The Bahrain Grand Prix was red flagged on the opening lap after a horrific accident for Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who has been taken to hospital with minor burns to his hands and legs and suspected broken ribs.
His car erupted into flames upon contact with the Armco barrier on the exit of Turn Three, resulting in the race being immediately stopped as medical services rushed to the scene.
The paddock held its breath collectively as the rest of the field was brought back to the pit lane, but fears for Grosjean’s well-being were eased when he was pictured out of the car and speaking to medics while the flames were put out.
“Romain has some minor burns on his hands and ankles but otherwise he is ok,” Haas confirmed. “He is with the doctors just now.
“As a precaution and for further medical evaluation Romain will be transported to hospital.”
The Frenchman was running towards the back of the field when he veered from left to right to try and overtake, unaware that the AlphaTauri was alongside. The contact speared Grosjean into the Armco barrier with the front of his Haas penetrating the metal surface and ripping through it, with a tyre sent flying over it and into the in-field.
The contract resulted in the car being torn into two, with the power unit and complete rear suspension coming apart from the cockpit due to the force in the accident, resulting in fuel igniting into a fireball.
Footage captured Grosjean jumping over the barrier as flames surrounded him, with the time between the moment of impact and his eventual emergence from the flames around 19 seconds. The fact that Grosjean managed to free himself from the wreckage was miraculous in itself, with a general feeling among the paddock that the Halo device that protects a driver’s head had helped to save his life.
“It’s a miracle he’s alive,” said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, who was in Bahrain as part of his TV role.
The medical car, which starts at the back of the grid in the event of such accidents taking place, was immediately on the scene to allow F1 chief medical officer Dr Ian Roberts to rush to Grosjean’s aid as medical driver Alan van der Merwe helped the effort to put flames out on his overalls.
“(It was a) Big surprise for us as well,” Van der Merwe, who was one of the first on the scene, told Sky Sports. “In 12 years I’ve not seen that much fire at an impact like that. We took a little while to process what was going on, I’m sure that was only a second or so but it felt like ages. And then Romain actually started to get out of the car himself which was pretty amazing after an accident like that.
“Not yet, we had relief when we got back here and saw he was ok.
“It just goes to show, all the systems that we’ve developed, everything worked and the halo, the barriers, the seat belts - everything worked how it should. Without even one of those things, it could have been a very different outcome.”
FIA race director Michael Masi immediately red flagged the race and brought the cars back to the pits, with extensive barrier repairs being required to the section where Grosjean crashed. An initial update confirmed that at least 45 minutes would be required to replace the complete ArmCo section that had been damaged before a full race restart could take place.
An hour and 10 minutes after the accident, the FIA confirmed that the race would restart at 3:35pm GMT.
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