Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean was trapped in a burning car after slicing in half and exploding in a fireball, following a crash on the first round of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
As flames ripped through the desert night sky, Grosjean remained inside a raging oven for about 10 to 15 seconds.
One way or another, the fast Frenchman didn’t panic.
Somehow he was lucid enough to find a way out.
Jumping through the flames like an action hero, he then grabbed the molten metal barrier in front of him and rushed over it onto the trail.
Sure though visibly shaken, he was well enough to walk to the ambulance with the help of two medics.
“Romain has minor burns to his hands and ankles but otherwise he’s fine,” said his team Haas. The relief for distraught teammate Kevin Magnussen and the others watching from the paddock was immense. The drivers and other team members spontaneously applauded.
“I saw a lot of fire and thought it wasn’t a good thing,” said Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. “Fortunately he is fine and I hope he will recover. ”
Grosjean, 34, emerged from the burning wreckage with his racing helmet and fire-retardant racing tunic burnt out as the marshals sprayed him with a fire extinguisher.
“I want to thank the rescue teams who are very quick,” said Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. “The marshals and the FIA people did a great job, it was scary. ”
As Grosjean was taken by helicopter to a military hospital, where he was being held overnight, the drivers reacted to the discordant scene.
“The car, the cockpit. I don’t know what he shot but I’m so grateful that the halo worked, ”said F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who won the resumed race. “It shows how Formula 1 has done an incredible job, the FIA has done for him to be able to get away from something like that. ”
The compatriot Pierre Gasly, who drives for AlphaTauri, remained in shock.
“It was horrible, really scary. I had no idea that a Formula 1 car could break this way, ”Gasly said. “I texted him to wish him well. I think he’s fine but it’s really scary. ”
X-rays from the hospital showed Grosjean had not even broken a bone, despite an estimated impact speed of 200 km / h (125 mph).
But if he hadn’t managed to extricate himself, getting him out of the cockpit would have been extremely difficult.
“I have never seen so many fires in 12 years. It took a little while to process what was going on but then Romain started to get out of the car himself, which was amazing, ”said Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the F1 medical car. “Everything worked hand in hand today: the halo, the barriers, the seat belt. Without one of the things, it might have been a different outcome. ”
The halo is a safety device that forms a protective ring around the driver’s head. It was introduced after the death of French driver Jules Bianchi after suffering a massive head trauma on a rain-soaked track during the Japanese GP six years ago and stepping headfirst into a track crane. Two years ago, Charles Leclerc – Bianchi’s close friend – was likely saved from serious injury or death by the halo when another car landed on his during the Belgian GP.
Hamilton and Verstappen weren’t initially fans of the halo. Things have changed.
“I think the halo saved his life,” Verstappen said. “When it came to the cars I was pretty critical about it and it sounded ugly. But you can’t say anything about safety because today it definitely saved Roman. “
Grosjean’s accident happened when he slid to the right and his rear wheel cut the front of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri, causing Grosjean to fly sideways into the barrier.
“If everyone is shocked, imagine how their family (at the time) felt,” Hamilton said. “The flames, the car broken in half and not knowing where the driver is, and him coming out of those flames.” I can’t imagine what it is. ”
It reminded Hamilton of a traumatic experience from his junior karting days.
“When I was nine, I saw a child die the same day I won a race. So I’ve always been aware of the dangers and the risks, ”said Hamilton. “I also think of Roman. He’s got a wife and kids, that’s got to be something to think about. Because it’s a privilege to be able to do what we do, but there is so much and so much more. make. ”