Lewis Hamilton has said Formula 1’s ‘halo’ safety device saved his life in his crash at the Italian Grand Prix.
The 36-year-old seven-time world champion was hit by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman’s car driving over Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The ‘halo’, a curved, reinforced bar in front of the driver’s head, protected Hamilton from a more severe impact.
“I feel very fortunate today,” said Hamilton. “Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.”
The Briton added: “I am so grateful I am still here. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on the head by a car before – and it is quite a big shock for me.
“We are taking risks and it’s only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are.
“If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit.”
Hamilton was initially sceptical about the introduction of the halo, calling it the “worst-looking modification” in the sport’s history and vowed not to use it, unless it became mandatory.
But he started to change his tune ahead of its introduction three years ago.
The device has also been lauded for saving Charles Leclerc after his car was struck by Fernando Alonso’s flying McLaren following a first-lap accident at Spa-Francorchamps in 2018.
“The halo definitely saved Lewis’ life today,” added Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. “Without it, it would have been a horrible accident which I don’t even want to think about.
“The championship was good fun up until now but we saw the halo save Lewis’ life today. We don’t want to see someone seriously hurt.”
The incident happened on lap 26 of 53 at Monza as Verstappen approached the Variante del Rettifilo at 225mph and Hamilton exited the pit-lane.
Verstappen attempted to squeeze past Hamilton at the right-left chicane, but ran off the track and on to the kerbs.
The Red Bull driver was sent out of control and airborne into Hamilton’s path, with the rear-right wheel crushing the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Verstappen has been deemed to have caused the incident by race stewards and received a three-place grid penalty for the next race – the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi on 26 September.
Before the penalty was announced, the 23-year-old wrote on Twitter: “Today was very unfortunate. The incident could have been avoided if I had been left enough space to make the corner.
“You need two people to make that work and I feel I was squeezed out of it. When racing each other, these things can happen, unfortunately.”
This is the second time the two drivers have clashed in the 2021 season as Hamilton was blamed for causing an incident at Silverstone that left Verstappen out of the race.
Hamilton was given a 10-second penalty, but still managed to win the British Grand Prix, while Verstappen had to be taken to hospital as a precaution before being released.
Verstappen, who has never won the Formula 1 world title, holds a five-point lead in the title race after 14 of a scheduled 22 races.