Grosjean: I tried three times to escape from burning cockpit

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Romain Grosjean has spoken for the first time about his escape from a shocking crash at the start of last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Haas driver spent 28 seconds in the burning wreckage of his car after he crashed head-on into a barrier. His car split in two, which caused a explosive fire.

Grosjean said he was reminded of Niki Lauda’s crash during the 1976 German Grand Prix, which left the Austrian world champion with severe burns.

“I saw my visor was all orange and the flames around me,” Grosjean told TF1 and LCI in an interview. “The accident of Niki Lauda came to mind. I didn’t want to end up like that. I had to get out for my children.”

He said the crash was unlike anything he’d seen in a film. “Even in Hollywood, it does not exist,” he said. “I have never seen a crash like that in my life.

Grosjean hopes to race in Abu Dhabi next week
“I stayed 28 seconds in the flames but it seemed much longer, as I tried to get out of the tub three times. After this accident, I’m happy to be alive.”

“To get out of the seat, I was able to remove my seat belt,” he added. “The steering wheel was no longer there, [it] probably flew off during the impact.”

One of Grosjean’s boots also came off during the crash. “In the end, my hands were burnt and I had a big sprain, I thought I had broken my foot.”

He has since begun recovery in a hospital in Bahrain and hopes to return to racing at next week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“I was more afraid for my relatives, my children in the first place, but also my father and my mother,” said Grosjean. “I was not really afraid for myself. I saw death coming, I had no other option but to get out of there.”

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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95 comments on “Grosjean: I tried three times to escape from burning cockpit”

  1. The technology of modem F1 cars allowing a driver to stay conscious and survive unscathed a 220kmh impact with an explosive fire by 100kg fuel is nothing but incredible.

    1. +1 Totally impressive. And to think one had to battle HANS and the Halo through opposition

    2. Begs a serious questions around guard rails installation protocols, however.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        1st December 2020, 18:07

        Romain was begging serious questions about the safety of Indycar Ovals remember, I don’t think he had this sort of F1 accident in mind!

  2. Whilst a bit morbid to say, this is by far the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a Formula One car do, and the thing that’s made me realise how absolutely remarkable the engineers and designers truly are.

    1. I agree it is the most impressive thing I have seen an F1 car do.

      I was a bit anti halo when it was introduced. I felt like F1 was safe enough and needed that element of danager to make it spectacular. But this has changed my mind… I think its actually more spectacular that a driver can have a accident of this magnitude and walk away with only minor injuries. Its just incredible!

    2. how absolutely remarkable the engineers and designers truly are.

      And also the drivers. Basically risking their lives every race weekend.
      Also saying that what Hamilton does is easy because of the best car. No it’s not. It’s dangerous, always!

      1. exactly.
        i hate how people think it’s just a walk in the park when you have the best car in the race

  3. An astonishing interview and one I’m still amazed he is able to give. The more I hear of it, the luckier I think he is.

    28 seconds sat in a fire is 28 seconds more than you’d like to be. It’s incredible how quickly the mind races from topic to topic; Niki Lauda, family, children, how to get out etc. I’m not surprised that he thought he’d broken his foot; I understand his boot was found still wedged in the tub.

    I really hope he’s able to patch himself together for a farewell appearance at Abu Dhabi, I think he deserves a better send off than a ball of flames.

    1. Absolutely spot on.

      After what must have been been such a terrifying experience, one that no driver would want to go through, I’d love to see him have a brilliant drive in Abu Dhabi so we get a chance to appreciate the fact that he’s contributed a lot to F1.

  4. I said it before, only sheer will power and the thought of loved ones gave him the strength to fight his way out of that fire.
    You’re determination is an inspiration.
    Even though I may role my eyes at some of your driving to still see you smile is a blessing.

  5. Is he allowed to talk about it? I sure hope he got permission from Danny Ric and Seb.

    1. Are you allowed to comment about it? I sure hope you got permission from your parents.

    2. @kuvemar Why wouldn’t he?

      1. @jerejj I’m pretty sure it’s a dig at Vettels and Ricciardos critisism of F1 showing the crash.

    3. Bravo sir! It’s all getting a little frilly for my tastes too.
      Glad GRO is not hurt and glad the car stood up as expected. Let’s move on.

    4. You get my vote for COTD.

    5. 🤣👍

    6. Best comment! :-D

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    1st December 2020, 13:25

    Sobering stuff – I can’t imagine the panic that must have set in after failing to get out the first and second times.

    I can’t help but find it quite ironic that a week ago he was complaining about how unlucky his F1 generation was and a week later the entire world witnessed him walking away from the most spectacular crash without a single scratch. He’s gone from being an unlucky driver to the luckiest driver in the world.

