The opening lap of Formula One’s British Grand Prix saw two separate multi-cars wrecks that sent one driver to the hospital for “precautionary checks” and another sliding across the track and gravel before barrel-rolling into the fence.
Pierre Gasly darted in-between Zhou Guanyu and George Russell, but as the gap closed, the AlphaTauri driver backed out. Gasly tagged Russell’s left-rear wheel in the process, sending the Mercedes spinning into Zhou.
The Afla Romeo flipped upside down and went skidding across the track and the gravel before barrel-rolling over the barriers. The catch fence in front of the grand stand is what stopped Zhou, the rookie’s car falling into the space between the fence and tire barrier.
Russell, meanwhile, was on track watching this happen, and jumped out of his Mercedes before sprinting across the gravel to Zhou. He quickly jumped on the barriers, waving at the marshals to come help.
“I saw the race was red flagged, so I knew it was safe to jump out,” Russell said. “I wanted to go see if [Zhou] was okay and if I could have helped in anyway. When I came back, I couldn’t get the car turned on, but I don’t know, there was no reason why I shouldn’t have been able to because the car was fine.
“I ran back to the team to check and when I came back, the car was on the flat bed [truck] already. I asked the marshal to make sure that they didn’t pick the car up, and as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the car bar a puncture. It’s really frustrating because we had the pace to definitely come back through to P6 as a minimum. So many emotions… [but] glad to see that Zhou is doing okay. It’s horrible to see an incident like that.”
The rules state that once a driver receives outside assistance, they cannot race. Russell was not allowed to continue competing in the grand prix.
As it turned out, this isn’t the first time Russell has stopped mid-race to help another driver. IndyCar’s Callum Ilott shared on Twitter, “The first time I flipped a go kart, [George] stopped on track to lift it off of me. He’s always been a good egg since day 1, great role model for anyone.”
Russell felt that starting on hard tires not only impacted his starting performance but also was a factor in the heart-stopping wreck.
“We took a gamble starting on the hards because I didn’t do a good enough job in qualifying, and we were starting out of position,” Russell said, per formula1.com. “We felt like it was our best opportunity to fight for a podium today, and it was.
“But we knew it would have been very difficult on Lap 1 and it turned out to be extremely difficult. I couldn’t get any temperatures on the tires on the formation lap, and I just got swamped by all the cars and next thing I know I got a touch from behind, [went] in the side of Zhou and we saw the rest.”
Zhou and Williams driver Alex Albon, who was involved in a separate wreck, were both sent to the medical care center. While the Williams driver later went to the hospital for “precautionary checks,” Zhou was eventually released from the medical center, tweeting that he was O.K. and credited the halo for saving him.
Williams shared later Sunday afternoon that Albon was “given the all clear and has been discharged from Coventry Hospital.”
Russell, who is also a director for the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said that F1 needs to learn a safety lesson from Zhou’s wreck.
“It was horrible, in that position he was stuck there, nothing he could have done,” Russell said, per ESPN. “We need to think to avoid a car being stuck in such a fine gap.
“The space between the barriers and the metal fence and he was just stuck in there, nowhere to go. Yeah, something to learn.”
Carlos Sainz went on to win his first Formula One race while Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the remainder of the podium.
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