SILVERSTONE, England — The British Grand Prix was suspended before the end of the first lap after two huge collisions involving multiple drivers on the pit straight resulted in Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo ending up on the wrong side of the tyre barriers at Turn 1.
Emergency crews were immediately in attendance, with Zhou and Williams driver Alex Albon being taken to the medical centre. Both were cleared of major injuries, but Albon will be transferred to Coventry Hospital for precautionary checks while Zhou was released from the medical centre during the race.
- ‘Just Stop Oil’ protesters breach British GP track8mNate Saunders
- Sargeant becomes first U.S. driver to win F2 race4hReuters
A replay showed Pierre Gasly being pinched between George Russell on one side and Zhou on the other, with contact between Gasly and Russell pitching the Mercedes of Russell into Zhou’s Alfa Romeo.
The energy of the second impact rolled Zhou’s car, sending it upside down through the run-off area before it barrel-rolled over the barriers, only to be stopped by the catch fence in front of a grandstand.
Zhou later said Formula One’s Halo cockpit protection “saved my life”.
The Halo was introduced in F1 ahead of the 2018 season but was controversial with many traditionalists as it was such a big step away from the unprotected look of cars.
The device likely saved Charles Leclerc from a serious injury at that year’s Belgian Grand Prix and has been credited for saving drivers in several other incidents, including Romain Grosjean’s fireball crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Just moments after Zhou’s crash, Albon was involved in a separate incident, when he hit the brakes for the initial crash and Sebastian Vettel piled into the back of his Williams. The collision pushed Albon into the pit wall before he rebounded back onto the track and collided with Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon.
Tsunoda, Ocon and Gasly were able to continue back to the pits, while Zhou, Albon and Russell were out of the race on the spot.
Soon after the collisions the race was red-flagged as the leaders headed onto the Wellington Straight, suspending the race.
Separate to the collisions, protesters also broke onto the track further round the lap.
The race was restarted at 3:56 pm local time.
© ESPN Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Lewis Hamilton: Charles Leclerc sensible, unlike Max Verstappen last year
7:58 PM SAST
- Nate SaundersF1 Associate Editor
SILVERSTONE, England — Lewis Hamilton praised Charles Leclerc after their epic fight for position at the British Grand Prix and said it was a lot more sensible than his battle with Max Verstappen in 2021.
Hamilton and Leclerc fought wheel-to-wheel for third position over three incredible laps at the dramatic conclusion of the race.
At one stage, Leclerc reclaimed position around the outside of Copse, the same point of the track where Hamilton and Verstappen controversially collided last year.
Like that incident, Hamilton had the inside line again but Leclerc passed around the outside without contact, something the seven-time world championship was quick to reference after the race.
“Charles did a great job, what a great battle. He is a very sensible driver, clearly a lot different to what I experienced last year,” Hamilton told Sky Sports after the race.
“At Copse for example, the two of us went through there with no problem. What a battle. Really, really amazing weekend.”
Last year, the FIA appeared to lay the blame for the incident with Hamilton, handing him a 10-second penalty during the race.
Hamilton went on to win regardless.
This year Hamilton had looked a strong contender to repeat that victory but he was left lamenting a series of moments he felt cost him dearly.
“Definitely, for a while it was feeling on. A bunch of things went against us. The start, we got up to third then they put us back to fifth.
“Then I lost ground to Lando, so I spent a bunch of laps trying to get past him. Then the gap was five or six seconds to the Ferraris. But I was doing good time, catching them up, I did a good long stint and I thought: ‘Yes, maybe we can fight for a win here.’
“But unfortunately the gap was too big and the pit stop was not very quick. Then at the end, I just struggled with the warm-up and lost out to two cars. It was so tough today.”
© ESPN Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Track breached by ‘Just Stop Oil’ protesters at British Grand Prix
SILVERSTONE — A group of protesters breached the track on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix and were on the circuit when cars came past.
The protesters managed to get onto the circuit at the Wellington straight, which lies just after the first sequence of corners.
In a huge stroke of fortune, by the time the cars reached that part of the track they had started to slow dramatically for red flags which had been shown after a multi-car pileup at Turn 1.
A group known as ‘Just Stop Oil’ claimed to be behind it on Sunday. Seven protesters were arrested.
When told about the protest after the race in the press conference for the top three finishers Lewis Hamilton appeared to issue support, saying: “Big up to them”.
He went on to explain: “I didn’t know what the protestors were for, so I only just found out. I just said big up the protestors. I love that people are fighting for the planet. So we need more people like them.”
Mercedes later clarified Hamilton had been “endorsing their right to protest but not the method that they chose, which compromised their safety and that of others”.
One observer in the adjacent grandstand confirmed to ESPN at least one of the protesters was on the circuit when cars drove past. It is believed the group was in excess of five people.
The race got red flagged just after the protestors came onto the track. Genuinely thought someone was going to get hit. pic.twitter.com/AKt8BCZaBO— Helèna Hicks (@_HelenaHicks) July 3, 2022
The incident had eerie similarities to the 2003 British Grand Prix, when a radical Irish priest invaded the track and was almost hit by David Coulthard.
Northamptonshire Police chief inspector Tom Thompson said the protesters put lives at risk.
“I’m really disappointed that this group of people ignored our warnings prior to race day and made the incredibly dangerous decision to enter the track,” he said. “We offered to facilitate a peaceful event at the circuit but they instead chose to put the lives of the drivers, marshals and volunteers at risk. It is incredibly disappointing that anyone would make the decision to do this.
“Thankfully we had plans in place for an eventuality such as this and the group were swiftly removed and arrested by our officers. All seven are currently in custody where their details are being ascertained.”
The FIA released a short statement saying: “After the red flag, several people attempted to enter the track. These people were immediately removed and the matter is now being dealt with by the local authorities.”
Ahead of the race, Northamptonshire Police said it had “credible” intelligence that environmental activists were planning a protest during the race.