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British Grand Prix 2022: Chaos, carnage and climate protest

BY Gary Jordan

7th Jun 2023 Sport

British Grand Prix 2022: Chaos, carnage and climate protest

With a surprise winner, scary crashes and protests, 2022’s British Grand Prix was one for the book. Gary Jordan looks back on last year’s race in his new book

Lenovo British Grand Prix, Silverstone, 52 laps—3.659 miles/5.900km

Hype and hope realised

Red Bull Racings Sergio Perez, Ferraris Charles Leclerc, Mercedes Lewis Hamilton, Alpines Fernando Alonso and McLarens Lando Norris battling over the final podium place at the 2022 British Grand Prix Credit: fuji.tim, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr. The British Grand Prix 2022 finale saw a heated stand-off between Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Charles LeClerc, Fernando Alonson and Lando Norris

For once, all the hype was lived up to as the drama that had built up in the season so far was surpassed by a British Grand Prix that had everything that race fans wanted—a first-corner incident that had everyone praying, a maiden win, and a charge by Lewis Hamilton that everyone was waiting for.

This was Silverstone, and you always get a feeling that the season really gets underway when it hits Britain. Even the wet qualifying could not put a dampener on the proceedings.

It looked like Max Verstappen would see the pole position plaudits come his way, even more so when Leclerc splashed through a puddle to spin, so he couldn’t manage better than third place.

"It was far from an ordinary day for the rookie Zhou Guanyu, his Alfa Romeo literally turning his world upside down"

Then Sainz came through with a lap that he didn’t feel was that special—but it was, and it set him up for a spectacular race.

Carlos Sainz had been the victim of first-lap failures and last-lap heartache so far in this season, but at last he scored his first F1 victory, at the 150th time of asking. A long time to wait when you have a car so worthy of many wins.

It wasn’t plain sailing though. In fact, after the first corner it looked like being another one of those days. It was far from an ordinary day for the rookie Zhou Guanyu, his Alfa Romeo literally turning his world upside down.

Near disaster

The lights went out and Sainz dropped his reaction time slower than the car next to him, the champion and Championship leader, Max Verstappen.

This was an instant advantage gained due to having the softer tyres, and then Lewis Hamilton was in his rear-view mirrors, as he punched a hole through the second row to climb into third place, with the first corner navigated.

If those at the front were catching a glimpse in those mirrors, they may have seen the cloud of dust that was rising at the opening curve.

"The Alfa Romeo flipped over and careened on down the straight, through the gravel trap"

George Russell, not out of the top five in all the races finished so far, had a slow getaway, and had the Williams of Nicholas Latifi up alongside him.

Pierre Gasly tried to squeeze into the narrow gap, and that’s when it happened—Russell moved to the left and tagged the AlphaTauri, which put the Mercedes helplessly sideways, and into Zhou’s car.

The Alfa Romeo flipped over and careened on down the straight, through the gravel trap and only started to slow when it hit the small road, at which point it cartwheeled over the tyre barrier wall, halfway up the catch fence, and dropped down, in front of startled fans.

Quick thinking

Zhou Guanyu racing at British Grand Prix 2022Credit: Jen Ross, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Disaster struck when Zhou Guanyu's car flipped over

The Mercedes was damaged, its race over, and was also beached in the gravel. Russell freed himself from the cockpit and immediately sprinted to the point of impact where Zhou’s car lay, in a tangled mess.

Upon arrival he saw that his fellow driver was moving, but trapped against the fence, he couldn’t get out. Luckily there was no immediate threat of the car having any more catastrophic moments, and with Russell directing the stewards over he was eventually able to get out and be taken straight to the on-site medical centre.

It was a lucky escape, one which he only survived due to the halo design on the car. After the race had finished, on close inspection a neat deep groove was visible from the point where he flipped over to the gravel.

Protest peril

Alex Albon was also taken for assessment, as the Williams had fallen foul of the accident when Bottas in the other Alfa Romeo braked sharply to avoid the debris, but ended up having the Williams also brake heavily, leading to Sebastian Vettel going into the back of Albon and sending him into the wall.

When he bounced off, he took parts of Yuki Tsunoda’s car, and also made contact with Esteban Ocon.

"Seven people were arrested as they encroached the trackside, with some getting onto the track as the cars approached"

It was more like a demolition derby than an F1 race, and eventually everything stood still. Apart from the now high-waving red flags, the race was clearly going to be suspended.

But this was also simultaneous with the drama ahead, as down the long straight at the back of the circuit, the Stop Oil protests that had been happening around the country, and had threatened to take place on race day, happened.

Seven people were arrested as they encroached the trackside, with some getting onto the track as the cars approached. Going slower than normal race pace due to the incident, they managed to avoid the protest.

BOX! BOX! BOX! The Inside Track of the 2022 Formula One Season by Gary Jordan is available on June 12, 2023 (Pitch Publishing Ltd, £18.99)

Banner credit: tje23acf, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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