  7. Coventry Climax
    1st December 2020, 13:27

    Good to see you’re relatively well, Romain. My advice, however, would be to thoroughly analyse the cause of your accident, being you yourself, and the downright silly moves you make from time to time. This time, to avoid the mess right in front of you, you’ll probably say, but that was still quite some distance away, and in no way an excuse for just turning right.
    I hope you come to the conclusion that you are a danger to yourself as well as others, and that it is about time you threw the towel.
    I don’t really know you as a person, Romain, but from what I do see, you seem a nice guy. That however, does not make you suitable to drive these cars, unfortunately.
    Please quit.

    1. I have to disagree.

      “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver”

      1. What if you go for a gap that doesn’t exist?

        1. you just create one.. in the guard rail……

        2. @nanotech Then you find out that those who go for a gap that no longer exist are no longer racing drivers either – in that case because they become passengers. This time, with consequences far more severe than can be justified by any notion of “justice” or “karma”.

      2. Davethechicken
        1st December 2020, 14:15

        That quote from Senna was always dubious. He pretty much admitted he crashed deliberately. Much better was “I find amazing you make such a question, Stewart”

      3. I get so bored of people quoting Senna, people only say it as Senna has a martyred god like status, in reality despite Senna’s brilliance most of the time he still did some questionable things and ultimately made that statement to try and excuse himself after dangerously shunting into Prost. Grosjean, in reality was not going for a gap in an overtake, it was him teing to not lose position to those behind when cars in front started tripping up, he should have braked, not swerved wildly across the track with an alpha tauri alongside him.

        1. My comma is non existant , I am saying he was brilliant most of the time, but still did questionable things, not that he did questionable things most of the time

        2. Jose Lopes da Silva
          1st December 2020, 17:15

          Are you sure? I think he was trying to overtake.

      4. Except in this case, there was no gap.

        I’m really, really glad he’s OK, but IMHO this is one crash too many for Romain. He should call it a day and enjoy his family.

      5. He sure found a gap between that Armco!

    2. I don’t know about that, mistakes will happen. Obviously he thought he was clear or didn’t see him. Seems like a similar accident to button and ham in canada 2011 but no one called for Button to retire. Had it happen in most other parts of the track he would’ve rejoined without much drama and we wouldn’t even be talking about it.

      1. Button didn’t move across on Lewis though – he following the racing line straight as an arrow, but due to the spray couldn’t see that Lewis was (for reasons unknown) attempting to put his car in the gap between Button’s and the barrier rather than going round the other (open) side. Crash was 100% Lewis’ fault there.

        In this case, Romain made a dramatic, unnecessary swerve across the track and either misjudged the gap or wasn’t fully aware of the Alpha Tauri. He wasn’t unsighted and wasn’t forced into it by a driver on his left.

        1. +10

        2. Crash was 100% Lewis’ fault there

          You what? 100% on Button, he drove Hamilton off track into the wall. Even Button accepts he was to blame so why cant you accept it?

    3. It was a racing incident, no different to say Vettel in Singapore 2017, guess you’re saying half the grid are dangerous and show retire immediately

      1. I don’t think it wasn’t a racing incident. You can’t swerve out like that with a car behind, it’s your responsibility to check your mirrors before such an erratic swerve on a straight. Anyway, it doesn’t matter as Grosjean will be retiring soon but I don’t think he should be above criticism.

    4. Your phenomenal amount of experience as an F1 driver really must lend you a keen insight into a driver’s abilities and their suitability to drive an F1 car. So much so, that you can obviously tell, just by watching on television, a ten-time F1 podium finisher how incapable he is at his own profession. Truly remarkable. Please, you must continue to grace the remaining drivers and us with your sage career advice.

      1. Coventry Climax
        1st December 2020, 19:31

        Happy to be of assistance.
        If you’ve ever done a high risk sport such as hang-gliding, moto cross, diving etc., you know that there comes the inevitable moment where you ‘meet yourself’. It’s not just that you have to rely on your material, you also have to rely on your own ability to make the right decisions, AND constantly evaluate yourself. Sounds easy or logical what I write here, but “If you’ve ever done..” is key here. You can not imagine what I talk about unless you’ve been there. Sometimes people need to be protected from themselves, not only for the sake of themselves, but also for the sake of others.
        With Romain -and with a few of others for that matter, but Maldonado being a good example- I’m in serious doubt of their ability to self-reflect. Romain has a known track record of misjudgements, called mistakes by some.
        True, maybe this was caused by something else than his own decision -split second or not- to turn right.
        With Schumacher (not a fan though) they always said he enforced his own luck. What about bad luck, then?

