Romain Grosjean has miraculously escaped a horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix that saw his F1 car burst into flames.
Lewis Hamilton celebrated his seventh world championship by winning the race, but it will be remembered in Formula One annals for Grosjean’s miraculous escape from his fireball inferno.
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Grosjean, 34, scrambled to get out of his burning car for almost half a minute before eventually leaping away and into the arms of Formula One doctor, Ian Roberts, one of the first men on the scene.
On the opening lap, Grosjean moved to his right at the third corner, before hitting the front-left wheel of Daniil Kvyat's AlphaTauri, and penetrating the steel barrier at 225 km/h. The force of the impact, which registered at 53G, split his machine in two.
Grosjean’s cockpit instantly burst into flames, and the sport held its breath as television cameras cut hastily away from the extraordinary accident and the race was immediately stopped.
After a number of minutes, Grosjean's Haas team mercifully reported that their driver was out of the cockpit.
He was then pictured sitting in the medical car before limping towards an ambulance, aided by Roberts and medical car driver Alan Van Der Merwe.
He had leapt out of his burning machine with his racing boot missing from his left foot.
Grosjean was airlifted to the BDF Military Hospital, 10 miles north of the Bahrain International Circuit, with burns to his hands and ankles and suspected broken ribs.
It is also understood he might have broken a bone in his foot following one of the biggest accidents in Formula One’s recent memory.
“It is a miracle he is alive,” said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, whose Williams teammate Ayrton Senna perished at the San Marino Grand Prix 26 years ago.
Hill said his first reaction was one of “absolute shock and horror.”
“I was just thinking the drivers going down the straight would have looked in their mirrors and seen the flames,” he said.
“I think it’s so long since we’ve seen anything like that. It’s such an unusual sight to see a fuel fire and then to see how he actually impacted the barriers and gone straight through, we can’t jump to any conclusions at all but it looks like the halo has saved Romain from worse injury there.”
Commentator David Croft immediately described the crash as “horrendous”, while Martin Brundle said it was “so unusual to see a Formula One car with all the safety cells and fuel and what have you immediately go into flames”.
“The driver is well protected with fire proof clothing, helmet, gloves, boots and everything but that just went straight up,” he said.
Croft added: “I’ve not seen a car like that in my time commentating in Formula One”.
“The fact that Romain Grosjean has survived that crash is not only miraculous but quite frankly marvellous as well. That is horrendous.”
Brundle continued: “It’s pierced the barrier like a tin opener and that’s just levered the car apart such was the energy.
“But full respect to the FIA, and the teams and the designers and all the stress analysis for constantly trying to improve the structural integrity of the survival cell or the chassis. That’s just saved his life because that is just extraordinary.”
Hamilton, who was leading the race at the time of the incident, was seen shaking his head as he watched a replay of the jaw-dropping accident from inside the Mercedes garage as the grand prix was suspended.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton tweeted: “I'm so grateful Romain is safe.
“Wow. The risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do.
“Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we've taken for Romain to walk away from that safely.”
I'm so grateful Romain is safe. Wow... the risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do. Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we've taken for Romain to walk away from that safely https://t.co/dG8AXmsbKN
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 29, 2020
Massive relief to see Romain is ok. Huge credit to all the teams, the FIA and F1 for all the safety measures we have in the sport today 🙏
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) November 29, 2020
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) November 29, 2020
If I ever moaned about the Halo in F1 I take it all back.
My god Romain, you are a lucky boy.
Huge testament to all the safety these days and to the medical and marshall teams for getting to the scene fast. #F1 #BahrainGP #grosjean
— Jack Goff (@jgmotorsport) November 29, 2020
The more I watch it the more upsetting it is. Truly incredible strength of modern #F1 cars. How he was even conscious after such deceleration I can’t quite comprehend. The Halo saves another life! Grosjean acting on pure instinct to get out of that car. Thankful he did!
— Dan Cammish (@DanCammish) November 29, 2020
The risk 0 doesn’t exist in motorsport. The HALO & all new safety measures developed by @fia / @JeanTodt clearly saved Romain’s life. I’m glad you’re ok @RGrosjean 🙏🏼. Congratulations to the marshals and fia doctors for their reactivity #Motorsport #Safety #F1 pic.twitter.com/Aa3THVjMJs
— Jean-Eric Vergne (@JeanEricVergne) November 29, 2020
— Lord Insecurity (@americaneedshim) November 29, 2020
One of the worst crashes I’ve seen. So delighted he’s OK, so many hours must have gone into looking at the safety of F1. They’ve just paid off & saved a life of a driver https://t.co/m8MDQNT00l
— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) November 29, 2020
That's the worst crash I've seen in my 25 years watching F1. It's nothing short of a miracle that he has survived, let alone walked away.
— Stone Roses (@ArghIHateCelery) November 29, 2020
F1 to investigate frightening crash
There will now be question marks as to how Grosjean’s car managed to penetrate a steel barrier.
But the halo device - the driver-cockpit protection system controversially introduced in 2018 - appears to have played a major role in the Frenchman's remarkable escape.
The race started again following a 90-minute stoppage, but there was further drama after just eight corners when Lance Stroll was flipped upside down.
Kvyat attempted to pass the Canadian driver at the right-handed turn eight, but sent him on to the roof of his Racing Point.
Stroll clambered out of his cockpit, reporting that he was “OK” over the radio, and the safety car was deployed.
Kvyat was hit with a 10-second penalty, while Stroll was given the all-clear following a visit to the medical centre.
Hamilton completed two regulation stops for new tyres and comfortably kept Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished second, at bay.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who is lying sixth overall in the season’s standings, finished seventh in his Renault.
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