On the very first lap of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, teams, driver, spectators and all involved watched in horror of something Formula One has not witnessed in a very long time. Romain Grosjean, following the pack of cars, drove across the track to which he assumed would allow him some clean air to try and make some overtakes. But when the French driver turned the wheel, his right rear tyre and Daniil Kvyat’s front left tyre touched. The nudge from the Russian’s Alphatauri sent the Haas of Grosjean straight into the 3-layers of Armco barriers at over 200kph. The impact was so severe that the Haas F1 car split in two and the driver’s cockpit pierced through the barrier and onto the other side while the whole front half of the car was engulfed in flames.
Initially, we heard nothing about the condition of the driver. But later on, it was confirmed that he was safe and largely unharmed. We finally saw the replays of the Frenchman rising from the burning cockpit before being pulled away to safety by the medical team. It was nothing short of a miracle that Grosjean survived the crash, but it also goes to show the level of safety measures that have been put in place to keep these super-human-like drivers, who risk their lives for glory and our entertainment, safe. One of the key reasons why Grosjean was able to walk away from the incident was credited to the Halo which is now standard across most FIA regulated open-wheeler racing series.
The Halo is a9 kilogramme cast titanium curved bar placed to protect the driver’s head. It is positioned above the driver’s cockpit and was introduced from 2018. The Halo was introduced following the fatal crash of Jules Bianchi at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, but it wasn’t without controversy.
Most drivers praised the introduction of the Halo and the purpose it is intended for. However, drives like Nico Hulkenberg, the late Niki Lauda and even Romain Grosjean himself felt that it robbed F1 of its charm. However, since the introduction of the Halo, we have seen many drivers walk away from accidents which could have led to head injuries and might have been fatal. Following the crash in Bahrain, watching Grosjean walk away like that, we hope that debate has been put to rest.
In the incident during the 2020 Bahrain GP, upon impact, the sharply designed nose of the Haas F1 car collided between two of the three layers of the Armco barriers splitting them apart. But it was the Halo that is credited to have absorbed the impact and protected Grosjean’s head from being touched even the slightest. It was not for the Halo, the metal Armco barrier would have impacted Grosjean’s helmet and this story would have been entirely different.
An impact of such gravity saw Grosjean only suffer some burns to the back of his hands and ankle. With not a single broken bone in his body or any other injury, just goes to show the lengths the FIA have gone to take care of drivers’ health and lives in the sport.
Romain Grosjean who was one of the nay-sayers about the Halo initially released a video on his official social media from the hospital. He said “ might not be able to reply to all the messages I got for a while. Thank-you for all the support and to the FIA and medical crews that took care of me. Hope to see you all soon.”
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Like the aviation industry after a plane crash, the FIA, the team involved and other parties will analyse the incident. The analysis of what happened exactly during the incident and solve the problems to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The questions which will be heavily under the scanner would be why and how the Haas F1 car split in half, how the barrier split open, and what caused the car to catch fire so rapidly. Whether it was the flexible and impenetrable kevlar fuel tank, was it fuel from the fuel lines that ripped off the engine, or other flammable fluids and materials. In addition to why did Grosjean’s helmet visor melt from the heat.
While we await those answers, it was clear that Grosjean was the luckiest man of the day. The Bahraini Marshals, Ian Roberts and Alan van der Merwe, the team in the medical car who arrived at the scene immediately to bring Grosjean to safety were the heroes of the day.
Watching Grosjean rise above, through the burning wreckage was the biggest sigh of relief for us, and we’re sure everyone else watching. Hearing he was unharmed was the most satisfying.
With the small burn injuries Grosjean sustained from the crash, he will not be fit for the two final races of the season. Haas have announced young reserve driver – Pietro Fittipaldi to replace the recovering French driver for the Sakhir Grand Prix. It was going to be Grosjean’s last season in Formula One before he moved on having announced his departure from the Haas F1 Team following the 2020 season. Grosjean is unlikely to return to F1, and is suspected to retire from the sport to spend time with his family. He is the father of three boys. His wife Marion Jolles, praised the two men in the Medical car, the Marshals and the teams that put in place the safety measures that helped Grosjean walk away from the horrific crash. She stated ‘It didn’t take one miracle but several yesterdays. I embrace you all’.
We at Express Drives extend our prayers to Romain Grosjean and his family for a speedy recovery. Bon Courage Romain!
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