Romain Grosjean says he “saw death coming” in the immediate aftermath of his 137mph horror crash on Sunday as he sat in the cockpit of his burning Haas, but forced himself to get out of the fire after thinking of his children and of former Formula One driver Niki Lauda.
Grosjean was lucky to survive one of the worst accidents of his generation on the opening lap of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix after colliding with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and colliding head-on with an Armco barrier, with his car piercing the metal surface and leaving him trapped within the wreckage.
The sheer force of the accident - measured at 53G on impact - caused his Haas chassis to snap in half and caused fuel to ignite in a shocking explosion, the like of which has not been seen in F1 in decades.
As medics and safety personnel rushed to Grosjean’s aid, the Frenchman managed to free himself from the cockpit and jump over the remains of the barrier to safety.
"To come out of the flames that day is something that will mark my life forever,” Grosjean told French broadcaster TF1.
"I have a lot of people who have shown me love and it has touched me a lot, and at times I get a bit teary-eyed.
"I don't know if the word miracle exists or if it can be used, but in any case I would say it wasn't my time (to die).
"It felt much longer than 28 seconds. I see my visor turning all orange, I see the flames on the left side of the car.”
The 34-year-old admitted that a number of things went through his head during his time trapped in the burning wreckage, with his family giving him the motivation to fight for his life and find a way out. Grosjean also thought about the late three-time world champion Lauda, who suffered extensive burns and was lucky to survive a serious accident at the Nurburgring in 1976.
"I thought about a lot of things, including Niki Lauda, and I thought that it wasn't possible to end up like that, not now. I couldn't finish my story in Formula 1 like that,” Grosjean added.
"And then, for my children, I told myself that I had to get out. I put my hands in the fire, so I clearly felt it burning on the chassis.
"I got out, then I felt someone pulling on the suit, so I knew I was out."
Grosjean does not have a contract in F1 next season as he has already confirmed he will leave Haas at the end of the season, with the ex-GP2 champion set to leave the grid after nine years with Lotus and Haas.
But although he will be replaced by reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi for a second consecutive race in Bahrain, Grosjean stressed that he has unfinished business with F1 and hopes to be back on the grid for the season-ending Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
"I would say there is a feeling of being happy to be alive, of seeing things differently," he said.
"But also there is the need to get back in the car, if possible in Abu Dhabi."
It had been hoped that Grosjean would be released from hospital on Monday, but a decision was made to keep him under observation for an extra 24 hours to ensure the burns on his hands have the best chance of recovery.
"He's staying another night in the hospital, but there's nothing to be preoccupied with," said Haas team principal Gunther Steiner.
"They just said it's a safer environment, mostly because of the burns. They just said we keep you here another night. But everything is going good.
"This guy he's got with him told me the doctors are very happy, and it's going just as they would have seen it coming, so there's no setback or anything."
Steiner was one of the first to speak to Grosjean once he had been transported to hospital from the Bahrain International Circuit, and at that stage he was still unaware about how he had been forced into the barriers on the exit of Turn Three - having not been aware of Kvyat’s position on the track alongside him.
"He remembers how he wanted to get out, or how he got out, he explained that very well to me," said Steiner.
"What he asked me was, 'How did I end up there?' I said, 'You ran over Kvyat's car, basically, you turned right and ran over his front wheel, and that turned you around and put you in the wall.'
"He said, 'I didn't see the car.' I don't want to put words in his mouth and say he doesn't remember it, I think he didn't realise what he did.
"I wouldn't say he lost any memory of it. I think it went so quick that he cannot remember it."