The British Grand Prix is a race that is often memorable. The very first F1 World Championship race was the 1950 British GP. At the 2021 British GP, Lewis Hamilton won despite being involved and penalised for the highly controversial crash. That was, of course, the crash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with Verstappen suffering a significant crash. The 2020 British GP was memorable for the dramatic punctures in the race’s final laps as the Pirelli tires failed to meet the expected durability. And now we’ve seen the 2022 British GP, where Carlos Sainz took a fantastic first win, and Zhou Guanyu suffered a horrific crash on the opening lap. Another reason why this race was momentous was that Mick Schumacher scored his first points in F1. It was a big race for Schumacher after getting close to points on multiple occasions prior to the 2022 British GP.
In this Race Review, we’re going to look at 4 major aspects of the race. Firstly, we’ll look at Zhou Guanyu’s perilous crash. We’ll analyse what caused it, and how the FIA’s safety measures saved his life. Secondly, we’ll analyse Carlos Sainz’s fantastic maiden win, and the journey he’s gone through to get here. After that, we need to look at how Ferrari once again made major mistakes with their strategy. Charles Leclerc was on course to achieving another race win, or at least a podium. But Ferrari’s strategy team once again made a decision that ruined Leclerc’s race. And lastly, we’ll briefly look at the fantastic racing action from the 2022 British GP.
Zhou’s Horror Crash
The 2022 British GP had a hectic start, with 2 different crashes taking place simultaneously down into Turn 1. The more serious crash was Zhou Guanyu’s barrel roll. As the 5 red lights went out, Latifi got a strong start and gained 2 positions by going down the middle of Russell and Zhou. Pierre Gasly then saw an opportunity to do the same. He went down the middle and pulled halfway alongside the same drivers. But since the run from the grid to Turn 1 is short, Gasly decided to back off as the drivers began to brake for Turn 1. However, when Gasly slowed down, he clipped Russell’s rear-left tire, as Russel was moving across to try and defend from Zhou. Since Gasly clipped the Mercedes, the Silver Arrow spun and hit Zhou’s Alfa Romeo.
Zhou’s rear-right tire mounted the front-left tire of the spinning Mercedes. That rolled Zhou’s car over at a high speed and sent him straight off the track into the gravel trap. Since the car was upside down, the halo and the car’s engine cover scraped across the track. That friction caused sparks to fly. On top of that, the car was spinning while being upside down. When the car reached the gravel trap, it started bouncing and skipping across the gravel trap. That’s when the car was sent into a barrel roll. And since the car was going at high speed, it rolled over the tire barrier and hit the catch fencing. The car then fell in the gap between the tire barrier and the catch fencing.
That was an incredibly scary crash that left the whole F1 community shaken. The scariest part for me personally was the fact that Zhou Guanyu’s head was inches from the ground. You can see that in the pictures and videos of the crash. Now that we’ve gone through what happened and what caused the crash, we need to analyse why the crash was so major, and some aspects that must be investigated. A major example is the roll hoop of the car. The roll hoop is the first line of defence when a car rolls over. The FIA implemented it to stop the drivers’ heads from making contact with the ground. However, videos and images of the crash show the Alfa Romeo’s roll hoop failing.
The Roll Hoop is intact after initial contact, as seen in the image above. That meant that on impact, the roll hoop was able to sustain the vertical force. But as you can see in the next image, the roll hoop failed and was ripped off when the car slid across the track. So did the roll hoop do its job? It looks like it failed completely. But since it sustained that first impact, it didn’t fail completely.
What’s more likely is that the FIA didn’t anticipate a situation like this. They wouldn’t have designed the roll hoop to remain intact while facing a sustained longitudinal force. And on top of that, this was after already having sustained a vertical impact. The FIA can’t prepare for every single unique situation like this one. More importantly, according to Zhou, “the first hit was much harder than what [the team] investigated through the safety test, a few times harder than the numbers we want.”
So the roll hoop detaching is not a major problem. But it is an issue that the FIA need to solve in the near future because, in this incident, the driver ended up relying on the halo completely to stop his head from hitting the ground. That’s why the F1 community were celebrating the halo so much after this crash; the halo is the main reason why Zhou didn’t suffer any serious injuries. He only suffered a few bruises.
The halo also played a big part in saving Zhou during the initial impact when Zhou’s car rolled over. And then during the barrel roll across the gravel and over the barrier, without the halo, Zhou may not have survived the crash. His head could’ve suffered major injuries. On top of that, the survival cell’s strength and the sidepods’ ability to protect the driver stopped Zhou from suffering any major injuries to the rest of his body.
Another significant safety measure that saved Zhou was the strength of the fuel tank. Kevlar is a heat-resistant synthetic fiber. The F1 engine manufacturers make the bladder of the fuel tank from this military-grade kevlar. Zhou’s car didn’t catch fire, but there was a genuine worry that it would. He said after the race that once he stopped “I didn’t know where I was because I was upside down and the next thing I felt was some leaking. I was not sure if it was from my body or from the car, so I just tried to switch the engine off. I knew if a fire started it would be difficult to get out.
“It wasn’t hurting but it was very cold on the left hand side, so I didn’t know if it was blood and I wasn’t feeling any more or something. I was just making sure, I was more worried about if the engine caught on fire because in that position you are really stuck.” He was absolutely right, but thankfully, the car didn’t catch fire. It took the marshals a while to extract him from the car, since he was in a difficult position.
