Formula 1: From the horror crash to the traffic jam

The fact that Guanyu Zhou (23) was able to give interviews in the Spielberg paddock on Thursday is thanks to the Halo cockpit protection. In his horror crash at the start of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Chinese was miraculously uninjured.

However, pictures of the so-called halo reveal that high forces acted on the titanium frame when it rolled over. The roll bar even collapsed. Reason: The impact was harder than those prescribed for crash tests.

“First I felt a blow,” Zhou recalls of his descent into hell. “As the rollover started, I took my hands off the steering wheel. Then I was sliding upside down on the tarmac for quite a long time and I realized – the car isn’t slowing down, so the impact is going to be pretty bad. I tried to make myself as small as possible in the car and keep my arms close to my body.”

The Chinese slid through the gravel bed, crashed into the safety fence with the base plate first and remained lying between the crash barrier and the fence. “I didn’t know where I was,” he reports of the anxious minutes that were only shown later on TV. “I felt fluid on my leg and I wasn’t sure – is that my blood or is it from the car?”

Guanyu Zhou after his medical check.

A racing car stuck behind a crash barrier – Zhou inevitably had memories of Romain Grosjean’s fire accident in Bahrain in 2020. “The engine was still running,” he reports. “So I turned off the engine. My biggest fear was fire. I still wasn’t fully aware of how strangely my car was jammed, but I knew that if it started to burn, it would be very difficult to get out of the car quickly.”

The problem: unlike Grosjean, the monocoque lay on its side at an angle, so that the racing driver could not have freed himself under his own steam. Only with the help of the marshals did he manage to leave the cockpit. “I scrambled out of the car. The first marshal asked me if everything was okay and I gave him a thumbs up.”

Zhou knows: He was extremely lucky. That’s why he sees the crash critically: “It can’t be that there’s a narrow gap between the fence and the guardrail. Getting trapped like that shouldn’t really happen.”

After all, the halo has done a great job. Again – as with Charles Leclerc in Spa 2018, Grosjean 2020 and Lewis Hamilton in Monza 2021. Zhou: “I said on Sunday evening that the halo saved my life, and I’m sticking to it.”

Before the GP in Austria, however, Zhou feels ready for the next race: “On Monday after the race I still felt a little stiff, with a few bruises. But today I feel completely normal. I’m even glad that we have another race right away. Then you don’t start thinking about a crash like that.”

The Alfa Romeo driver would have had enough time to ponder. “I took a wrong turn on Sunday evening,” Zhou said, “and got stuck in a traffic jam on the M1 motorway. It was a little bizarre – from a high-speed crash involving a Formula 1 racing car to being stuck in a traffic jam with thousands of fans.”

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