Carlos Sainz won the sensational British Grand Prix on Sunday – then praised Formula 1’s governing body for saving Zhou Guanyu’s life after his horrific opening lap crash.
errari’s Sainz took his maiden F1 win on his 150th attempt – beating Red Bull driver Sergio Perez and home favorite Lewis Hamilton in a frenetic climax to the season’s race in front of a record 142,000 fans at Silverstone.
But the 10th round of the campaign will be remembered for a stunning accident involving Chinese rookie Zhou.
Six seconds after the lights went out, Pierre Gasly made contact with George Russell. The British driver then tapped the right back of Zhou’s machine at 160 mph, causing him to fall on his roof and slip out of control.
Upside down, Zhou drove through the gravel at high speed as sparks flew overhead before slamming into the tire barrier and being launched into the trap fence. Fans and photographers ducked for cover with Zhou’s Alfa Romeo, then lay on its side.
When the red flags were deployed, an extraction team rushed to Zhou, but minutes passed with no update as the television cameras moved away from the accident site.
The 23-year-old was gently lifted from his terrifying ordeal and taken to the medical center in an ambulance. Remarkably, Zhou was declared “fit” just an hour and 45 minutes later before returning to the paddock.
He tweeted: “I’m okay, everything clear. Halo saved me today. Thank you all for your kind messages.”
Earlier on Sunday, in Formula Two – F1’s feeder series – Dennis Hauger’s machine landed atop Roy Nissany in a harrowing first lap crash.
Both drivers escaped unscathed using the halo – the cockpit protection device that sits over the driver’s head, introduced in top-level motorsport in 2018 – to absorb the impact.
“First of all, I made the decision not to see the accident,” said Sainz. “When the red flag happened I knew there had to be a big shunt, but I wasn’t watching the TV.
“I was incredibly happy to see Zhou get out of the car without any major problems, and when I saw what happened after the race I was completely shocked. It was unbelievable. The fact that he came out is insane.
“We sometimes criticize the FIA, but you have to give them how much they have helped us, and also the accident in Formula 2.
“Today the FIA saved two lives and we have to give them that, the great job they are doing in safety.
“You cannot imagine the speed we are doing in high speed, changing direction and knowing we can do it safely. I thank them for this and I love the sport for that.”
Perez added: “It’s been a while since we’ve seen such an accident. It’s hard to see it, and then take it out of your head and try to focus.
“When you hear people talking about a salary cap for drivers in Formula 1, we’re the ones putting ourselves at risk, so I don’t think it’s real to talk about that. The most important thing today is that no one got hurt.”
Former FIA president Jean Todt later tweeted: “Glad I followed my belief in imposing the Halo despite strong opposition!”
London-born Alex Albon was caught up in the first-lap accident and was taken to Coventry Hospital as a precaution before being released on Sunday night. Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda were also involved, but stumbled back to the pits for repairs.
Russell, 24, who was unable to take part in the restart, was seen jumping out of his stationary Mercedes cockpit, doing first to check the condition of his good friend Albon and then Zhou.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve seen in my life,” Russell said of the Alfa Romeo driver’s accident. “It was terrible. He was stuck there and there was nothing he could do.”
The race was halted for nearly an hour with Sainz, who had previously relinquished his lead to Max Verstappen and teammate Charles Leclerc, firing a 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag after a late safety car period on fresh rubber to win.
Leclerc fell from first to fourth on old tires on a disappointing afternoon for the Monegasque as Verstappen stumbled home seventh after suffering an early puncture. Verstappen leads Perez by 34 points in the standings, with Leclerc back nine.