Zhou Guanyu was involved in a gut-wrenching crash going into the first corner
A fight to the finish, a horror crash and a maiden win will put 2022 British Grand Prix in history books
Trust Silverstone. Just as we had hoped for and predicted, the British Grand Prix delivered another thriller, as the circuit provided a perfect canvas for a race that included a bit of everything.
Most prominent was the happy outcome from the horrific crash at the start, as Zhou Guanyu’s inverted Alfa Romeo tore through the gravel trap at Abbey, flipped again and ended up wedged between the tyre wall and the debris fence.
A lucky escape? Certainly, for not just the Chinese rookie but also the marshals, photographers and spectators in the grandstand who were in the direct line of fire.
But there was more than luck at play. That Zhou escaped to be pronounced fit to race in Austria just a few days later is a testament to both car and circuit safety in F1. As he said, the ‘halo’ cockpit-protection bars saved his life, while the debris fence did exactly what it was designed for.
I must admit that when the halo was introduced in 2018, I was among many to groan, given its weight and ugliness. But as usual, it’s amazing how quickly we adapt to change. It hasn’t diluted the essence of single-seater racing cars, and as Zhou is just the latest in a growing list of drivers who owe their lives to its existence, any lingering reticence is irrelevant. For once, let’s put aside the rose-tinted specs: not everything was better in the old days.
Just like Formula Ford
Once the grand prix did get going, it was packed with incident and intrigue. The final nine laps after the safety car intervention showed Silverstone at its best as one of the best tracks on the planet for pure motor racing. Who needs a fake marina to justify a place on the F1 schedule when drivers can go at it as if they were still in Formula Ford? The dogfights were straight out of the Walter Hayes Trophy, Silverstone’s popular end-of-season Formula Ford carnival, than what we usually see at most grands prix.
Of course, there’s room for improvement at the old airfield. As my family found, two hours to escape from the car park to the A43 was a sorry and all too familiar story. But what a day we had had. Silverstone’s current deal with F1, which has made the race viable for the circuit for the first time in decades, is up in 2024. But let’s forego the usual months of wrangling and fear stories about the British GP’s future – and don’t hold the climate-protesters incident against the circuit either.
It was fortunate that the race had been red-flagged when the track invaders put their own lives and others at futile risk and mildly surprising that they made it on to the Wellington Straight at all, given the stunt was expected. But such activists are determined and policing a site as big as Silverstone is far tougher than, say, a football stadium. Let’s not get distracted: F1 should just extend the deal now and be done with it.
Silverstone is more than F1’s spiritual home: it’s also among the best venues the championship travels to anywhere in the world. It almost makes me proud to be British.
The wrong Ferrari
You would need a heart of flint not to be cheered by Carlos Sainz Jr’s first victory at the 150th time of asking. The Spaniard is a lovely chap and a credit both to his old man and Ferrari. But he shouldn’t have won the British GP if his team is serious about winning the world championship this year.
We all hate team orders – of course we do. But there’s a reason why banning them (as the FIA once did on the back of Ferrari’s blatant use of them) just doesn’t work in motor sport.
Allowing Sainz and Charles Leclerc to race freely at Silverstone was refreshing, especially given past history – but it was also daft. Leclerc is the only hope in stopping Max Verstappen from winning a second title, and on a day when the Red Bull was struggling with floor damage, here was a chance to push the lead Ferrari back into contention. Instead, the team delayed easing Leclerc past his team-mate when he was quicker, then prioritised Sainz for a pitstop when the safety car came out because the Spaniard was on older Pirelli rubber. Left out on used hards, Leclerc was a sitting duck and slumped to fourth when he should have won.
Imagine the tantrum if Red Bull were to do that to Verstappen. Leclerc’s loyalty and patience in public does him credit, but he must have been raging – and I hope that he gave team principal Mattia Binotto hell behind the scenes. He has made mistakes this year, but Ferrari lets him down much more.
To have any hope of launching a fightback in the second half of the season, Leclerc needs Ferrari’s full attention, just as Michael Schumacher had from Ross Brawn’s team 20-odd years ago. Winning in F1 isn’t always pretty or fair, especially if you are the ‘other guy’ in the team – but like it or not, that’s the reality. At Silverstone, Ferrari failed Leclerc – again.