Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. went on to win his first career Formula One race on Sunday in what was the most dramatic race so far this season. It began with the frightening first-lap crash and ended with intense wheel-to-wheel battles for the podium positions.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took second and home favorite Lewis Hamilton finished third for an improving Mercedes team.
The titanium halo was introduced by Formula One in 2018, initially to some resistance from drivers who disliked the look of the protective ring around what had previously been a completely open cockpit.
It has since been credited with saving a number of lives in serious incidents.
Emergency crews were quickly on the scene to extract the Chinese rookie, whose car skidded upside down along the track at speed before bouncing across gravel and flipping over the impact-absorbing tire wall.
Photographs showed it crumpled on its side, leaning at an angle in the space between the fence and barrier with the halo protecting the driver’s helmet.
It was the second time on Sunday that the halo had saved a driver from serious injury, and probably worse.
Roy Nissany was protected by it when Norwegian Dennis Hauger’s car flew and landed on the Israeli Formula Two driver’s halo during a morning race.
Williams driver Alexander Albon was also caught up in the grand prix carnage and flown to hospital in Coventry by helicopter for precautionary checks.
Mercedes’s George Russell got out of his stricken car and ran across to check on Zhou.
The Briton appeared to have been clipped from behind by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, the Mercedes’ tyre then making contact with the Alfa.
“I got swamped by other cars and next thing I know I got touched, I was in the side of Zhou and that was it,” said Russell.
Television replays of the crash were not broadcast until it was clear Zhou had been removed safely and was conscious.
Associated Press contributed.