SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Zhou Guanyu said he was “all clear” Sunday after a frightening first-lap crash that brought the British Grand Prix to an immediate halt as safety crews attended to the only Chinese driver in Formula One.
Zhou’s car slid upside-down across the gravel and his Alfa Romeo seemed to be wedged between fencing and a tire barrier at the first corner. The race was red flagged and George Russell, one of the drivers involved in the crash, sprinted from his car to the tire barrier to check on Zhou.
Zhou was taken to the track’s medical center for observation and credited the head-protecting “halo” device on the cars for protecting him.
“I’m ok, all clear. Halo saved me today. Thanks everyone for your kind messages!” he wrote on Twitter.
Alex Albon of Williams was also taken to the medical center and then his team said he’d been transferred by helicopter to Coventry Hospital for a precautionary check. Albon had spun into the pit wall after being struck by Sebastian Vettel from behind as drivers tried to avoid the incident involving Zhou. Williams said Sunday evening Albon had been “given the all clear” and discharged from hospital.
Russell appeared to be hit from behind at the start and was knocked into Zhou, whose car went flying across a gravel trap and over a tire wall into the retaining fence. The car was skidding on the halo, then went airborne. It was stuck between the tire wall and the fence, delaying efforts to extricate Zhou.
Russell, who ran from his car to help Zhou, called it “one of the scariest crashes I’ve ever seen.”
Russell was declared out of the race by the FIA because his Mercedes was loaded onto a truck to be taken back to pit lane while he was checking on Zhou. Mercedes protested the call, but the FIA did not budge.
The drivers returned to the pits to await a restart.
After the crash, but while cars were still on the track, protesters from an environmental group called Just Stop Oil ran onto the track and sat down. The group said that five of its activists reached the track. Local police said seven arrests were made and that the actions had put lives at risk.
The Just Stop Oil group also tried to disrupt some Premier League soccer games in England in recent months.
The halo device around the cockpit played a prominent role earlier Sunday in a Formula Two race at Silverstone when Dennis Hauger’s car landed on top of rival Roy Nissany’s car. The incident was reminiscent of a crash in F1 involving Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix last year.
“You see the crash in F2 this morning and what happened with the halo, today they saved probably two lives,” race winner Carlos Sainz Jr. said.