'It will save lives' - Halo protective device praised after horror Formula 1 crash

Fernando Alonso's McLaren car spiraled into the air and bounced - yes, bounced - on top of Charles Leclerc's Sauber during a dramatic first-lap crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Both Formula One drivers walked away unscathed, with the "halo" protective device surrounding Leclerc's cockpit appearing to save him from a serious head injury.

"I don't know how it would have ended up without it. I am happy it was there," said Leclerc, a 20-year-old driver from Monaco. "It all happened very quickly. At the time, I knew there was an orange car, I thought it was Fernando. I felt the impact, but it wasn't that big in the car. I was lucky."

Motorsport governing body FIA made the head protective device mandatory in F1 this year in order to protect drivers from potentially fatal impacts such as loose tires barreling at high speed, other flying debris and - in this case - one car landing on another.

"What is clear is the significant tire marks on the chassis and the halo," FIA race director Charlie Whiting said. "It doesn't take much imagination to think the tire marks could have actually been on Charles' head."

The FIA has been looking at ways to improve cockpit protection and limit the risk of head injuries, after French F1 driver Jules Bianchi - who was a close friend of Leclerc's - died in July 2015 and British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died a month later.

In this morning's crash, Leclerc's head would most likely have been hit, if not for the halo.

"(Alonso's car) would probably have made contact with his head," Whiting said.

Alonso, who was sent airborne by Nico Hulkenberg's Renault ploughing into the back of his car, was thankful no one was harmed.
"On the positive side we are all OK, with Charles, with the halo. It's good news all three of us are OK," Alonso told television broadcaster Sky.

"It's good proof (for the halo). We didn't need any proof, but it's a good thing."

The halo forms a semi-circular barrier around the driver's helmet in the front half of the cockpit, protecting the head without completely closing the cockpit. When first tested ahead of 2016, drivers were split as to whether they liked it with some - such as four-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton - criticizing it on aesthetic grounds.

Others, like two-time F1 champion Alonso and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel were outspoken in backing its usage.

Former F1 champion Nico Rosberg tweeted: "We can end the HALO discussion now. It will save lives."

Bianchi and Leclerc were childhood friends. Bianchi grew up in Nice, Leclerc in nearby Monaco, and their fathers were firm friends.

Bianchi died at the age of 25, several months after massive head injuries sustained at the Japanese GP in October 2014.

Bianchi's accident at Suzuka occurred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy conditions, when his Marussia team car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

Wilson died in August 2015, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway. In 2011, British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died of a head injury at Las Vegas when his car flipped cockpit-first into the fence and his head struck a pole.


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Four-time IndyCar champ in awe of former teammate Scott Dixon's dominance

One of Indycar's most successful drivers has described his former teammate Scott Dixon as "a chameleon" with "exceptional desire" after surpassing him for career driver's championship wins.

Dixon won his fifth IndyCar title on Monday to sit second only to American great AJ Foyt who won seven championships.

With the achievement, the 38-year-old Kiwi broke away from the four-time winners group of Dario Franchitti, Mario Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais.

Franchitti drove alongside Dixon before becoming an adviser to Chip Ganassi Racing - the team Dixon races for - and said the Kiwi's ability to adapt was phenomenal.

"He's like a chameleon. He adapts to different styles of cars and different styles of tyres," Franchitti told IndyCar.com.

"He learns from every teammate he's got. He uses every resource he can get, and he'll ask questions of them. You see the results.

"Talent only gets you so far. He's got lots of it, maybe more than I've ever raced against. That's saying a lot with some of the people I've raced against. He just keeps working at it. That desire is exceptional."

But Dixon said after yesterday's triumph it was more than just him.

"It’s all about the people, I’m the lucky one that gets to take it across the line," he said.

"I can’t thank my wife, Emma, enough, she’s been so amazing through the whole season, it’s actually the anniversary of her father’s passing today so it’s an emotional time."

The Kiwi driver notched up the milestone at Sonoma Raceway in California. Source: Seven Sharp


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'It's been a while!' Hayden Paddon claims seventh career podium finish at Rally Turkey

Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon has earned his first podium finish of the 2018 World Rally Championship season after a clean final day in Turkey.

Paddon and British co-driver Seb Marshall stuck to their game plan of racing a consistent race in the final four stages of Rally Turkey, allowing them to finish in third.

The pair went into the final day with a firm grip on third place - they were nearly a minute behind second-placed Jari-Matti Latvala but ahead of fourth-placed Teemu Suninen by a safe margin of over two minutes.

Paddon said racing with the concept of preserving third place instead of chasing those ahead of him felt like being in no man's land.

"It's a about playing the long game in this rally. When you're in 'no man's land' it can be really hard because you have to look after the car. It can be really painful but it's what you have to do."

The finish is Paddon's seventh on a WRC podium.

"I am really happy to take our first podium of the season. It has been a very tough rally. We have adopted a particular strategy this weekend that has required us to hold back and be patient," he said.

"Thankfully that approach has paid off and we have been rewarded with third place - it's been a while since we've been on the podium."

Paddon is coming to New Zealand for the Ashley Forest Rallysprint in Canterbury next weekend before he returns to Europe for the Wales Rally GB next month.


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Scott Dixon in rarefied air after winning fifth IndyCar title - 'I’m the lucky one'

Scott Dixon has won his fifth IndyCar championship with a second-place finish at Sonoma Raceway.

The Kiwi needed only a steady race to hold off challenger Alexander Rossi in the championship fight. Rossi broke his front wing on the opening lap when he ran into teammate Marco Andretti and it effectively ended his chances.

