Guanyu Zhou says he was worried that his car would catch fire in his huge crash at the British Grand Prix after explaining what went through his mind during the incident.
The Alfa Romeo driver was flipped upside down by contact with George Russell on the run to Turn 1 at the start of Sunday’s race, sliding through the gravel and then rolling over the tire barrier before being stopped by a debris fence. Landing the wrong side of the barrier, Zhou was then stuck in his car before being helped out by the medical team and although he emerged uninjured, admits he was worried about the car catching fire.
“For me when the flip happened the first thing I tried to do was release my hands off the steering wheel because you never know — you can break your hands very easily with a crash like that,” Zhou explained to the media ahead of this weekend’s Austrian GP. “While I was rolling on the ground I knew I would be facing a massive impact coming up because the car wasn’t stopping, so I tried to lock myself in a position that was the safest possible, just waiting for the last impact.
“I was just holding the hands backwards and keeping a reasonable tension so you don’t get flung around when you have that last impact. That was the case, so basically I was just waiting for the last hit.
“Once I was stopped I didn’t know where I was because I was upside down and the next thing I felt was some leaking. 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.
“It wasn’t hurting but it was very cold on the left-hand side, so I didn’t know if it was blood and I wasn’t feeling anymore or something. I was just making sure, I was more worried about if the engine caught on fire because in that position you are really stuck. Even though I didn’t know I was that far off in between the fence, but still even on track you wait until you get back down to be out.”
Zhou’s roll hoop also failed in the incident and he expects more robust tests to follow on that front, but he says the position the car ended up in is of more concern to him.
“With that first impact, when I landed the first flip, the team is still doing the first investigation. I think the first hit was much harder than what they investigated through the safety test — a few times harder than the numbers than we want. So that’s obviously created a problem.
“I’m more curious what in the future can we do to improve with the barriers so you don’t have another driver stuck in between like that. If they can make it a lot wider or narrower… having a gap or having it a bit wider, being in my position is probably the worst position to be in a fire.”
Despite the heavy crash, Zhou says he has no lingering effects heading into this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
“I feel OK. I had maybe a little bit of bruising that day and the following morning but then everything was OK,” he said.
“Honestly, Sunday night I was texting all my engineers asking, ‘Is my seat OK?!’ I was asking about the engine because that takes a bit of time. 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.
“I’m quite happy to have a back-to-back race. If you had a summer break just after that it would be terrible — you would be thinking about the crash repeatedly. Even if you try to avoid it you would find it somewhere.”