The Alfa Romeo driver was sent airborne at high-speed during a multi-car, first-lap accident involving George Russell and Pierre Gasly which resulted in last Sunday’s race at Silverstone being suspended for more than 40 minutes.
After skating along the run-off and gravel upside down, Zhou’s car barrel-rolled over the tyre barrier before hitting the catch fencing and landing upside down. Miraculously, Zhou emerged from the wreckage unscathed and credited the Halo for saving his life.
Speaking at length during his first media session since the horrific upside-down crash, Zhou opened up as he recalled the incident and his subsequent escape.
“Once the flip happened, the first thing I was trying to do was trying to release my hand off the steering wheel,” Zhou explained.
“Because you never know, you can break your hand very easily with a crash like that, and while I was just rolling on the ground I knew that I’d be facing a massive impact coming up because the car wasn’t stopping.
“I tried to lock myself in a position that is the most safest possible, just waiting for the last impact. Just holding the hand backwards, but I keep it reasonably tensioned so it doesn’t go flying around when you have that last impact. So that was the case.
“Once I was stopped, I didn’t know where I was, because I was upside down, and the net thing I felt was some [fluid] leaking. I wasn’t sure if it was from my body or from the car.
“So I just tried to switch off the engine because the engine was still on by then. I knew if a fire started it will be difficult to get out, so o I switched my engine off, and then everything was fine.”
‘I didn’t know where I was’
When asked how he managed to get out of the car, Zhou said: “I kind of slid myself a little bit out.
“So at least to have my leg, my feet already kind of out of the top of the seat. And they were able to pull me out.
“I didn’t realise I was between the barriers. I was thinking I was next to the barriers. But I was actually between the barrier and the fence, which I don’t know how I survived.
“But looking back, obviously, the Halo I saw saved me.”
Zhou will get the chance to put the crash immediately behind him when he competes at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
“Already on Sunday I watched the race back,” he added. “I didn’t feel sick watching it or have that feeling.
“I feel like I was able to digest a bit myself, so I was happy mentally just having one day off and then went back into checking my physical condition. For me it wasn’t a concern.
“Obviously there are times you do something and you need a bit of mental help, but this time I didn’t feel it was needed.
“Sunday night I was texting all my engineers asking, is my seat OK? For drivers the seat is very important. It’s been very comfortable so far, but it can be different even if they try to do the same.”
Russell was one of the first on the scene of the accident after he abandoned his damaged Mercedes to run over to Zhou and check on the F1 rookie’s condition.
Speaking separately to Sky, Zhou praised Russell’s reaction, saying: “I knew there was one man there, making conversation with me to make sure I was OK. Looking at the pictures, it was George. Respect to him. It was very sportsmanlike.”