Formula 1’s Halo cockpit protection device was credited as crucial to saving lives at the British Grand Prix after a terrifying first-lap crash at Silverstone.
Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu survived a massive high-speed crash and acknowledged that the device had been key to protecting him from serious injury.
The incident-packed race was also interrupted by environmental protesters, after which Lewis Hamilton expressed his support for their cause.
At turn one on lap one, there was a multi-car shunt, with Zhou’s Alfa Romeo hitting the guardrails at high speed – his car flipped over and came to a stop between the armco and the crash barrier. It then took some time to get the 23-year-old, who is the first Chinese driver in Formula 1 and in his rookie season, out.
Zhou was safely removed and taken to the medical center for examination. He was conscious and was released after being declared fit. “I’m fine, absolutely clear. Halo saved me today. Thank you everyone for your sweet messages!” he posted on Twitter.
George Russell was cut by Pierre Gasly in the incident that also involved Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon. impacts the halo protecting the driver’s head before hitting the barriers and sailing over them into the fence. Albon was taken to hospital for a check-up, but was also unharmed.
The scale and speed of the incident was horrific and Zhou was remarkably lucky to have escaped.
He was upside down for a considerable distance and the tire barriers barely slowed the car but launched it into the railing.
The accident happened just hours after Roy Nissany and Dennis Hauger crashed at high speed during an F2 race, landing Hauger on Nissany’s car, again crucial to avoid serious injury. The main event was won by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, over Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton – and Sainz was full of praise for the halo.
“The fact that he got out is insane,” he said. “I find it unbelievable that you can get out. It just goes to show that sometimes we criticize the FIA, but you have to give them how much they have helped us.
“If you see the crash in F2 and what happened to the halo, they probably saved two lives today.”
Just as the cars returned to the pits with the red flag from the race after the accident, there was a protest from the environmental movement Just Stop Oil. Seven protesters were allowed access to the track and sat down while the cars were still in circulation before being removed by authorities.
When informed of the incident afterwards, Hamilton, who is committed to environmental issues, appeared to support them. When told it was by Just Stop Oil, he said, “Bring those guys on.”
When asked to clarify his position, Hamilton added: “I didn’t know what the protesters were for, so I just found out. I just said to make the protesters big. I love that people are fighting for the planet. So we need more people like them.”
He later qualified that support via Instagram, posting: “I was unaware of the protests and while I will always support those who stand up for what they believe in, it must be done safely. Please don’t jump on our racetracks to protest. We don’t want to endanger you.”
A Mercedes spokesman then issued a statement clarifying that Hamilton was not aware of the method of protest the activists had used. “Lewis affirmed their right to protest, but not the method they chose, which jeopardized their safety and that of others.”
Ch Insp Tom Thompson of Northamptonshire Police confirmed that seven protesters had been detained. “I’m really disappointed that this group of people ignored our race day warnings and made the incredibly dangerous decision to get out on the track,” he said.
“Luckily we had plans for an event like this and the group was quickly removed and arrested by our officers.”
Just Stop Oil took responsibility for the actions in a tweet. “A group of Just Stop Oil supporters stormed the track during the British Grand Prix,” it read. “If you’re more outraged by this disruption than our world being burned before our eyes, then you need to get your priorities straight.”