- Romain Grosjean miraculously survives horrific crash at Bahrain Grand Prix
- Frenchman careered off track on opening lap; wrecked car turns into fireball, after crashing into barriers
- Paddock left shaken, as Grosjean exclaims gratitude for halo system
SAKHIR, BAHRAIN – As Romain Grosjean narrowly escapes tragedy in the desert, what did we learn from his miraculous escape at the Bahrain Grand Prix?
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Miracle in Bahrain
It sounds like the most unlikely title of a Christmas story, but as the holiday season approaches, Formula 1 may just have seen something close to a festive miracle, at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
As the Paddock arrived in the Sakhir for the first of three weekends in the desert, Romain Grosjean in particular, will be counting his many many blessings.
A no less frenzied race to Turn 1 of any circuit, what followed this past Sunday, will be moments etched into the memories of F1 fans across the globe.
With both Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen having been forced wide off the bend, Grosjean’s actions in moving across the track to make room for the Finn, proved disastrous.
Clipping Daniil Kvyat‘s AlphaTauri in the process, Grosjean careened off the straight into the barriers at high speed, as his car exploded into flames.
As the first night race of the season, the incident was ever the more spectacular and horrific in equal measure.
The resulting crash may not have been a surprise, but his car being sliced in two, expelling litres of fuel and igniting a fireball trackside, was.
As the red flag was rapidly waved in urgency, gasps could have been heard around the world.
Worst fears would have surely have gripped all those witnessing the horrors before them, so to see Grosjean being attended to by medics and – on the face of it at least – very much okay minutes after, was a sight for sore eyes to say the least.
The fallout of the crash has told a very visceral tale of the fortune that had befallen the Frenchman, as he clambered out from through the barriers and to safety from the lapping flames.
With the practice crash-drills every single driver in F1 undertakes before stepping foot into a car, perhaps the tales may be ever-so-slightly the sensational.
But when you look at the mangled wreck of Grosjean’s car, the dramatic pictures of the crash and the destroyed metal wall that could have ended his life, it is hard not to feel a sense that Bahrain was home to a real sporting miracle this weekend.
Stark reality check
Sunday’s race was a brutal reminder of the realities and indeed dangers of F1.
Yes, the sport is more sanitised than ever in the hybrid era, but racing remains perilous, even if that side is often hidden in plain sight.
But therein lies F1’s appeal; the fact few of us mere mortals watching on could even have the fitness, courage or single will, to get into an F1 car.
Only 15 months ago, Anthoine Hubert‘s life was claimed in an F2 crash at Spa, whilst Jules Bianchi remains the only man in F1 to have died in a crash, since Ayrton Senna.
Notwithstanding, Sunday’s shocking episode gave all watching a chilling jolt.
Halo saved Grosjean’s life
Grosjean’s horrendous into the barriers brought back chilling images of Senna’s demise at Imola in 1994.
Happily however, it also proved beyond a doubt, that safety measures that continue to be brought into F1, work.
Not least the Halo – which very much lived up to its god-like moniker in Bahrain.
Introduced since the start of the 2018 season, the driver crash-protection system was designed to protect the driver’s head in an impact.
And how effective it proved this weekend.
Often derided in circles for its rather unaesthetic appearance, in the past also, Niki Lauda has stated that the halo had taken away the essence of a ‘race’ car.
During Grosjean’s crash, his Haas split the crash barrier, allowing the car to slip through in between and splitting off the back of the car from the safety cell.
Not only did it allow the Frenchman to escape to safety, the halo impacted the upper section of the barrier, protecting his head from the immense impact.
Surely, after Sunday’s harrowing events, few can dispute its place in F1 in 2020; not least one very rattled Frenchman.
‘The greatest thing’
The crash left Grosjean in a Manama hospital with minor burns on his arms and ankles.
But, it could have been so very much worse.
As he posted a message through Haas F1’s official Twitter account on Sunday – from his hospital bed – his picture would have brought a huge sigh of relief all round.
With his hands bandaged, he stated he was ‘sort of okay’, and as someone who has also been critical of the halo system in the past, was quick to change his tune:
“Hello everyone, just wanted to say I’m okay, well, sort of okay. Thank you very much for all the messages.
I wasn’t for the halo some years ago but I think it’s the greatest thing we brought to Formula 1 and without it I wouldn’t be able to speak to you today.”
Paddock left shaken
As racing was brought to a shuddering halt this weekend before the restart, both drivers and teams in the Paddock were left to reflect on what had happened.
Crashes happen in F1, of course that is true, but few hits in the sport involve excessive fire incidents.
That would have sent shockwaves across the Sakhir International Circuit, and Haas team members in particular were left visibly – and understandably – upset.
It was no less true of the Medical car team, that each weekend are tasked with the safety of drivers on race weekend.
Both Dr Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe have received plaudits for their swift actions in rescuing Grosjean, and the former’s words in particular that he’d “never seen fire like that” were extremely telling.
As F1 resumes swiftly this weekend, Grosjean will be nothing more than a spectator with Pietro Fittipaldi set to stand in.
Regardless, after a particularly harrowing weekend, Bahrain 2020 will take some time to shift from the mind.
Mercifully however, there were more ‘what ifs’, than ‘what dids’.
The Sakhir Grand Prix takes place at the Sakhir International Circuit, this weekend in Bahrain.
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