Charles Leclerc would have required a “miracle” to avoid a potentially fatal injury if the “halo”, Formula One’s controversial new safety device, had not been on his car in Belgium.
That was the verdict of the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body on Monday, after fresh television footage emerged of the terrifying opening-corner accident.
The slow-motion video, captured from the on-board camera on Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso, clearly shows the front-right wheel of Fernando Alonso’s car smashing into Leclerc’s halo. The three-pronged design, which sits on the driver’s cockpit and became mandatory this year despite fierce opposition, deflected Alonso’s out-of-control McLaren away from Leclerc’s head.
The crushing force of the impact was enough to break the Spaniard’s McLaren suspension. Alonso’s black tyre marks were visible on Sauber driver Leclerc’s white halo.
“It doesn’t take much imagination to think that the tyre marks would have actually been on Charles’ head,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.
“It would have been a miracle if they weren’t, had the halo not been there. What is clear is the significant tyre marks on both the chassis and the halo. It looks like it has had a fairly hefty whack.”
Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg will serve a 10-place grid penalty at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday for his role in the terrifying accident.
The German, also hit with three penalty points on his licence by the stewards, crashed into the back of Alonso to send the McLaren car hurtling towards Leclerc.
Monegasque Leclerc, 20, pictured, insisted that Hulkenberg does not deserve to be suspended for causing the accident, but believes the FIA must consider banning drivers for dangerous driving.He said: “If something is done deliberately or dangerously then a ban should occur.
“Nico is not a driver who has a past, and you can see that his actions were not deliberate. It was just a pure mistake,”added Leclerc, who was competing in only his 13th grand prix.
The F1 grid will reconvene in Monza on Sunday with Lewis Hamilton now just 17 points ahead of rival Sebastian Vettel following the Ferrari driver’s unchallenged victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
After the race, Hamilton cryptically suggested that Vettel’s dominant win had been aided by “tricks” on his Ferrari machinery. Hamilton, 33, however, insisted that he did not believe Ferrari were acting illegally.
Race director Whiting added: “I’m quite amused about it really because we know quite a lot about Ferrari’s car and there is no way Lewis would know about anything about it.
“If Lewis says they’ve got a few tricks going on in that car, well clearly Ferrari have got things going on which are giving it performance and all of us in the FIA are aware of and obviously are happy with.
“They are doing a good job at the moment and Mercedes have got to try to counter that.”