Lewis Hamilton said Formula 1’s “halo” safety device saved his life in his crash at the Italian Grand Prix.
The seven-time 36-year-old world champion was hit by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the Dutchman’s car passed Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The “halo,” a curved, reinforced bar in front of the driver’s head, protected Hamilton from more severe impact.
“I feel very lucky today,” said Hamilton. “Thank goodness for the halo that saved me, and saved my neck.”
The Briton added: “I am so grateful to still be here. I feel incredibly blessed that someone is watching over me today.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hit in the head by a car before – and that’s a big shock to me.
“We take risks and it’s only when you go through something like this that you feel the real shock of how you view life and how fragile we all are.
“If you look at the footage of the accident, my head is really pretty far into the cockpit.”
Hamilton was initially skeptical of the halo’s introduction, calling it the “worst modification” in the history of the sport, but began to change his mind before its introduction three years ago.
The device was also hailed for saving Charles Leclerc after his car was hit by Fernando Alonso’s flying McLaren following a first-lap crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2018.
“The halo definitely saved Lewis’ life today,” added Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff. “Without it it would have been a horrible accident that I don’t even want to think about.
“The Championship has been a lot of fun so far, but we saw the halo saving Lewis’ life today. We don’t want to see someone seriously injured.”
The incident occurred on lap 26 of 53 at Monza as Verstappen approached the Variante del Rettifilo at 225 mph and Hamilton exited the pit lane.
Verstappen attempted to squeeze past Hamilton at the right-left chicane, but left the track and headed for the sidewalks.
The Red Bull driver was sent out of control and flew down Hamilton Road, the right rear wheel crushing the top of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Verstappen was considered to be the cause of the incident by the race marshals and received a penalty of three grid places for the next race – the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi on September 26.
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 given enough room to make the turn.
“You need two people to make this work and I feel like I’ve been ousted. When you go up against each other, these things can happen, unfortunately.”
This is the second time the two drivers have met in the 2021 season, with Hamilton being accused of causing an incident at Silverstone that left Verstappen out of the race.
Hamilton was fined 10 seconds but still managed to win the British Grand Prix, while Verstappen had to be rushed 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 22 races scheduled.
Three hours after the race, Hamilton said his neck was “sore” and believed he would need more medical attention.
Reacting to Verstappen’s penalty, Hamilton added: “I am proud of the Stewards.
“It sets a precedent and it is important for us to move forward, for the safety of the pilots, that there are rules in place.”