From the horse's mouth: Romain Grosjean's account of his Bahrain GP crash

By Divyank Kushagra Bansal | on December 5, 2020

'Then there’s the less pleasant moment where my body starts to relax, I’m in peace with myself, and I’m going to die!' Here's a jarring account of Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean's recent near-death crash at the 2020 Bahrain GP. 

Just like on any other F1 race weekend, viewers all over the world were glued to their TVs/phones waiting eagerly for the 2020 Bahrain GP to begin. However, no one in their right mind was expecting what happened on the opening lap of the race – Romain Grosjean's Haas car, during an aggressive overtaking manoeuvre, ended up clipping the tyre of Daniil Kvyat's Alpha Tauri behind him and, as a result, in the blink of an eye, Grosjean's car shot into the barrier and all anyone could see was a huge ball of fire, viewers on their screens and his fellow drivers in their rear-view mirrors. The impact had split Grosjean's car into two, and due to a ruptured fuel tank, the car had immediately caught fire.

Thankfully, Grosjean was able to walk from the fiery inferno and was immediately rushed to the hospital by the medical team. He recently addressed the F1 media post and gave a gripping account of the entire incident. 28 seconds! That was the duration from the impact to his escape. However, the Haas driver revealed that to him, it felt more like 90 seconds, as a million thoughts crossed his mind in a very short period of time. Here are some of the bits of his recollections of the incident that shine a light on the injuries he received and how the thoughts of his family strengthened his survival instinct.

On the manoeuvre

'I had a very good exit out of Turn 1, into Turn 2. There was no one in my right-hand side at that point. The momentum I carried out of Turn 3 was very good, and there was a lot of debris and sparks coming on the left-hand side of the track. So I already moved a bit to the right.' 

'If there was anyone next to me, it would have been side by side, and I would have passed him. That didn't happen. Then there was a gap, I went for it, quite aggressively, I agree.' 

'If you took all the elements, what I did was not crazy. But I watched the onboard, Daniil was in my blind spot from Turn 2 to where it happened. The whole way was completely in my blind spot.'

On the '28 seconds'

'When the car came to a stop, I opened my eyes. I undid my seatbelt straight away. And then I jump out and I feel like something is touching my head, so I sit back down in the car and my first thought was, I’m going to wait. I’m upside down against the wall so I’m going to wait until someone comes and helps me’. At this time, Grosjean was not aware of the fire that had engulfed him.

'Then I look right and left, and watching on the left, I saw fire. So I say OK, well I don’t really have the time to wait here. So next thing is that I tried to go up a bit more on the right, it didn't work. I went again to the left, it didn't work. I sat back down and then thought about Niki Lauda, his accident, and thought it couldn’t end like that, it couldn’t be my last race, it couldn’t finish like this. No way.

'So I tried again. Then there’s the less pleasant moment where my body starts to relax, I'm in peace with myself, and I'm going to die.

'Then I thought about my kids, and I said no they cannot lose their Dad today. So I don’t know why I did what I did but I decided to turn my helmet on the left-hand side and to go up like this and try and twist my shoulder, that sort of worked but then I realised my foot was stuck in the car so I sat back down, pull as hard as I could on my left leg, the shoe stayed where my foot was, but my foot came out of the shoe, and then I did it again, and the shoulders were going through, and when the shoulder was through, I knew I was going to jump out.

'I feel the pain, my hands were in the fire, but also I felt the relief that I am out of the car, and then I jumped out, went on the barrier, felt [Dr] Ian [Roberts] pulling on my overall, so I knew I was not on my own anymore, and there was someone with me, I landed, and they touched on my back, so I was like, I am a running fireball!

'Ian explained the ambulance was coming, they’re going to come with the bed and you’re going to be okay and we kept talking at the time. I say no, now we walk to the ambulance, they say no no the bed is coming, I say no no no, and I walked out of the car and say we are walking.'

'I guess on the medical side, it wasn’t a perfect decision, but they understood that for me it was key that there was footage of me walking towards the ambulance, so even though I walked out of the fire, I needed to send another strong message that I was okay.'

On the impact on his family

'I really spoke a lot with my wife and my kids [after the accident]. They’re [kids] OK because yesterday I video phoned them, and they wouldn’t even come to see me, they were playing outside. They weren’t bothered about coming to see me. It was probably the first time I was happy they wouldn’t come to see me because that means they were OK, back to their life.

'Marion [Grosjean's wife], it’s been very hard for her. She flew to Bahrain, Wednesday night, she arrived. I think for her it was key to hug me. Even though she could see me on the video, it was hard to process that yes, I was in one piece. She flew, she hugged me, and since then it’s getting better.

'What is the hardest? For me it’s not what I went through, this is my life, my job and the risk we take. But it’s what I put people through, my family, my parents, my kids, my wife, my friends. For 2 minutes and 43 seconds, they thought their friend, their father, their husband was dead. That is what I’m working on because that made me cry – that I made people suffer to that extent.'

Picture credits – F1

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