Romain Grosjean: Frenchman’s Heroic F1 Survival

Romain Grosjean driving the Haas.
Romain Grosjean driving the Haas. Davide Gennaro, Getty Images

On Sunday 29th November, French F1 driver Romain Grosjean suffered the worst accident in F1 since 2014.

The enormity of the accident was so severe it stunned the F1 community and wider world. But we’re here to honour how his survival was remotely possible.

The Bahrain 2020 Incident

Many of you will likely have seen the horrifying images beamed around the world by the international media.

Including a happy and recovering Romain Grosjean a few hours after the accident.

Grosjean has had a long F1 career, which started in 2009. We actually attended his second race! That was at Spa.

After driving with Lotus from 2012 to 2015, he gained a reputation as one of the upper tier drivers in the sport. Only failing to bag a few wins due to mechanical failures.

And he was a nifty match for 2007 world champion teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

But he’s at the end of his career now. With only a handful of races left to run, he headed to Bahrain in the difficult Haas car he’s piloted since 2016.

At the start, he tapped Alpha Tauri driver Danil Kvyat and speared off into a barrier.

And warning here, as this is frightening.

The reason we include it is to highlight the astonishing efforts of the FIA to push forward F1 (and road car) safety.

Everyone who follows F1 was stunned to the core by this. It was like watching some of the horrible scenes from the 1970s. A bygone era reimagined.

It’s certainly one of the worst accidents in F1 history. Far worse than Jules Bianchi’s accident in 2014, that led to his death in 2015.

We saw a lot of fans, and people working in F1, react the same way after the incident—a state of total shock and distress.

Part of the shock was just down to how this type of thing doesn’t happen in F1 anymore. You get the occasional fuel splash and fire during pit stops.

But otherwise, a car hadn’t crashed and burst into flames since Gerhard Berger’s accident at Imola in 1989.

For this just to suddenly come out of the blue was unbelievable.

The fact that Grosjean did survive the crash may seem beyond belief. And with relatively minor injuries (second-degree burns on his hands and a bad sprain).

But it’s no miracle. It’s down to several factors, principally:

  • The safety cell inside the car.
  • The HANs head and neck device.
  • Fireproof protective clothing, including in his helmet.
  • The previously controversial HALO cockpit protection. The most crucial aspect—introduced to F1 in 2018, despite much opposition. Without this device, Grosjean would have been killed.

Along with a few more insights below from the brilliant The Race, including why the barrier failed.

In Professor Sid Watkin’s Life at the Limit (1994), he details the disturbing lack of safety in F1 in the 1960s and 1970s. He, along with Bernie Ecclestone, led the push for change.

The FIA (fédération internationale de l’automobile) takes these matters extremely seriously. The sport is still on a major safety crusade, with constant improvements developing since a tragic Imola weekend in 1994.

The FIA’s investigation into Grosjean’s crash is already underway.

This is what’s about to take place:

Data collection will be at the heart of this investigation and in Formula 1 there is more data instrumentation than in any other championship. FIA researchers will be able to gather data from the various video streams, including a High Speed Camera which faces the driver and films at 400 frames per-second to reveal in slow motion what happens to him during the accident … This multi-disciplinary make-up of its membership, which includes doctors, engineers, researchers and officials, ensures that all areas of motor sport are represented in these meetings. Accidents are analysed from technical, operational and medical sides, and measures are then taken forward.

The camera facing Grosjean during the accident will prove particularly revealing. And no doubt disturbing.

But it’s all testament to decades of intensive work.

Principally, what we’re happy about is the guy is alive and well. We’ve been fans of his for a while. He comes across as a lovely bloke. And he has a wife and three kids.

Here he is on the 3rd December finally catching up with those who helped him out of the car.

Should he be allowed to take part in the final race of the season we’ll see. But he says he’d like to end his F1 career on a different note than his crash.

Either way, get well soon! And wishing you an excellent retirement from F1, Monsieur Grosjean.

2 comments

  1. To walk away from that crash is remarkable. All hail modern F1 safety systems! The contrast between these and what was even to hand twenty years ago is astonishing. And that’s without mentioning those days at Brooklands in the 1920s where drivers protected only with leather caps and flying goggles belted around the wooden banking in cars with chocolate-thin tyres and only a rear handbrake, usually at about 120 mph (except for John Cobb’s Napier-Railton. It was faster).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, in 20 years it’s a remarkable turnaround. My first full season of F1 was in 1999 and there were so many injuries. Schumacher broke his leg etc.

      Pre-1960 the drivers pinned their hopes of being thrown clear of the car in a crash. Pretty remarkable. I don’t have the nerve for any of that, although enjoy go-karting from time to time.

      Like

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