Leclerc - Formula 1, 2018 Belgian Grand Prix
Just a few months after the halo was made mandatory for all F1 cars, the motorsport community was once again shook, after the crash Charles Leclerc suffered on the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa.
Fernando Alonso's McLaren flew over Leclerc's Sauber, after the Spaniard was hit by Niko Hülkenberg. Alonso's front right wheel brushed off Leclerc's halo, leaving visible marks on it. Hadn't it been for the halo, Leclerc would most likely have suffered severe, probably fatal, head injuries.
Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1, 2021 Italian Grand Prix
As the 2021 championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went on, the two clashed in Monza, with neither of the drivers finishing the race.
Max Verstappen went over a sausage kerb at T2, landing on Hamilton's Mercedes, with his rear right tyre pressing on the Brit's head. Hamilton suffered some neck pain from the incident, and would sustain way more serious head and neck injuries if the halo wasn't there.
Romain Grosjean - Formula 1, 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix
Just three races before the end of the 2020 season, one of the most terrifying crashes we have witnessed in a while took place in Bahrain.
Romain Grosjean, after some Lap 1 contact with Daniil Kvyat, went through the barriers of T3, with his Haas splitting in half and catching on fire.
The Frenchman escaped the 67G ball of fire without any life-threatning injuries, with burns on his hands and feet, as well as a left ankle fracture.
Removing the halo from the equation, Grosjean would've sustained fatal injuries, with his head being completely exposed to the barrier.