SILVERSTONE, England –
Zhou Guanyu was involved in a frightening first-lap accident on Sunday that brought the British Grand Prix to an immediate halt as safety teams dealt with the sole Chinese driver in F1.
Zhou’s car slid headfirst over the gravel and his Alfa Romeo appeared to be wedged between a fence and a tire guard at the first corner. The race was red flagged and George Russell, one of the drivers involved in the accident, sprinted from his car to the tire barrier to check on Zhou.
Zhou was taken to the circuit’s medical center for observation and credited with the head-protecting “halo” device on the cars for protection.
“I’m fine, all right. Halo saved me today. Thanks everyone for your nice messages!” he wrote on Twitter.
Williams’ Alex Albon was also taken to the medical center and then his team said he was helicoptered to Coventry Hospital for a precautionary check-up. Albon had spun into the pit wall after being hit from behind by Sebastian Vettel as the drivers tried to avoid the Zhou incident.
Russell appeared to have been hit from behind at the start and was thrown into Zhou, whose car went over a gravel trap and over a tire wall into the support fence. The car skidded on the “halo” and then blew up. It got stuck between the tire wall and the fence, delaying efforts to free Zhou.
Russell, who ran out of his car to help Zhou, called it “one of the scariest accidents I’ve ever seen.”
Russell was ruled out of the race by the FIA because his Mercedes was loaded onto a truck to take him back to the pit lane while he checked on Zhou. Mercedes protested the call, but the FIA did not budge.
The drivers returned to the pits to await a restart.
After the race was abandoned, “several people attempted to enter the track,” F1 said in a statement. “These people were removed immediately and the matter is now being dealt with by local authorities.”
Local police warned on Friday that spectators could enter the track as part of a protest. An environmental group called Just Stop Oil said five of their activists entered the track and sat down.
The group also attempted to disrupt some Premier League football matches in England in recent months. Just Stop Oil named one of those on the track at Silverstone on Sunday a protester who had also attached himself to a goal post at a game between Everton and Newcastle in March.
The ‘halo’ device around the cockpit featured prominently at a Formula Two race at Silverstone earlier Sunday when Dennis Hauger’s car landed on top of rival Roy Nissany’s car. The incident was reminiscent of a Formula 1 crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix last year.