    5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      1st December 2020, 14:11

      I think we should give it a little more time before judging the cause of his incident. This is unlikely to be related, but he did run over a large piece of debris from Strolls car about a second before he suddenly turned right. And with the chaos to his left such as kimi in the dust coming back on the track, I think he partly did this to get out of the way as also trying to go for a gap without realising kvyat was there. It was how sharp he turned that I think was the mistake but I think he was paying attention to what was on the left of him which makes it a bit more clear why he didn’t see kvyat, but then he shouldn’t have moved so suddenly.

      Anyway, if it was that dangerous of a move, it would they let it go simply because it ended in what initially looked like a possible life threatening or even fatal way? There may be some cause we don’t know of yet. But I think he would have some penalty points given if he was deemed heavily at fault for such a huge crash – especially since he cause this system to start himself.

      1. @thegianthogweed Not to mention that we see it in slomo and repeated. There’s quite a difference from split second decisions when something unexpected happens in front you you, and sitting in your couch, out of risk, and judging the accident after seeing it again and again.

    6. The fact is Grosjean had a split second to make a decision. The Car out left seemed likely to rejoin and take the space ahead of him. If he just put the breaks on, ihe might have been shunted from behind. He saw a gap to his right and went for it. Were it not for the tire of the car also closing in on that gap he might have made it. This was a split second decision with all the drivers having to make similar decisions at the start of the race. Your typical racing incident.

      On the restart we had a similar racing indident which left that driver upside down. I doubt you’d have that driver also retire from the sport.

    7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      1st December 2020, 20:02

      There was a lot of stuff happening when Grosjean tried to move over. It was a perfect storm of circumstances.

      1. Its interesting that in the two race incidents. Both drivers made contact with the wheels of Kvyat.
        Kvyat’s wheel bosted Grosjean’s car so that he went careering into the barriors.

        The second incident occured on the restart, when keviate went for a space which wasn’t there,
        loytering on the apex of a corner only for his front wheel to make contact with Stroll’s rear, and pitch him upside down.

        I’d be interested to know if anyone has stats on these wheel to wheel, head over heels incidents, particularly where Kvyat is concerned.

        Most wheel to wheel incidents are side wall to side wall. These incidents had the one wheel riding up and over the wheel of the other car.

        1. Should they put conveyer belts over all of the armco before Friday?

    8. It seems to me after watching the sky sports analysis he was trying to avoid a t-bone collision with the sauber that ran wide. Similair to the incident where Hubert died in Spa. Then he ended up almost killing himself in the process.

    9. If only he didn’t move to the right all of a sudden, then the horrible crash would be avoided.
      That is all.

  8. I’m imagining this will make it on the Drive to Survive doco…

  9. Mark Webber in 2012 told Romain is “First Lap nutcase” and unfortunately he remained so for entire his career.

  10. I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what would’ve happened had the survival not gone all the way through the barrier. If the the cell got stuck with the barrier above the halo but before the roll hoop. Completely trapped with nowhere to go. He did well to get out of the car based in the pictures of where the cell landed, with the cell facing the barrier. He likely had to push the cell away from the barrier to get out.

    1. Funny I was thinking what if the Armco didn’t give way, maybe the safety cell would’ve been compromised like it was with Hubert. The ripping of the metal increased the slow down time and the dissipation of energy. Also f1 cars are massive, what like 6 metres long or something, that’s a lot of car to take up the energy also. These lumbering land yachts unintended safety consequence might have contributed to him being alive aswell

      1. If the barrier didn’t give way there is a high probability of him being unconscious or highly concussed and dazed while trapped in the blaze. Really hard to tell I suppose, 6 in one hand half dozen in the other.

        1. It was the monocoque getting stuck in the barrier and the rear of the car being able to continue its journey that caused the car to split and they believe the battery ignited the fuel which was either spilt from the fuel cell being punctured or spillage feom piped being pulled off in the impact. They talk about it on the “the race” channel on youtube but I guess we wont know for real until the investigation is finished.

        2. So basically if the car rebounded off the barrier like it should then there wiuld likely have been no fire,people think he hit straight on but he hit the barrier a 20 or 30 degree angle

        3. Coventry Climax
          1st December 2020, 18:54

          I guess you mean ‘if the barrier hadn’t given way’, but I think you’re right anyway. And probably that’s why Masi allowed them to replace the barrier with heavy concrete blocks… -and cynicism off again-

  11. In full:

    « I’m fine. Really fine relatively to the accident and the circumstances. I have to say I have Mickey Mouse hands, but my fingers moves are alright. Bandages are unpleasant but don’t hurt so I cannot complain. »

    « I’m not sure if the word miracle exists or if we can can use it here, but in all cases it wasn’t my time. »

