Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly has revealed his helmet was struck by a piece of flying debris from the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s car on the opening lap of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The Frenchman, 22, was closely following the Australian’s Red Bull, which suffered a damaged front wing on Turn 2, leaving Gasly terrified.
“I think Daniel lost a piece of carbon that went straight into my visor,” Gasly said. “This was really, really scary because I thought it was going through and straight in my eye.
“But it hit my visor and fell in the cockpit, so in Turn 4 I had to take the carbon piece and throw it from the cockpit.”
‘F*** it’s going through the visor’
The carbon fragment bypassed the titanium ‘Halo’ device — introduced to F1 for the first time this season — which is built around the cockpit to protect drivers from small pieces of debris.
The Halo has already proved its worth once this season, saving Suber’s Charles Leclerc from a potentially serious injury after Fernando Alonso’s car bounced off it during the Belgian Grand Prix.
“I need to check [the helmet] because I didn’t check after the race,” Gasly said. “But just at the time I had 0.5 seconds to see it flying and hitting the visor.
“It was like a winglet that maybe came from somewhere from contact with Daniel, but it came like pointing towards me and straight at my right eye.
“When I saw it coming I thought: ‘F*** it’s going through the visor’, but the visor is really strong because it just hit it and fell into the cockpit.
“It’s going super-fast but still I had time to have all these thoughts and see it coming. So in these kind of moments you’re processing it quite fast.”
The incident was reminiscent of the accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix which left Brazilian Felipe Massa in a critical condition after a flying spring fractured his skull.
Gasly’s race — along with that of Toro Rosso teammate Brandon Hartley — lasted just four laps in Sochi after both cars suffered brake failures and spun out.
Next season, Gasly will race for Red Bull — Toro Rosso’s parent company — after his performances in 2018 earned him a promotion.