Over the years the safety of F1 has changed in order to protect the drivers’ lives without decreasing the intensity and excitement of the sport. Multiple factors have been adjusted and introduced one at a time, and it is likely that there will be more to come in the future. Let’s take a look at one of the most thrilling sports and its safety.


In 2018, a new creation called the halo was added to the structure of Formula One cars, and many of the lower formulas that drivers often race in prior to Formula One. The piece consists of titanium tubing in the shape of a ring which sits above the driver’s head in the car, and protects them without causing too much of an obstruction to their view. Despite being a fairly small part of the car, they add 9kg to the total weight of the car which stands around 800kg.

It is agreeable among most fans that the halo has greatly improved the level of protection given to drivers during race incidents. When deciding on a mechanism that would provide this support, the FIA looked at multiple different ways that collisions can occur in order to gauge the best way to protect the drivers. They looked at data from collisions between multiple cars, collisions between cars and stationary objects (for example the barriers surrounding the track), as well as incidents involving cars and debris that may be flying through the air after other nearby collisions.

Since being introduced fully in 2018, there have been a number of situations in Formula One where the halo has proved its worth, one of the most fascinating yet worrying examples being in 2022 at the British Grand Prix. On the first lap of the race. Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu was flipped upside down within a matter of seconds after he made contact with two other drivers. As if being upside down wasn’t enough of a danger, Zhou’s car proceeded to slide to the end of the track and over the gravel, and eventually his car became lodged in between the metal barriers that protect the fans and the tyre barriers that act as an energy absorber in the event of a crash. Instead of allowing Zhou’s helmet to be exposed to the vast amount of violence that comes with travelling upside down at 250kmh, the halo took a lot of the damage that could have cost Zhou his life.


However the halo is not the only safety mechanism that protects the drivers in their vehicles. One of the longest lasting is the seatbelt. Something we are so used to having in our own cars is no exception to Formula One, and has been in use since 1972. When it comes to the drivers’ ideas about seatbelts, in the 1950s and 60s many were against them being introduced as theoretically they would only make it harder for you to get out of the car in the event of it being on fire. The drivers’ would rather have been thrown out of their vehicle an break a few bones than stay in it and possibly get set on fire. This idea was supported by events such as the 1969 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International, where Graham Hill was thrown out of his vehicle after a tyre exploded. The incident resulted in a few broken bones, but thankfully he survived. Had there have been a seatbelt, he could have endured much more severe injuries. This incident does not mean that there is no need for a seatbelt, because they ensure the safety of F1 drivers just as seatbelts do in our everyday cars, and it is important that the drivers have such security to protect them.


An overlooked yet essential safety feature in Formula One is the volunteer marshals, whose job description can be quite lengthy depending on the events of a race. During a race with no collisions, retirements, safety cars or debris on track, the marshals’ job is fairly simple because they are just looking out for dangers on and off track. A race that consists of more events like this requires them to clear the track of debris to prevent other drivers from damaging their cars, especially their tyres. They also may need to help drivers get out of their vehicles if they end up in a difficult position as a result of a collision. In a situation like this the driver may be unconscious and therefore unable to get themselves out of the car, so the first people to help them before the emergency teams gets there is the marshals. Not only will they have to partake in helping the driver get away from the incident, but they will also have to fix the damage done to the barriers that surround the track, providing it is fixable.


I spoke to Mason Scott from Grimsby, who has been a fan of Formula One for a little over three years and I asked his opinions on the level of safety in Formula One and he said: ‘There is absolutely no doubt that the safety in F1 is outstanding, with crashes like Romain Grosjean at Bahrain in 2020 not being fatal, but of course it can be improved as there are incidents that can lead to serious injuries. Even Daniel Ricciardo at Zandvoort in 2023 suffered with a broken wrist when he wasn’t travelling at as high a speed as other incidents that may cause this same injury.’


Safety will always remain at the forefront of Formula One, as too many lives have been lost in tragic incidents since its debut in 1950. Luckily the FIA seem to have found an excellent balance for safety and entertainment, which allows fans to feel the adrenaline during races while knowing that their favourite athletes will remain protected.