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Formula One 'Halo' Saves Driver Lewis Hamilton After Crash At Italian Grand Prix

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One of the biggest technological advances in Formula One racing in recent years hasn't come in the form of speed...

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)

CHANG: ...But in the form of a safety device required on every car since 2018.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It is called a halo, and it looks a bit like a giant wishbone mounted on the car over the driver's seat. It's made out of titanium engineered to withstand the weight of a London double-decker bus.

CHANG: And luckily for driver Lewis Hamilton, it might have just spared his life after a crash on Sunday at the Italian Grand Prix.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: And there's Max Verstappen right behind Hamilton, into the first chicane once again. It's wheel to wheel - Hamilton and Verstappen. And this time, Verstappen and Hamilton have crashed out. And they are both out.

CHANG: Wow. You can hear the fans react to driver Max Verstappen's car hitting a curb and spinning towards Hamilton's cockpit area.

KELLY: Here is how the Sky Sports F1 commentating crew reviewed the crash on replay.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: That was a scary, scary moment there.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: Even with the halo, Martin, look at the rear right tire of Max Verstappen's Red Bull rubbing against the crash helmet of Lewis Hamilton by the looks of it. And Hamilton is certainly trying to get as low in his cockpit as he possibly could.

KELLY: Formula One cars basically look like go-karts. They have no roof. And the Verstappen car basically drove on top of Hamilton's car.

CHANG: But Hamilton did walk away from the crash, mostly unscathed. Although he had been critical in the past about the way the halo looks, Hamilton credited it for saving him. The device took a lot of getting used to for many in the sport.

KELLY: In fact, not everyone was a fan, including Toto Wolff, CEO of the Mercedes-Benz F1 team and Lewis Hamilton's boss. Here's how Wolff described it in 2017.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOTO WOLFF: It's a huge piece of metal - much too heavy, feels completely alien. And I'd like to saw it off if I could.

KELLY: Well, the lifesaving halo remained.

CHANG: In terms of winning, Verstappen carries a narrow lead in points over Hamilton heading into the closing stretch of the season. So he may just need some wings on the car to win.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROOTS SONG, "NOW OR NEVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.