The Halo, a sporting innovation that was once almost thrown out on aesthetic grounds, might just have saved the first Formula One driver‘s life.

Charles Leclerc accepted last night that he was “lucky” to escape unscathed from a horrifying first-corner crash at the Belgian Grand Prix, as Fernando Alonso‘s McLaren was pitched straight over the top of his Sauber after a reckless shunt from behind by Nico Hulkenberg.

Sebastian Vettel avoided the mayhem to reduce Lewis Hamilton‘s championship lead to 17 points after sealing a commanding victory in Belgium. One glance at the wreckage of Leclerc‘s car, whose halo was disfigured by Alonso‘s tyre marks but remained intact, confirmed how fortunate the Monegasque driver had been to avoid serious injury.

Even when the halo was introduced to F1 at the start of this season, there was fervid debate about whether it represented an over-reaction that would dilute the sport‘s inherent danger.

The mayhem that unfolded in Spa yesterday, with one side of Alonso‘s car reduced to scrap metal and Leclerc protected only by the slender roll-bar around his head, put paid to those concerns for good.

“It could have been very nasty,” said Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal. “I‘m happy that we have the halo.”

Leclerc‘s mother, Pascale, was so alarmed by the TV footage that she had to be sent a picture by his physiotherapist to illustrate that he was unhurt.

At a Spa circuit renowned for dramatic starts, as the field jostles for position on the short run-down to La Source, this was an incident that leapt straight into the canon of chaos. But unlike in 1998, when the rain magnified the risk, this moment of havoc took place under a clear blue sky. A piece of carelessly late braking by Hulkenberg was all it look for his Renault to barrel into the back of Alonso (left), pinballing the McLaren straight into Leclerc‘s path.

“Definitely the halo helped,” Leclerc said. “I don‘t know how it would have ended up without it.” The blameless Alonso, likewise, lauded the device‘s effectiveness in this situation. “It was good proof,” he said.

“We didn‘t have any doubts, but in these kinds of accidents we know that the halo is always a good protection.” Nico Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, argued: “We can end the halo discussion now. It will save lives.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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