SPIELBERG, Austria — Zhou Guanyu was worried he would be trapped upside down in a burning car after his huge crash at the British Grand Prix last week.
Zhou was flipped upside down and over a tyre barrier, where his Alfa Romeo then got stuck in a small gap next to a wall.
The Chinese driver, who said F1’s Halo device saved his life, was initially worried about the fact he was unable to get out of the car — eventually he had to wriggle out of the cockpit a little way before marshals at Silverstone could get him out.
“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,” Zhou said in his first media session since the accident. “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.”
The crash raised several new safety concerns and is being investigated by the FIA.
This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix gives Zhou an immediate chance to return to racing, something he said is important for getting his head in the right place and shaking off any lingering anxiety.
“Already on Sunday I watched the race back. I didn’t feel sick watching it or have that feeling.
“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.”
Zhou added: “Sunday night I was texting all my engineers asking, is my seat OK? 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.”
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said Zhou’s accident should act as another wake-up call over the ongoing dangers of the sport.
“There are still areas for improvement [in safety],” he said. “Jeez, the car getting stuck behind the barrier and the driver getting stuck in the car, we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“But sometimes these experiences are what open up our eyes to how much more we can improve and we will continue to do that. It’s amazing to see today how safe these cars are that you can get out and walk away, and I’m glad the drivers are safe. But It’s also a reminder to the people watching that this is a dangerous sport. We take real risks out there at crazy speeds.
“Often people tune in and even people there that have known the sport for ages, sometimes take it for granted. We’re not just cruising around on a safety bumper kart. We’re exposed in a couple of areas and we’ve not got to take that for granted.”