Romain Grosjean’s remarkable escape from an enormous, violent, high-speed accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix has been hailed as a testament to Formula One’s pursuit of safety. The Frenchman’s Haas car, which suffered a 53G impact, had split into two and he was engulfed in a fireball before climbing from the wreckage with relatively minor injuries.
Grosjean suffered only second degree burns to his hands and was taken to hospital for a check-up. His car had speared through the metal barriers, which they are designed to prevent, but his head was protected by the halo cockpit protection device made mandatory by the FIA in 2018.
Grosjean confirmed his appreciation of the halo device in an Instagram post from his hospital bed. “Hello everyone, I just wanted to say I am OK – well, sort of OK,” he said. “I wasn’t for the halo some years ago, but I think it’s the greatest thing that we’ve brought to Formula 1, and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak with you today.”
Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win, acknowledged that Grosjean could easily have been killed. “This was horrifying, I am so grateful the halo worked, that the barrier didn’t slice his head off, it could have been so much worse,” the world champion said. “This is a reminder to people watching, this is a dangerous sport. It shows what an amazing job that F1 and the FIA have done over time to be able to walk away from something like that.”
Ross Brawn, F1’s director of motorsport, was unequivocal that the halo, which had been criticised when first imposed, had been instrumental in saving Grosjean’s life. “The positive was the safety of the car and that is what got us through today,” said Brawn. “The barrier splitting was a problem many years ago and it normally resulted in a fatality; there is no doubt that the halo saved the day. The team behind it deserve credit for forcing it through. After today no one can doubt the validity of that, it was a life saver.”
A variety of other factors also played into Grosjean’s survival, including his fireproof suit, the cockpit survival cell, his neck and head protection in the form of the Hans (head and neck support) device and the swift action of the FIA personnel in the medical car and the track marshals. Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, praised the actions of Dr Ian Roberts and the driver, Alan van der Merwe, who attended almost immediately in the medical car.
There will be comprehensive investigations into the accident, especially to identify why the barriers sheared apart allowing the car through and how fuel escaped to catch fire.