SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) – Trapped Zhou Guanyu upturned in his maimed car felt something leaking. He wasn’t sure what it was, but the Formula One driver knew it could increase the risk of his car exploding in flames stuck inside.
“I didn’t know where I was because I was upside down, and the next thing I felt was some leaking. I wasn’t sure if it was from my body or from the car,” He said. “I knew if it caught fire it would be hard to put out, so I stopped my engine and everything went fine.”
Zhou, a 23-year-old Chinese driver for Alfa Romeo, realistically explained on Thursday his long wait for his release after a horrific first lap crash at last Sunday’s British Grand Prix. The car was sandwiched between a fence and a tire barrier in the first corner, and rescue teams struggled to get to it in such an unusual situation.
The accident at Silverstone brought the race to a halt immediately after the car flipped and slid upside down through the gravel and over the tire wall of the curb. The car was sliding on the halo, the front cockpit protection device, with Zhou’s helmet eerily close to the track surface. Then he went by air.
Remarkably, Zhou was able to analyze how best to protect himself: “I tried releasing the steering wheel myself and then getting into a very low position. Make sure I’m completely strong inside, waiting for the final effect.”
Chu said he also grabbed his head to prevent him from crashing to the side, but he didn’t know much about his situation. He couldn’t explain how he walked away with minor bruises.
“I had some bruises but everything was fine after a day. I don’t know how I came out with this little effect on my body,” Chu said ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg. “It’s good to come back here especially if you didn’t have such a long time. … If you had taken a summer vacation a little later, it would be horrible, you would have thought about breaking up over and over again.”
He processed the incident out of his mind with remarkable speed.
“I was mentally happy after one day off and then came back to check my physical condition,” He said. “Obviously there are times when you do something and need a little mental help, but this time I didn’t feel the need for it.”
Cho, who was looking forward to Friday’s qualifying sprint at the Red Bull Ring, once again praised the corona protection device, which was added to F1 cars in 2018.
“I felt so lucky looking back,” He said. “I don’t know how I survived, but after that, I obviously saw the aura that saved me from it.”
And soon the red flag was put on the race won by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. George Russell sprinted from his Mercedes to the tire block to check on Cho.
“It was really athletic for him. He shows great respect for the drivers,” Chu said. “Although it wasn’t him who caused the accident. He called me afterwards.”
Russell, who seemed to have been hit from behind at first and fell into Chu, recalled his first glimpse of Chu.
“He was trapped in there, literally unable to get out of the car,” Russell said Thursday. “When you effectively have a tire wall on your head, blocking your exit, and hanging upside down, that’s just a terrible situation to be in.”
Russell believes that improvements can be made to ensure the driver is removed more quickly from the vehicle.
“From every disaster there is a chance to improve as a sport, or whatever it is,” He said. “Obviously, he could have put things a little differently to give him that director.”
Race rules prevented Russell from restarting because his car was towed again after he rushed to check on Cho. He said Mercedes understood him ‘normal reaction’ To the “Horrific crash”. IndyCar driver Callum Ellot praised Russell’s actions and recalled how Russell helped him during a car crash. Russell noted that he got similar help.
“My car rolled in 2008. I was trapped under it,” He said. “I was already burning my arm because the exhaust was stuck on top of me. That other driver stopped to lift the car off me and help me out of there.”
The halo device on the cars was very divisive in F1. While four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel was one of his early defenders, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was among his critics.
Not anymore, not after last Sunday and last September, when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen landed on top of his car at the Italian Grand Prix.
“The FIA (Board of Directors) has done a fantastic job improving safety. I also want to thank the great late (race director) Charlie (Whiting), who was really instrumental in getting that aura,” Hamilton said. “You saved my life last year, and you saved the lives of many drivers.”
Williams’ Alex Albon was thrown into a pit wall last Sunday after Vettel hit him from behind as drivers tried to avoid the crash involving Cho. Williams was taken to the hospital by helicopter and discharged that evening. He said he felt pain on Monday but is fine now.
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