Video: Zhou Guanyu's Terrifying Crash on Opening Lap Mars F1 British Grand Prix

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Photo credit: Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images
Photo credit: Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images

Alfa Romeo rookie Zhou Guanyu escaped serious injury in one of Formula 1’s most terrifying crashes—one that caused an immediate red flag on the opening lap of Sunday's F1 British Grand Prix and a delay of almost an hour.

Off the start, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly went for a gap between the slow-starting George Russell and Zhou, but before the Frenchman could back out the gap closed, pitching Russell into the side of Zhou. That impact flipped Zhou at high speed, with the Chinese racer sliding through the gravel upside down, before hitting the tire barrier.

Such was the force that Zhou’s car cleared the barrier and came to a halt in the fence, just a few feet from photographers, and just in front of a spectator grandstand. It was an extraordinary image and fortunately word emerged that Zhou had not sustained serious injury.

Further back, as the drivers checked up, Sebastian Vettel hit the back of Alex Albon, pitching the Williams driver into a hard impact against the pit wall, while his out-of-control car slid into the helpless Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda. Zhou was taken to the medical center, and swiftly released, while Albon was transported to Coventry Hospital, where he was later discharged.

“It was a big crash and I’m glad I’m okay,” said Zhou. “The marshals and the medical team at the track were fantastic with their quick response, and I also owe my thanks to the FIA and Formula 1 for all the work they have done, and they keep doing, to improve the safety of our cars: the Halo saved me today, and it goes to show that every step we take in improving our cars has real, valuable results.”

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said that “the most important thing today is seeing Zhou come out of such a huge crash without any injury. What we witnessed were dramatic scenes, and once again we have to thank the great improvements in safety spearheaded by the FIA and Formula 1 for a positive outcome. The work to improve safety in our sport is never done and today reminds us of just how important this is: Zhou is okay and fit to race in Austria next week, and this is the big victory of the day.”

Credit, too, to Russell. He leapt from his car and dashed to check on Zhou; during the time he was away his car received outside assistance, with marshals loading it onto a tow truck, and he was out of the race because of that per the rules.