Zhou feared fire after monster crash

Guanyu Zhou

Guanyu Zhou has admitted he feared his car would catch fire with him trapped inside following his monster Formula 1 British Grand Prix crash.

The Chinese driver’s Alfa Romeo Sauber was tipped upside down following wheel-to-wheel contact with George Russell off the line in Silverstone last Sunday.

After skating down the track inverted, it then bounced through the gravel trap before clearing the tyre barrier where it was arrested by the catch fencing behind.

Zhou ultimately came to rest, still upside down, in a narrow gap between the back of the tyre wall and the catch fencing, with no immediate means of escape.

“Obviously when the flip happened the first thing I was trying to do was trying to release my hand off the steering wheel,” Zhou said of the incident.

“Because you never know, you can break your wrist very easily with a crash like that.

“Then the next thing I tried to do, while I was just rolling on the ground, I knew I’ll be facing a massive impact coming up, because the car wasn’t stopping.

“And then I tried to lock myself in a position that is the safest possible, just waiting for that last impact.

“It’s not like I was just holding the hand backwards, but keeping it reasonably in tension, so it doesn’t get flying around when you have that last impact.

“Basically, I was just waiting for the last stop hit, and once I was basically stopped, I didn’t know where I was, because I was upside down.

“The next thing I felt was basically there was leaking,” he added.

“I was not sure if it was from my body or from the car, so I just tried to switch the engine off because the engine was still on at that point.

“I knew if a fire started it would be difficult to get out, so I switched my engine off, and then everything was fine.”

A great deal of work has gone into improving driver safety and mitigating the chances of fire in Formula 1, which was once a frequent killer.

Elio de Angelis, Peter Revson, Roger Williamson, Jo Siffert, Piers Courage, Jo Schlesser, Lorenzo Bandini, and Stuart Lewis-Evans are among those to have perished due to fire at the wheel of F1 machinery.

Modern cars feature onboard fire extinguishers while the fuel is carried in, effectively, a rubber bladder.

The risk of fire is further mitigated by significant increases to car strength, driver protection, and circuit safety.

As a consequence, Zhou was able to climb from the wrecked Alfa Romeo Sauber without injury.

Concerningly, however, the rollover hoop did appear to fail, though courtesy of the halo, the driver remained safety cocooned in the survival cell.

“With that first impact, where it landed on the first flip, the team is still doing an investigation, but I think the first hit was much harder than what they test for the safety test,” Zhou said of the failed roll hoop.

“This was like a few times harder than the actual numbers we want in that.

“Obviously, that’s probably created the problem that came up straight away.”

The 23-year-old since watched the race back and admitted that he was comparatively unperturbed by his crash.

“Already on Sunday I watched the race back. I didn’t feel sick watching it or have that feeling,” he said.

“I feel like I was able to digest a bit myself, so I was happy mentally just having one day off and then went back into checking my physical condition. For me, it wasn’t a concern.

“Obviously there are times you do something and you need a bit of mental help, but this time I didn’t feel it was needed.”

“Sunday night I was texting all my engineers asking, is my seat okay,” he added.

“For drivers the seat is very important. It’s been very comfortable so far, but it can be different even if they try to do the same.”

Meanwhile Alex Albon, who was also taken to the circuit medical centre following the opening corner crash before being transferred to Coventry Hospital, says he’s, more or less, fully recovered.

“I feel fine,” he said in Austria on Thursday.

“A little bit sore on Monday, and then each day so far has just been getting better and better.

“It all happened very quickly,” he said of the crash which saw him nose heavily into the pit wall.

“I felt, obviously, I was hitting the wall and then at that point it was kind of like a pinball reaction, and just going wherever the cars were hitting.”

Albon had Williams’ sole upgrade package fitted for last weekend’s event, though that escape significant damage and will remain on his car this weekend.

Formula 1 is back in action with the Austrian Grand Prix, a Sprint format event, with opening practice set to commence at 21:30 AEST tonight.

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