Spain’s Carlos Sainz won Sunday’s British Grand Prix after a tense battle with both teammate Charles Leclerc and the Red Bull of World Championship leader Max Verstappen. On the wide open spaces of Silverstone’s smooth, high speed track the race featured some of the closest racing of the season, Sergio Perez climbing his way through the field to finish second in front of hard-charging local hero Lewis Hamilton.
The excitement of the race could so easily have been overshadowed by a dramatic first lap accident which saw the Alfa Romeo of Guanyo Zhou pushed into a high speed roll, the car skating upside down across the track and flipping into the gap between the barrier and debris fencing. The Chinese driver, team mate to Valtteri Bottas, was trapped in the car but uninjured.
“This was the kind of accident which the FIA and teams have planned for,” said Mika Häkkinen. “All the safety systems did their job and, even though Guanyu’s car rolled over and ended up on its side against the debris fence he was ok. It was a very spectacular accident, the kind which can happen when you have multiple collisions.
“There is no question that the halo probably saved his life, or at the very least saved him from serious injury. Since its introduction by the FIA in 2018 we have seen the halo protect drivers on a number of occasions – for example in Monza last year when Max Verstappen’s car landed on top of the cockpit of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes – but Sunday’s accident was really significant.
“It looked to me, both from the video footage and the photographs of the damaged car, that the roll hoop which is designed to protect the driver’s head sheared off. No doubt the team and the FIA will look into the exact details when they come to examine the car, damage and data. But the main thing is that the car was then upside down, still travelling at high speed, and yet Guanyu was being protected all the time by the titanium halo and high cockpit sides. The halo is such a simple piece of equipment yet a life-saver. All credit to the FIA and particularly former president Jean Todt and the late Charlie Whiting for pushing through its introduction.”
With respect to the race, Häkkinen was full of praise for the quality of racing and a popular win for the Ferrari of Sainz.
“Like Carlos, I had to wait seven years before claiming my first victory in Formula 1 so I know how happy and relieved he will be,” said Hakkinen. “It’s a huge achievement to win your first Formula 1 race. Suddenly the years of hard work and focus pay off. Carlos is a popular guy and clearly very talented, but he has been up against Charles Leclerc and therefore slightly in his shadow. This victory will lift a weight from his shoulders, take away some pressure, and I expect he will have even more confidence in himself and his ability after this.
“Ferrari hesitated on team strategy, allowing Carlos and Charles to get into a battle which cost them time and allowed Lewis Hamilton to close on them. Listening to their radio communications Ferrari were trying to help Charles to win the race even though his car had some damage. I think the way Carlos handled that situation and then took advantage of having fresh tyres after the final safety car was brilliant. But Ferrari need to have a very clear team strategy at each race if they are to challenge Red Bull during the second half of the season.
“One final comment I would make about Sunday’s race is the high quality of driving – of racing. It was incredible, a fantastic advertisement for Formula 1 to see drivers like Carlos and Max, Charles and Lewis fighting hard, but fairly, giving each other just enough room race. We really have an exceptional group of drivers in F1 today.”