When his race car smashed through the safety barrier, sheared in half, and exploded into a fireball, few expected Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean to walk away from the wreckage. However, the French-Swiss driver emerged from the flames without major injury at yesterday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Grosjean likely owes his life to the halo surrounding the cockpit of his Formula 1 car—a 2018 safety addition he once criticized.
“I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing we’ve done for Formula 1 and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today,” said Grosjean from his hospital bed. The only injuries the Grosjean sustained were second-degree burns to both hands.
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So relieved that @RGrosjean is safe. Thanks to Dr Ian Roberts and the @FIA teams for their courageous and efficient intervention. We have always put safety at the top of our priorities and will continue to do so.#F1 #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 pic.twitter.com/64xubWCgUH
— Jean Todt (@JeanTodt) November 29, 2020
The crash occurred on the first lap of the grand prix, held at the Bahrain International Circuit. Romain Grosjean, in the no. 8 Haas car, attempted to cut in front of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri on the third corner of the lead lap.
Grosjean’s right rear tire hit Kvyat’s left front, causing him to plunge across the run-off area and into the metal barrier. The front half of his car punched through the railing, and the force of the impact broke the car in two. The driver survival cell, comprised of the monocoque and fuel cell, remained stuck in the barrier, while the tail section, containing the engine and gearbox, split off and remained trackside. Formula 1 has not, as of this writing, completed a formal investigation into the full details of the crash and the precise cause of the fire.
This illustration, shown in a breakdown of the crash from The Race on YouTube, shows the halo that saved Grosjean’s life:
No other spectators or staff were injured in the crash. Grosjean and Kvyat’s position at the rear of the field at the time of the impact meant that no other drivers were involved, either.
After an hour-plus red flag period, the race resumed. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won, with Red Bull’s Verstappen and Albon filling out the podium. McLaren’s Norris and Sainz placed fourth and fifth, respectively. At the end of the day, though, fans were more stunned by the crash and grateful for Grosjean’s condition than concerned with the outcome of the race. Just a few years ago, an violent incident like this could have easily ended in tragedy.