Along with a strong fuel tank, the FIA have made it mandatory for the cars to split upon heavy impacts. After Romain Grosjean’s crash in 2020, the FIA designed the cars so that the gearbox and the rear end of the car would detach from the rest of the car if there is an impact on the side of the car. Then the fuel tank and the engine would remain attached to the survival cell, reducing the risk of a leak. While the car didn’t split in this occasion, the fact that the car didn’t catch fire is more proof that the FIA and their fantastic safety measures have come a long way.
Sainz’s Maiden Win
At the 2022 British GP, Carlos Sainz finally achieved that first race win that he had been longing for! Sainz is the driver with the 2nd-longest wait before their first F1 victory. Sergio Perez is first, since he raced 190 races before winning. And Sainz is 2nd, with a 150-race wait. It’s wonderful how he’s finally responded to his naysayers with a race win. Sainz’s first opportunity to win came at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. At the time he was racing for McLaren and was chasing down Pierre Gasly. Gasly had worn medium tires, while Sainz had much fresher mediums. Sainz pushed harder than he’d ever done before, and got so close to winning. But in the end, Gasly took a sensational victory by 0.4s.
The next instance where Sainz was tantalisingly close to a win was at the 2022 Monaco GP. He wasn’t able to overtake Sergio Perez for the race win, and had to settle for second. The most significant instance where Sainz couldn’t clinch the win was at the 2022 Canadian GP. Sainz lost the race to Max Verstappen by less than a second. Sainz’s tires were 6 laps younger, meaning he had the tire advantage at the end of the race. But he wasn’t clinical when he needed to be.
While he seemed to have the hunger to win, he didn’t perform at the level that Ferrari needed. Sainz received heavy criticism after that weekend. But 2 weeks later, he did exactly what Ferrari and his fans needed him too. He proved that he had what it takes to win. At the race start, he did lose out to Max Verstappen. Race starts are something that both Ferrari drivers have struggled with this year. However, after the incidents on Lap 1, the race director deployed a Red Flag. After the Red Flag period, the Red Flag restart saw a grid rest, meaning Sainz was back on pole position. This time, Sainz also got a slower start. But he was very smart and strategic – he moved across the track to defend from Verstappen aggressively. Because of that smart driving, Sainz retained the lead of the race.
However, a couple of laps later, Sainz made a costly mistake at Chapel curve, which allowed Verstappen to overtake him. That was useful to his critics, because it made him look like he couldn’t handle the pressure. 3 laps later, Sainz retook the lead of the race after Verstappen faced damage to his car that resulted in a performance deficit. Another moment that was negative for Sainz was when Ferrari used team orders to let Leclerc go ahead and take the lead. Sainz’s engineer said “This is not good enough, we are swapping the cars.” In my opinion, that’s a bit too harsh.
But Sainz redeemed himself in the dying laps of the race. Esteban Ocon retired due to a mechanical failure, which brought out the Safety Car. At the Safety Car restart, Sainz had fresher tires than Leclerc, who was stuck on old hards. I’ll get into that strategy mistake later. Sainz was very clinical at that restart through Aintree and down the Wellington Straight, Sainz made a quick move to overtake his teammate. He knew that this was his opportunity, and that this time, he wasn’t going to wait until later and then lose out on the win. Sainz put himself before the team, and I believe he had the right to do that because he deserves to be a race winner and more.
Ferrari’s Dismal Strategy Hits Leclerc Hard
Ferrari made a major strategy mistake once again. Ferrari’s strategists have been criticised and mocked many times in the past. They’ve made so many costly mistakes, and the 2022 British GP was just another example. A very recent example of Ferrari’s strategy mistakes costing Leclerc a win was the 2022 Monaco GP. Leclerc was in the lead of the race in Monaco. He fell to net P2, since Sainz decided not to pit for Intermediates.
When the track was dry enough for dry tires, Sainz came into the pits, since he desperately needed to change tires. But Leclerc still could’ve survived an extra lap on the inters. However, Ferrari called Leclerc into the pits at the same lap as Sainz, forcing Leclerc to doube-stack. Leclerc was already in the pit lane when his engineer realised the mistake and told Leclerc to stay out. But it was too late. Leclerc finished in P4 because of the time he lost in the pitlane.
This time, Leclerc had a similar situation. He was in P2, and was flying. He had some damage from contact with Perez during the Red Flag restart. But despite that, he was fast enough for Ferrari to swap his position with Sainz, which put him in the net lead of the race. That became the lead of the race when Hamilton pitted. So at this point, things were going well for Leclerc. However, Ocon’s car broke down, causing a Safety Car. The obvious choice for all the teams was to pit their drivers.
That’s what the teams did, which includes what Ferrari did with Sainz. But Leclerc’s engineer told him to stay out, meaning the rest of the field got soft tires, but Leclerc was stuck on old hards. Ferrari justified this by saying that they didn’t want to double-stack and compromise Sainz’s race. But they could’ve pitted one driver on the next lap, instead of not pitting Leclerc at all. It was a major mess-up, with Leclerc summarising why it was wrong perfectly in his Instagram post. It was a blunder mistake to leave Leclerc out as a sitting duck on old tires.
Fantastic On-Track Battles
At the 2022 British GP, the on-track battles were brilliant. I believe that the closeness of the field and the reduction of dirty air really worked this year. We saw the battle at the Red Flag restart, where the Ferraris and Red Bulls battled. There were multiple battles between The Loop and Woodcote corner, e.g. Norris vs Hamilton, Sainz vs Leclerc and Latifi vs Schumacher. But the biggest battle of all was in the last sector, when Leclerc and Perez were battling, and then Hamilton made an iconic move to overtake them both through the final corner. These moments of racing action were fantastic, and helped make this race more memorable and exciting.