Bahrain GP Debrief: How Grosjean survived his crash and what F1 need to do now...

Bahrain GP Debrief: How Grosjean survived his crash and what F1 need to do now...

29-11-2020 20:00

The whole F1 world was brought to a stop early on in the Bahrain Grand Prix as Romain Grosjean suffered one of the scariest crashes in F1 for years. You won’t find a single person that wasn’t delighted to see the Frenchman hobble out of his car, even if he has suffered from some minor injuries.

The monster crash occurred on Lap 1 on exit of Turn 3. Grosjean moved across the track to the right, catching the front left wheel of Daniil Kvyat, spearing his Haas into the barriers. The front of the Frenchman’s car wedged in the barriers and the car snapped in two, with the front half bursting into flames – with Grosjean inside.

Fans around the world held their breath as the flames billowed, the red flag was thrown and no replays were shown, which is a sure sign of a bad crash. Incredibly, almost 20 seconds after impact, Grosjean jumped out of his car and was seen to by the medical staff.

Soon after, replays were shown and the world realised what a horrific accident it was. It’s almost certain that in years gone by, Grosjean would’ve been far more seriously injured, or perhaps even killed.

And that’s a reminder of how safe Formula 1 has become these days, it’s difficult to believe that a driver suffering an accident of that magnitude could walk away with minor injuries, yet it happened.

In an interview after the crash, medical car driver Alan van der Merwe said that everything worked perfectly to keep the driver safe, and he’s right. Grosjean was stuck in the blaze as he tried to find his way out of the wreckage for almost 20 seconds, yet only has minor burns to his wrists and ankles.

F1 drivers wear four layers of fireproof clothing, their overalls are so high-tech and well-developed. They can resist ridiculously high temperatures for lengthy amount of time, and that undoubtedly saved Grosjean from more serious injuries.

The halo is so important

Then we need to talk about the halo. When it was announced that it would come into F1 for the 2018 season, there was plenty of opposition. People said it was unattractive, that it went against F1’s open-cockpit ethos. But the safety of drivers always has to be the main priority and if it wasn’t already, it is now clear that this was the right decision.

There’s previous evidence that the halo has been a positive. Fernando Alonso bounced off Charles Leclerc’s halo at Spa in 2018 and there’s been several times the halo has come into use in other series as well. There is no doubt that in this case, Grosjean’s crash could easily have been fatal.

As his car burst through the barrier, the halo took the full force. Without the halo, it would likely have been Grosjean’s crash helmet that slammed into the barrier, and the consequences of such a scenario are not worth thinking about.

Marshals deserve more praise

We also have to talk about the trackside marshals and the medical car. Within seconds of Grosjean’s impact, the medical car was on the scene, with driver van der Merwe and medic Ian Roberts spraying fire extinguishers at the flames and helping Grosjean when he emerged from the wreckage. Also, the Bahraini marshals on the other side of the barriers, remaining calm and arriving quickly with extinguishers to help put out the blaze.

Thankfully, we didn’t see this scenario, but fast reactions such as these could have been crucial in saving Grosjean’s life if the Haas driver was stuck in the car or knocked unconscious.

F1 must continue to strive for safety

All these reasons and more played massive parts in saving not only the life of Grosjean, but of several other drivers in recent years. Drivers, teams and fans are all well aware that the risk of motorsport may never be truly eradicated and tragically drivers are still injured and killed while racing.

This is why Formula 1, and other motorsports, must never stop in the quest to make the sport safer. Before this next paragraph, I must disclaim that I am not an expert on barriers, or safety cells, fuel tanks or any of this.

But F1 has to look at this incident and think: Can we make the barriers safer? Can we make it so cars don’t split in half? Or can we try and prevent such a fire in the future? These may not be possible, but they are the sort of questions F1 has to ask, to try and avoid an accident of this magnitude in the future.

And I believe this is exactly what F1 and the FIA are doing. Their focus has rightly been on safety for a long time now and there’s no doubt they will be analysing and learning from this incident. We can’t blame them for this crash, however. There are an infinite number of ways F1 cars can crash, with the unlikely freak accidents often the worst.

For now we can be happy that Grosjean is mostly ok. Minor injuries will heal and F1 will learn from the crash. It’s amazing that we can see a driver walk away from a crash like that. His injuries may rule him out of the final two races of this season, and subsequently the final two races of his F1 career, but it is a blessing that he is still here, to be around in the paddock, for his family, friends and millions of fans, and that we can remember him for the ten magnificent podiums he scored in F1, and not for a tragic fatal accident.

Grosjean’s escape is obviously a relief for everyone, but F1 must not relent in their search for total safety.

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