Formula 1 in Bahrain: That’s why Romain Grosjean survived in the fire for 27 seconds


Accidents are a part of Formula 1. It’s part of this dangerous sport. In Bahrain, however, the most dramatic crash for many years occurred – since the accident of Jules Bianchi in Suzuka in October 2014, which ultimately ended in death. Despite worrying pictures, Romain Grosjean’s accident turned out to be relatively light. The Frenchman crashed into a guardrail on the exit of the third corner after a collision with Daniil Kwyat, his Haas was torn in two and exploded in a huge ball of fire. At the hospital, doctors diagnosed second-degree burns on his hands. The suspicion of a broken rib and broken two toes was not confirmed. Grosjean stays in the hospital overnight, from which he reached out to fans on social media:
Anyone who saw the pictures of the accident wonders how Grosjean was able to save himself from his racing car with such minor injuries. The safety measures in Formula 1 have been successively improved over the past few years and decades. The 34-year-old, who as Vice President of the GPDA drivers’ union is committed to safety in Formula 1, benefited from this.
First and foremost there is the originally controversial introduction of the Halo system after the Bianchi accident: The head protection, which was criticized primarily for aesthetic reasons, saved Grosjean when the front part of the car pushed through the opening guardrail. Sky expert Ralf Schumacher said: “Thanks to Halo. Without Halo, the driver would have been beheaded here. “During the race, the French TV commentator Julien Febreau is said to have received a message from Bianchi’s mother:” What was triggered by the death of my son has now saved his friend Romain. ”

The security systems work

RTL expert Christian Danner pointed out other points: The increasingly stable roll bars and, above all, the extremely stiff monocoque cells. This is the chassis made of carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb, which absorbs the high forces in the event of a collision. In the case of the Haas pilot, the car was divided into two parts by the unprotected guardrail – but the actual survival cell withstood the impact.

The strong development of fire was unusual. “Because the entire rear section was cut off, the tank bladder was completely exposed,” said former F1 designer and now TV expert Gary Anderson. “In addition, the high-voltage batteries are also located in this region of the car – that is of course a critical mix.”

There are also reasons for the fact that the fire did not have any catastrophic consequences, although Grosjean was exposed to the flames for a total of 27 seconds before he was able to free himself from the car and over the guardrail to safety: The demands on the overalls increased over time further increased, most recently again before the start of this season when an additional layer of refractory material became mandatory.

The marshals with fire extinguishers and the racing doctor Ian Roberts, in the medical car driven by ex-racing driver Alan van der Merwe, were there very quickly. Haas team boss Günther Steiner praised the helpers: “When you see something like that, you just hope that he’s been lucky. You’re scared if you don’t see if he’s out of the car. The Fia and the Marshalls did a great job. ”

Van der Merve was initially shocked by the scene in front of his eyes: “That was a very big surprise for us too,” said the South African. “In twelve years in Formula 1, I haven’t seen such a big fire and an accident like this. It took a moment to realize what was going on. I’m sure it was only for a second or so, but it felt like forever. And then Romain freed himself, which is pretty unbelievable after such an accident. “Van der Merwe emphasized,” We were relieved when we came back and saw that he was largely okay. It shows that all of the safety systems that were developed worked – the halo, the seat belts – everything worked as it should. Without one of these things it could have turned out very differently. “

Grosjean was able to free himself

A lot of happy circumstances came together. The accident could have been fatal, despite the functioning safety systems, if Grosjean had lost consciousness. So he was able to free himself and none of the marshals had to undo their seat belts and drag Grosjean out of the fire. That would probably have taken a lot longer. What also plays a role here: The requirement of the world association Fia that the driver – despite the Halo – must always be able to get out of the car within seven seconds. What is regularly practiced and also checked.

However, Formula 1 and the Fia will have to ask themselves two questions: Why was there an unprotected guardrail at this angle at this point? Why was there no protection from tire stacks or the plastic elements specially developed for such purposes, the so-called TecPro barriers?

There was no discussion of whether the race would be restarted at all: Despite the dramatic pictures: Grosjean got away with injuries that were not too serious, the safety of the track was restored, perhaps even slightly improved when the destroyed guardrail was replaced by concrete elements has been. And even if the drivers stared at the television pictures again and again during the one-hour break with a mixture of horror at the crash and relief at the mild outcome: it was normal for them to continue. “When I get in the car, I know that I’m taking risks,” said world champion Lewis Hamilton. “But I hope this is a wake-up call to everyone that this sport is still very dangerous. It could have turned out much worse. ”
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