    « And yes, it seemed a lot longer than 28 seconds. I see flames on the left hand side of the car. At this very moment I thought about a lot of stuff. Niki Lauda and I tell myself this is impossible I end up like this. Not now. I can’t close my F1 chapter this way. There, for my children, I told myself I have to go out the car. I put my hands in the flames so I clearly felt my hands burning on the chassis. The steering wheel wasn’t there anymore, I suspect he flew off during the impact and then managed to unlock my seatbelt. And when I got out I immediately felt somebody pulling my racesuit. So I understood I was out. »
    [Talks about family]

    « I think for me, I will have to go through a bit of psychological work because I’ve really seen death coming. Then looking at the footage, I think even Hollywood isn’t able to do this. It’s the biggest crash I’ve ever seen in my life. The car burning, exploding… and the batteries took fire too, so it made even more energy in the impact. »

    « I’d say there is a happy feeling to be alive, to see things differently. I have the feeling… the need to get back in the car, if possible, in Abu Dhabi to close my F1 chapter, but not this way. It was almost like a second birth. Getting out the flames that day is something that will affect my life forever. »

    « A lot of people have sent me a lot of love and it moves me so much. At times I have tears in my eyes. »

    1. Thank you for this. I can feel the emotions more. It’s really not as calmed and composed as my first thought.

      1. +1 Thanks for the full story. Grosjean is certainly putting on a brave face. The image of him smiling with his hands in bandages brings many emotions to mind.

        I am extremely happy he is still with us today.

  12. Obviously the most important thing is that Romain is alive and relatively uninjured.
    But I don’t get all the praise the FIA is getting, Grosjean spent 28 seconds in a burning car and it didn’t look like the marshalls were close to stopping the fire when he got out. Is that acceptable? I remember a car in F2 burning for more than a minute this year in Russia.
    Americans safety crews in both NASCAR and Indycar look much better prepared despite their smaller overall budget. They have firefighting crews in vehicles ready to enter the track at any moment.
    I think this crash will be a reminder fires can still be dangerous in modern Formula 1.

    1. Ovals having something like a single infield certainly makes that a bit simpler logistically, but they do also deal with more of the type of accidents where they are needed. Having said that, I don’t really disagree that there’s clearly more that needs to be done to make this impossible to just depend on the driver remaining conscious and able to extract himself in these circumstances @francorchamps17

      1. You have said why it is much easier on oval and most of the major crashes in that series occur on those oval circuits.
        The nature of a road like circuit makes it very difficult to have heavy fire fighting vehicles to move even with very short distances. Then alcohol based fuels are more easily put out with just water that oil based fuels.
        Man portable extinguishers are still always the first line of defense against any fire on a road circuit.

    2. Agreed, the on track marshalling at this race was pathetic!! No, it was shockingly pathetic.
      This has to be a MASSIVE wake up call for F1
      .
      Bear in mind this crash happened right beside a marshalls post, only ONE marshall approached the fire with a small water exringusher!! The medical car had and used a powder extingusher, BUT if we are depending on the medical car to put out the fires then the plot has already been lost! Other examples at this and other races has been below the standard any club circuit would expect.
      Thousands of regular, trained volunteer marshalls at motor clubs around the UK and probably elsewhere must have seen this and thought what!!!!
      Ricciardo and co would be better placed screaming that THIS is radically improved for the coming weekend .

      1. Yeah the initial Marshall with his water extinguisher didn’t even get into touching distance of the actual fire. It was having no effect and if romain hadn’t been trapped or unconscious and if this was normal racing conditions without the medical car being on site immediately then it would have been a very different story. Pitiful equipment and/or training here could have cost him his life.

        1. The initial marshall was bearing the brunt of the heat from the fire. The barrier acted like a firewall keeping most of the heat and flames trapped on the that side of the barrier. Another thing we also have to take into consideration is that, a bird’s eye view is always clearer than ground view, so the first marshall was probably experiencing much more that we could visualise as spectators.
          It took the second marshall to come across the track to have a greater impact as he had a totally different view point of the incident. Of course it did help that the medical personnel could direct his effort once he realised the exact nature of the incident.

          1. Looking at the overhead footage, one can see the first marshal (behind the barrier) first spraying the ground. I am wondering if that wasn’t a rational precautionary measure, making sure there isn’t some fuel or oil there that could still catch fire, and spraying it before walking right over it.

    3. There was a guy out of view spraying the flames already. Another one running towards it before all the car parts had landed. They don’t have marshall’s lining the course. Im not very keen at all on people being armchair critics of marshalls. Lets see you react when a car blows up in front of you. I counted 3 seconds before the retaining clip was pulled out. These guys are volunteers and show up at minor events all round the world week in week out for no pay and no chance of seeing topline racing. Whether they meet your approval or not these are the best and you should show some respect.
      Plus people seem to be forgetting, the guy got out. ‘Any landing you walk away from is a good landing’ Bruce Willis