F1 drivers Zhou Guanyu and Alex Albon have escaped without major injuries after each were involved in a huge crash at the start of the British Grand Prix.

The two drivers were involved in a big crash before the cars had even reached the first corner of the 52-lap-race at Silverstone, leading to a near hour-long stoppage of the race.

The first crash involved Zhou, who was hit by the Mercedes of George Russell after he had been tapped on the rear by the faster starting Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. Zhou’s Alfa Romeo car was flipped upside down by the contact, scraping the ground and flying upside down into the tyre barrier before going over the tyres, striking a catchment fence and getting stuck between the two obstacles between the track and stands.

Zhou was conscious and escaped fractures, but he had to be extracted by the stewards and medical team before being taken out of his car on a stretcher. After further checks by on-site medical staff at Silverstone, the Chinese driver was cleared to return to the paddock and was seen with his team after the race finished.

In remarks to the Alfa Romeo team’s website after the British Grand Prix finished, the 24-year-old confirmed he was OK. He thanked the FIA for their safety work and the work to introduce the halo cockpit protection device, and he said he should be OK to race in next weekend’s race in Austria.

He said, “It was a big crash and I’m glad I’m ok. The marshals and the medical team at the track were fantastic with their quick response, and I also owe my thanks to the FIA and Formula One for all the work they have done, and they keep doing, to improve the safety of our cars: the Halo saved me today, and it goes to show that every step we take in improving our cars has real, valuable results. I’m keener than ever to get back on track and do what I love: I’m fit and I’m looking forward to Austria next week.”

A second collision at the same time as the incident that involved Zhou and Russell also involved Albon, after the Anglo-Thai driver’s Williams car was hit from behind by Sebastian Vettel while the two tried to avoid the other incident. The former Red Bull driver’s car struck the pit wall and was spun around before also making further contact with Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda at turn one.

Albon was also conscious after his incident but he had to be taken off-site for additional precautionary medical checks, with the 26-year-old transported by helicopter to Coventry Hospital.

Several hours after the race finished, Williams said in a statement on social media that Albon had received the all clear and been discharged.

Williams said, “We are pleased to confirm that Alex has been given the all clear and has been discharged from Coventry Hospital. Thank you to everyone for your well wishes.”

Albon himself added, “I’m very glad that everyone else involved in the first lap incident is okay. Thank you to all the medical staff at the track and Coventry Hospital. It’s a shame our race ended before it began today. But we are already focused on Austria. Bring on the next one.”

The crashes lead to a near-hour long stoppage of the race after the event was immediately red-flagged. During the stoppage, Zhou was recovered and the trackside fence fixed, with race coverage on TV not showing replays of the crash until around 20 minutes after the incident when they received information from Alfa Romeo that Zhou was OK.

The race is the second time in as many years that a driver has been hospitalised after a first lap collision on the British Grand Prix, after Max Verstappen was taken to hospital following a crash on lap one of the 2021 race at Silverstone. Verstappen would also be discharged on the same day.