On the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Formula 1 world witnessed one of the most shocking crashes in recent years.
Contact from Daniil Kyvat sent Haas driver Romain Grosjean screaming into the Armco barrier at nearly full speed. The impact of the crash sent the driver pod of Grosjean’s car through the guard-rail, splitting the car in half and rupturing the fuel tank in a spectacular explosion.
While the racing world looked on in horror, the severity of the accident caused many to fear the worst. In what was only around 23 tense and agonizing seconds, Grosjean emerged from the flames and jumped into the arms of the waiting medical crew. Grosjean survived what can only be described as the worst F1 crash in these current cars.
As the TV cameras circled the wreckage, a few other things could be noticed. The engine of the car was lodged into the barrier and ripped straight out of the car. In addition, the two front tyres had also been ripped from their tethers and flung about 100 feet in opposite directions from each other.
At the time of this post, Grosjean was currently at a local hospital recovering from burns on his hands and feet. But the team has reported no broken bones or other injuries from the crash. A true miracle, when considering F1’s long and dark history of fatal and life altering accidents.
“Romain is doing okay, I don’t want to make a medical comment but he had light burns on his hands and ankles” Haas team boss Guenther Steiner told the TV Crews. “Obviously he’s shaken… I want to thank the rescue crews who are very quick. The marshals and FIA people they did a great job, it was scary.”
A heart-stopping moment on Lap 1 in Bahrain
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
Upon Further Examination
What made this crash so scary was all the possible factors that could have lead to a fatality.
- Grosjean’s car went head-on and through the ARMCO barrier. While the speed alone was enough to cause serious injury, if it wasn’t for the Halo on the car, Grosjean’s head would have taken the full brunt of the impact. The Halo helped protect the driver as the car punched through the barrier, keeping the metal off of Grosjean while he got out. While Grosjean himself was not a fan of the Halo initially, he has now called it one of F1’s most important features, following the accident.
- Since the crash happened at the start of the race, the car had a full tank of race fuel. The highly flammable fuel is what led to that spectacular fireball when the car split in two. Aside from escaping decapitation, the fire was the second-most dangerous part of the accident, given that if Grosjean was unconscious there was a real chance he could have sustained severe burns or even been killed by the flames. As seen with drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr at the IMSA Sonoma race a handful of years ago and even F1’s own Nikki Lauda, fire can add even more danger to an already tense situation.
- Finally, the innovations of the car are some of the most important things that saved Grosjean’s life. If this crash had happened in 2005 or even as late as 2016, it is far less certain that Grosjean would have made it out as unscathed as he did. The cars have been engineered to be tougher and believe it or not the car splitting in half was what it was supposed to do. The engineers design these cars with two goals in mind: go as fast as possible and keep the driver safe. The cockpit coming apart from the rest of the car is actually a safety feature, one that is designed to help get the engine and the rest of the car away from the driver.
While the F1 world rejoiced in the fact that Grosjean was okay, there still is some uncertainty for the driver moving into the last few races. Although Grosjean suffered burns but no broken bones, he still needs to be medically cleared to race the final two events. Haas will most likely bring up their reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi next week just in case Grosjean needs to sit the Sahkir Grand Prix out.
The world of F1 has been given a very dark reminder that every time these drivers are out on the track, they are risking their lives each and every time. There is no guarantee that a driver will come back, as we saw last year with the tragic passing of rookie Anthoine Hubert. Death doesn’t care how old you might be. These drivers are true warriors and Romain Grosjean may have just won the biggest thing of his career today: the opportunity to wake up tomorrow.
The circuit will move on, and hopefully, we never see anything like this crash again.