The Kiwi driver notched up the milestone at Sonoma Raceway in California. Source: Seven Sharp

Dixon from there didn't take any chances and coasted to the title. His five championships trail only the seven won by A.J. Foyt.

He was in disbelief at securing a historic fifth title.

“Man, this is so awesome, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it’s actually happened,” he said.

“I don’t know, you always doubt these situations so much that it’s never going to happen.”

Dixon was also full of praise for his wife, Emma.

"It’s all about the people, I’m the lucky one that gets to take it across the line," he said.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"I can’t thank my wife, Emma, enough, she’s been so amazing through the whole season, it’s actually the anniversary of her father’s passing today so it’s an emotional time."

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race from the pole.


Kiwi Scott Dixon wins fifth IndyCar title with perfect final race at Sonoma

Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live coverage of the 2018 IndyCar series finale, from Sonoma.

12:49pm: Lap 85 of 85 - SCOTT DIXON WINS FIFTH INDYCAR TITLE

Into the final lap! Hunter-Reay will take the win, but Dixon will come home in second to take the title. Rossi's early gaffe has cost him a title, as Dixon adds Championship number five to his collection.

12:43pm: Lap 81 of 85

Just five laps of the season to go! Dixon in pole position for the trophy, with Rossi slipping to sixth.

12:37pm: Lap 77 of 85

Less than 10 laps to go and it's all in Dixon's hands. He's pushed his lead out to 13 seconds over Rossi, and barring disaster, should be good to take the title.

12:30pm: Lap 73 of 85

Dixon under a bit of pressure from Power now! He's still got a hold of second, but the Aussie is hot on his heels. Rossi is in fifth, around nine seconds back.

12:24pm: Lap 68 of 85

That's it as far as pit stops are concerned for the rest of this race. Dixon sits four seconds behind Hunter-Reay, but eight seconds in front of Rossi. Race within a race now.

12:20pm: Lap 64 of 85

Dixon back up to second, but Rossi into fifth. If Dixon can keep this up though, the title is his. 

12:14pm: Lap 60 of 85

Rossi and Dixon both pit for a tyre change coming to the close of the race. The Kiwi temporarily down to ninth as a result.

12:07pm: Lap 55 of 85

Rossi's on the charge! He's now into seventh, 12 seconds behind the Hunter-Reay, 11 behind Dixon.

Not to worry just yet though, the Kiwi just needs to finish ahead of him to take the championship.

12:01pm: Lap 51 of 85

The yellow flag has seen Rossi come roaring back though! He's up to 11th now, just 10 seconds behind the leading pair. Dixon around 0.8 seconds shy of Hunter-Reay.

11:59am: Lap 48 of 85

Dixon now less than a second behind Hunter-Reay! Will this be where the Kiwi makes his move? He'll have to wait for the end of the yellow flag of course, but that shouldn't be too far away.

11:53am: Lap 46 of 85

Rossi now under 30 seconds back from Dixon. He'll still have a lot to do, but don't write off his title shot just yet.

11:48am: Lap 44 of 85 

Yellow flag and Rossi can make up some ground on Dixon! Graham Rahal has crashed out.

11:43am: Lap 42 of 85

Hunter-Reay and Dixon lose the top spots temporarily with their second pit stops. Both looking to keep their tyres fresh going into the second half of this race. 

The pair are quickly back to the front of the grid though. Meanwhile, Rossi has moved up into 12th spot, still around 48 seconds back of Dixon though.

11:34am: Lap 35 of 85

Dixon keeping pace with Hunter-Reay, doing enough to keep himself in pole position for the championship. The Kiwi is still second, but 12s ahead of third. 

11:24am: Lap 28 of 85

Dixon and Hunter-Reay now pulling clear of the chasing pack, with Simon Pagenaud over 11 seconds behind the leader. Dixon 2.5s behind.

11:16am: Lap 21 of 85

Dixon now back into second, with Hunter-Reay's lead cut to less than 2s. Rossi lingering down in 23rd, 42 seconds back from the leader.

11:09am: Lap 17 of 85

Hunter-Reay and Dixon now in the pit. Tyre change for the Kiwi as Josef Newgarden takes the lead. It's probably worth mentioning that should both Dixon and Rossi fail to finish, then Newgarden and Will Power will move into title contention.

Power hits the front as Dixon re-enters, he's now down to fourth, Hunter-Reay in third.

11:04am: Lap 14 of 85

The first pit stops of the race have come about, but the leading group hold fire for now. Dixon just under four seconds back from Hunter-Reay.

10:56am: Lap 8 of 85

Dixon nearly three seconds behind Hunter-Reay, but Rossi is at the back by over a minute. Advantage Dixon.

10:51am: Lap 4 of 85

Rossi re-enters the fray, but he's at the back of the grid. Dixon still in second, Hunter-Reay leads.

10:47am: Lap 2 of 85

Great news for Dixon - Rossi suffers wing damage and is under some early pressure, can he come back? Rossi smacked into Marco Andretti at the start, Dixon comfortable in second.

10:46am

They're away!

PREVIEW

After 16 races, Kiwi driver Scott Dixon is within touching distance of his fifth IndyCar title, with today's season finale in Sonoma seemingly just a formality for the Manurewa native.

With three wins and eight podiums this season, Dixon holds a 29-point advantage over his next closest competitor, USA's Alexander Rossi.

Dixon effectively just needs to finish higher that Rossi to seal the title. 

The Kiwi was leading the way to a pole position in qualifying - in what would have been his first of the season - before being pipped by American Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Dixon will instead line up in second spot, with rival Rossi having to settle for sixth.


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