Carlos Sainz won a wild and wacky British Grand Prix which saw Zhou Guanyu survive a horror opening-lap crash and protesters invade the track at Silverstone.
Sainz fought his way past Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc in a brilliant 10-lap shootout to the chequered flag following a safety car period to claim his maiden Formula One win.
Sergio Perez finished second, with Lewis Hamilton third after he forced his way around Leclerc with four laps of the 52 laps remaining.
Sainz, Perez and Hamilton all took on fresh tyres ahead of the safety car re-start, but Ferrari left Leclerc out on old rubber and the championship challenger was left in no man’s land, dropping from first to fourth, and dealing his title hopes a blow on a day where Max Verstappen limped home in seventh after he sustained a puncture and damage to his Red Bull bodywork.
A record crowd of 142,000 fans in Northamptonshire were treated to the race of the season which started in extraordinary fashion.
Rookie Zhou was approaching the 160mph opening Abbey corner when British driver George Russell tagged the right rear of the Chinese driver’ machine, sending him on to his roof and sliding out of control.
Upside down, Zhou continued through the gravel at high speed with sparks flying before he slammed into the tyre barrier and was launched into the fencing. Fans and photographers ducked for cover with Zhou’s Alfa Romeo lodged on its side, between the tyre wall and the fencing.
An extraction team rushed to Zhou and the 23-year-old, in just his 10th race, was carefully removed and taken away in an ambulance to the medical centre before being discharged.
Russell was also seen dashing to check on his friend, the Williams driver Alex Albon, who was caught up in the accident, and then Zhou’s condition.
“I’m glad to see Zhou okay. It was an horrific incident,” Russell told Sky Sports.
The Mercedes driver, who was not permitted to restart the race, added: “I jumped out of the car to see that Zhou was OK. When I got back to car I couldn’t restart it. As soon as you get outside assistance you cannot restart the race.”
Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon were also involved in the frenetic first moments of Sunday’s race, with both drivers limping back to the pits for repairs and able to take part when the race resumed following a delay of almost an hour.
A radio message to Zhou’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas said: “Zhou is conscious. He is talking. There are no fractures and, considering the circumstances, he is pretty good, pretty well.”
London-born Albon was helicoptered to hospital for precautionary checks.
The race was immediately red-flagged, but as the cars made their way back to the pits, five protesters stormed the circuit at the 200mph Wellington Straight before sitting down on the track.
The protesters were dragged away by marshals as a number of drivers sped by.
An FIA spokesperson said: “We confirm that after the red flag, several people attempted to enter the track. These people were immediately removed and the matter is now being dealt with by the local authorities.”
Following a delay of 53 minutes the race restarted.
On lap 10, Verstappen, hot on Sainz’s tail, moved into the lead after the Spaniard ran off the track through Becketts. But two laps later, Verstappen was in the pits with a puncture after he appeared to run over debris.
Sainz was soon under pressure from Leclerc, and after toing-and-froing with the pit wall, team principal Mattia Binotto gave the order for the scarlet cars to swap position.
Suddenly, a fast-charging Hamilton was in the mix, and, after the first round of pit stops, he was just six seconds off the lead.
Then, Ocon broke down in his Alpine and the safety car was deployed with a dozen laps to go. Leclerc stayed out – a decision Ferrari might come to regret – with Sainz, Hamilton and Perez all stopping.
The race re-started on lap 43 and Sainz made short work of getting past Leclerc with Perez and Hamilton eventually following suit after a number of spellbinding laps.
Fernando Alonso took fifth, one spot ahead of Lando Norris with Verstappen holding off Mick Schumacher on the line to take seventh.