French driver Romain Grosjean is recovering in hospital after a horrific crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix that could have been so much worse.
On the opening lap, Grosjean moved to his right at the third corner, before his Haas hit the front-left wheel of Daniil Kvyat's AlphaTauri, penetrating the steel barrier at 225 km/h.
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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.
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.
Incredibly, the Frenchman only sustained burns to both hands after the terrifying fireball crash.
1996 world champion Damon Hill - the teammate of Ayrton Senna when the Argentine legend died in a horrific crash at the San Marino GP in 1994 - said "it's a miracle" that Grosjean is still alive.
Medical car driver Alan van der Merwe said: "It was a big surprise for us as well, we've never seen that much fire in 12 years.
"Romain started to get out of the car himself which was pretty amazing after an accident like that. It was a relief to see he was OK."
The driver's team tweeted an update of Grosjean from his hospital bed, where he remains in good spirits.
The Frenchman admitted that if it wasn’t for the ‘halo’ safety device on his vehicle, he probably wouldn’t be alive.
An update from Romain himself. Pleased to see you’re in good spirits! We hope you make a speedy recovery 🙏 pic.twitter.com/njnjjH4GBi
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 29, 2020
"Romain Grosjean will remain in hospital overnight to be treated for burns sustained on the back of both hands," a Haas statement said.
Formula One bosses have promised a full investigation into the failings exposed by Grosjean's terrifying fireball crash.
Halo device hailed as a life-saver
As widespread praise for modern safety measures, led by race winner Lewis Hamilton, echoed around the paddock at Sakhir's Bahrain International Circuit, Formula One's managing director Ross Brawn said there had been unpredictable and worrying failures.
But he joined many, including Grosjean, in paying tribute to the life-saving role played by the 'halo' safety device built around the cockpit of Grosjean's Haas car.
"There will be a thorough investigation undertaken into the crash," he said.
"The fire is worrying. The split in the barrier is worrying and the barrier coming apart, but we can be happy with the safety of the car –- that got us through today, but things failed in an unpredictable way.
"We haven't seen anything like that for a very long time, but the barrier splitting normally results in a fatality.
"The 'halo' saved the day and it saved Romain. There was controversy in developing it initially, but there can't be any doubt now so hats off to those who pushed for the introduction."
There was reluctance and some opposition to the idea of the halo when F1's former race director Charlie Whiting championed its value and introduction in 2018.
"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," said Grosjean.
Bianchi's mother hails 'halo'
The device was proposed and created in the aftermath of the death of Jules Bianchi who died in 2015 from head injuries sustained in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, nine months earlier.
On Sunday, the French driver's mother Christine sent a brief and poignant message that summed up the value of the device.
"They introduced the halo after my son's accident and now the halo has saved Romain's life today," she wrote, according to reports. "This is great. I'm glad that he is ok."
Newly-crowned world champion Hamilton also expressed his gratitude.
"It was such a shocking image to see. It's horrifying. I'm just so grateful the halo worked –- it's a reminder that this is a dangerous sport."
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