Race officials and drivers praised the modern safety systems developed for Formula 1 on Sunday after Romain Grosjean said he was “okay” after surviving a rapid-fire crash and fireball fire in the opening stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Frenchman’s car fell into the barriers when he braked hard from about 250 km / h (155 mph) during the opening lap, the front part hammering into the steel rails that tightened.
Grosjean, 34, trapped in his cockpit, flew under the barrier when it gave way and when his car exploded in flames, split in two in a collision, but managed to escape with only “minor burns” in his hands and ankles.
“Hi everyone, just wanted to say I’m okay, yeah, kind of okay,” Grosjean said from his hospital bed in a video posted on social media.
“Thank you so much for all the messages.”
Safety and official medical driver Alan van der Merwe was on site within seconds as he followed the field after the start of the race and together with Chief Medical Officer Dr Ian Roberts they fought the fire to save Grosjean’s life.
“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” said world champion Damon Hill in 1996, who was Ayrton Senna’s teammate at the 1994 Grand Prix in San Marino when the Brazilian was killed.
Van der Merwe said: “It was also a big surprise for us, we have never seen so much fire in 12 years.
“Romain started getting out of the car himself, which was pretty amazing after such an accident. It was a relief to see that he was okay. It just shows that all the systems we have developed worked hand in hand – the halos, the barriers, the seat belts, everything. worked as it should.
“Without just one of these things, it could have been a completely different result.”
Grosjean lost control of his Haas car after cutting the front wheel on the left of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri, after turning right in the intense battle for the position at turn three in the opening ship.
Hans Haas team manager Guenther Steiner said: “When you see something like this, the only thing you think is ‘I hope we’m lucky’ – you do not believe how it happened or whatever.
“I want to thank all the marshals. They did a fantastic job of getting him out of the fire as quickly as possible. It was amazing what they did.”
Grosjean said the once controversial “halo” safety device had saved his life.
“I was not for the shine a few years ago, but I think it is the best we brought to Formula 1 and without it I would not be able to talk to you today,” he added.
Grosjean ‘always conscious’
Steiner added that Grosjean, who will leave F1 at the end of the season, had suffered “minor burns to his hands and ankles”.
Grosjean was taken to hospital, with reports suggesting he had also been hit by a suspected rib.
“The driver released himself and was aware at all times,” the FIA said in a statement. “He was taken to the medical center before being taken to the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Hospital by helicopter where he is undergoing further evaluation.”
The race started again after a long delay, with the newly crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton winning.
“I’m so grateful Romain is safe,” Hamilton wrote on Twitter.
“Wow … the risk we take is no joke, for those out there who forget that we are putting our lives on the line for this sport and for what we love to do.
“Thanks to the FIA for the massive progress we’ve made for Romain to walk away from it for sure.”
The safety car was quickly back in action after the restart when Lance Stroll’s car tipped over.
The Canadian Racing Point made contact with Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri at turn 8, his car stopped upside down.
Stroll was unharmed and remained cool in his car.
“I’m okay, just hanging upside down,” he told his team before climbing out.