There were terrifying scenes on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix as Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu crashed out at high-speed, his car flying upside down into the barriers.
As Max Verstappen took the race lead from pole-sitter Carlos Sainz through the opening corners, Zhou could be seen skidding into the gravel trap.
The crash occurred when Pierre Gasly, George Russell and Zhou went three-wide, Russell’s rear left tire being clipped by Gasly’s car, sending him crashing into Zhou. As Russell’s Mercedes spun, it caught the underside of Zhou’s car and flipped it over.
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The race was immediately stopped via red flag with Zhou’s car trapped in the barriers. The speed of the crash saw the car fly over the top of the barriers and get stuck between them and the wall in front of a grandstand.
Russell stopped his car and ran over to the crash site to see if he could assist.
After being stuck inside the car for nearly 15 minutes, Zhou was eventually removed and taken out on a stretcher, with commentators reporting he was conscious and moving as the medical team took him off the track to receive care.
Replays were not shown for 25 minutes until it was clear Zhou was OK.
Carlos Sainz surprised himself on Saturday when his bold wet-weather lap secured a maiden pole position ahead of his 150th Formula One race start at Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Spaniard outpaced both his Ferrari team-mate qualifying specialist Charles Leclerc and world champion and series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull to secure the prime starting place on the grid.
His best lap of one minute and 40,983 seconds came in the final part of a tense session during which every driver was warmly cheered for their efforts by the rain-lashed spectators.
“Thank you to the whole crowd for cheering me on,” he said during his post-session interview. “Thanks to everyone for staying out there with this rain!
“We Spaniards, we struggle a bit more with this rain, but you can tell you guys are used to it! So, thanks for being there.”
Asked about his performance in the treacherous conditions, Sainz admitted he was surprised to be fastest.
“It was a good lap, but I was struggling a lot with the standing water on the intermediate tires,” he said.
“There was a lot more standing water on the racing line and it was very easy to get snaps and lose the lap.
“Also, it was more difficult to get temperature into the intermediates in these conditions. In the end, I put together a lap that I thought was nothing special, but I just put it on the board — and it was pole position which came as a bit of a surprise!”
Sainz, son of two-time world rally drivers’ champion Carlos Sainz Sr., said he felt confident of converting his first pole into a maiden victory on Sunday.
“I think so,” he said with a broad smile.
“The pace has been there all weekend, except for FP3 where we had some issues that we think we corrected for ‘quali’, but if I base myself on my FP2 pace, then we should be in a good position to hold on to it .
“I’m sure Max and Charles (Leclerc) will put a lot of pressure on, but I will try my best of course.”
Later, he added: “Leading a formation lap will feel great in a Ferrari, I guess, and the first time I will do it.
“I think I haven’t forgotten since I led a formation lap in World Series by Renault. I think I’ve led a couple of races in Formula One – I think one was at Portimao and it felt great.
“So, that’s the target, to do it again. Confidence is high. I can hold on to the lead and try to do my own race, pushing from the beginning.”
Two weeks ago in Montreal at the Canadian Grand Prix, Sainz was the fastest driver in the race, but was unable to find a way to pass Verstappen who reeled off his sixth win of the season and Red Bull’s sixth in succession.
The 24-year-old Dutchman leads this year’s title race with 175 points ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez on 129 and Leclerc on 126 after nine of this year’s 22 Grands Prix.
Leclerc, who has taken six poles this year, was disappointed he spun on his final lap at the end of Q3 when Sainz managed to retain control for pole.
Verstappen also had a spin, recovering from a full 360 turn, before winding up second.
“I’m disappointed, yes,” said Leclerc. “But I’m happy for Carlos – he did a great job today. I spun on that last lap. So I don’t deserve to be on pole, but P3 is still a good position. We can still have a very good race.”
2022 BRITISH GRAND PRIX – Starting grid
1. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
6. Lando Norris (McLaren)
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
8. George Russell (Mercedes)
9. Zhou Guanyu (Alpha Romeo)
10. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
11. Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
12. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
13. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
14. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
15. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
16. Alex Albon (Williams)
17. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
18. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
19. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
20. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)