A record-breaking crowd of 142,000 witnessed a dramatic multi-car collision at the start of last weekend’s Formula One race in the UK. Such was the impact for Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu that his car spun off the track, flipped over, skidded through the gravel trap, hurtled high over the tyre barriers and smashed into the final ring of protective fencing. All at a speed of 160 miles per hour.
The race was red-flagged while medical staff rushed to extract the Alfa Romeo driver from the car, which was wedged into a narrow space between the barriers and a perimeter fence. Forty anxious minutes of waiting time elapsed before broadcasters finally confirmed that a conscious Zhou had been taken by ambulance to the medical centre.
Miraculously, Zhou was then “declared fit” soon afterwards and released from medical care. The driver, who is still in his first season of Formula One racing, promptly posted on Twitter: “I’m ok, all clear. Halo saved me today.” The 23 year-old Shanghainese was referring to the Halo head protection system, which was introduced to F1 cars in 2018 and proved its worth in saving his life. He later told the China Daily: “It was a big crash and I’m glad I’m okay. The marshals and the medical team were fantastic with their quick response. It goes to show that every step we take in improving our cars has real, valuable results.”
The crash was a result of a collision between George Russell’s Mercedes and Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri at Turn One of the circuit. Russell subsequently sprinted from his car towards Zhou’s wrecked vehicle to help, describing the situation as “one of the scariest crashes I’ve ever seen”.
Footage of the accident was initially held back as TV bosses hesitated to show instant replays in case the crash had proved fatal. After confirmation of Zhou’s survival, the heavily delayed replays finally revealed the magnitude of the accident and how incredible it was that the Chinese driver came away largely unscathed (Zhou was seen walking around at the track at the end of the race).
His compatriots have since shown their support and relief on social media. “Saviour Halo, you will never be called ugly again,” wrote one Sina Weibo user. “It’s terrifying to think of,” added another fan. “Sandwiched in that narrow space, what if the car had caught fire?”
Zhou is currently the 16th-ranked driver in the F1 standings and seems set to get back behind the wheel for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. “I’m fit and looking forward to Austria. I’m keener than ever to get back on track and do what I love,” he explained.
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