On July 3, China’s first F1 driver Zhou Guanyu was involved in a multi-car crash 15 seconds into the British Grand Prix Formula 1 race held at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire, U.K. The collision sent Zhou’s Alfa Romeo soaring into the air before the race car flipped upside down, slid across the gravel, and flipped over the catch fence.
Thankfully, the 23-year-old driver did not sustain any significant injuries. Though he had to forfeit the race, his team has confirmed that he will join the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend (July 8-10).
Seeing as Zhou made history by participating in the Grand Prix, many people in China had their eyes on the event over the weekend. On the microblogging platform Weibo, the hashtag for the British Grand Prix has been viewed more than 170 million times, and netizens have actively been discussing the competition.
A Weibo post by Zhou addressing the crash has received almost 8,000 replies, with most netizens expressing their sympathies or wishing him well.
“Zhou Guanyu, you’ll have a great future ahead of you [crying emoji],” reads the most upvoted comment, referring to a Chinese idiom that those who survive a catastrophe are bound to have good fortune later on.
Another fan commented, “My eyes were fixed on your car since the beginning of the race. When the accident happened, I could tell from the relay that it was your car that slipped out. I was really scared and cried. Thank God you’re alright. Points are not as important as your safety at all.”
In November 2021, Zhou signed with Alfa Romeo for the 2022 season. Prior to that, Ma Qinghua was the only other Chinese driver to participate in an F1 weekend but failed to become an F1 racer.
Zhou attended his first Grand Prix in his home city of Shanghai in 2004 when he was 5 years old. He was smitten by Fernando Alonso, but never imagined racing against him last weekend. Zhou began kart racing at the age of 8.
“The biggest thing is [China] had no leader in motorsports,” Zhou told The New York Times. “There’s no one who has been in Formula 1 who can take that experience and share with [others] how to develop.”
Zhou and his family moved to Sheffield, the U.K., in 2012 to give him more exposure and access to competitive racing. He has actively been pursuing his passion ever since.
Chinese F1 aficionados have high hopes for Zhou and are already cheering him on for his next leg: “Glad you’re alright. Keep it up in Austria!” enthused one netizen.
“I believe Zhou Guanyu would have achieved good results yesterday if not for the accident,” opined Zhou Yong, one of China’s earliest and most famous rally racers. “Let’s remember the scenes from last weekend at Silverstone track. This is how racers grow. I believe that as long as he keeps going, we will see him standing on the F1 podium and spraying champagne one day.”
The cover photo shows Zhou Guanyu before the British Grand Prix F1 race in Northampton, U.K., on July 3, 2022. Image via VCG