The Formula One community is still reeling from a horrifying crash involving Haas driver Romain Grosjean, on Sunday, November 29.
In an attempt to overtake Daniil Kvyat, Grosjean made a risky manoeuvre by cutting across in front of his rival.
The gap proved too small however, and Grosjean found his rear right tyre coming into contact with Kvyat’s left front tyre.
This connection unfortunately misdirected Grosjean into the nearby barrier at high speed. His car had no time to lose momentum, and it hit the barrier just off the centre of the front wing of his car, at a massive 137mph.
The combination of these factors resulted in a scene that evoked memories of the high-profile accident that killed F1 legend Ayrton Senna. Immediately upon impact, the front portion of Grosjean’s car detached itself from the rear.
A fuel leak occurred in a split second and the cockpit burst into flames, with Grosjean still present.
How Did Grosjean Survive?
The quick actions of the firefighters and medical staff, and the fight of Grosjean to survive miraculously granted Grosjean another chance at life.
A fairly recent structural addition to F1 cars, dubbed the ‘Halo’, has been credited with protecting Grosjean’s head from the upper section of the barrier. The barrier had been split by the car’s impact.
F1 cars can carry about 100kg of fuel, and the integrity of the Survival Cell remaining strong has also been mooted as a possible reason for Grosjean’s unlikely survival.
Undoubtedly, the fire-retardant properties of Grosjean’s racing suit protected him effectively from the fire itself. Grosjean remarkably left the scene with only minor burns to his hands.
Grosjean, in an interview with TF1, said:
“There is a feeling of being happy to be alive, of seeing things differently. But also, there is the need to get back in the car, if possible, in Abu Dhabi to finish my story with Formula One in a different way.
“To come out of the flames that day is something that will mark my life forever. 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 saw my visor turning all orange, I saw the flames on the left side of the car.
“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 One like that.
“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.”
“My little one has drawn a picture, ‘For daddy’s sores on his hands’. I was more afraid for my relatives, my children in the first place, but also my father and my mother.
“I was not really afraid for myself. I saw death coming, I had no other option but to get out of there.”
This frightening episode in F1 history just goes to show the bravery of the drivers in the pursuit of adrenaline, success, and entertainment. It is clear the actions of those in charge of health and safety decision making in Formula 1, saved Grosjean’s life.