Romain Grosjean says he remembers ‘everything’ from his frightening first lap crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix, and it was the thought of his children that gave him the strength to extract himself from the burning car.
The Frenchman collided with Daniil Kvyat on the exit of turn three on lap one and hit the barriers at speed, with his Haas F1 Team machine breaking in two and catching fire. He managed to escape the wreckage before being dragged to safety by Formula 1’s medical car team.
Grosjean said that in the short time he was inside the burning VF-20, he had thoughts about what part of his body was going to burn first before finding the will to get out and live for another day.
“I remember everything about it, every single detail — from the moment I started undoing my seat belt, to the moment I realised I was stuck in the car thinking it was okay, they [race safety staff] would come and help me to jump out, then realising there’s fire,” said Grosjean to CNN.
“I realised after a few attempts of jumping out that I was completely stuck and thinking that I’m going to burn here. I asked myself: ‘Where is it going to start? By the foot? By the hands? By the head? Is it going to be painful or not?’
“You kind of accept the situation. I was in peace and accepting it, but then that’s where I thought about my kids and that I couldn’t leave three kids without a dad. I had to try a last attempt. That moment was more like a reset button for my brain…
“I don’t feel like a superhero, I feel like a dad that has done what he had to do to go and see his kids. That was really the target when I was in the fire, it was jumping out to go and see my kids. They were the energy that I had.”
Grosjean says he is thankful for the halo head protection system that has been in Formula 1 for the past few seasons, with the device being introduced after intensive testing following the tragic death of Jules Bianchi back in 2015. He says motorsport will learn from his crash and from the one that cost Anthoine Hubert his life back in 2019, as it did from Bianchi’s crash.
“I never stopped thinking about Jules and I always kept in touch with mainly his father… I was one of the guys against the halo,” said Grosjean. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was great for motorsport.
“I must say I changed my mind big time and that I won’t race a car with no halo because it’s saving our lives. Jules [Bianchi] saved my life with the introduction of the halo. We’re going to learn from Anthoine [Hubert] and from myself and just make sure that we get better and better.
“It’s never going to be safe. Motorsport is dangerous, we know that. But if we can learn, if we can make it better and if we can bring that to real life road cars, then it’s very impressive.”
Grosjean will return to racing in 2021 as part of Dale Coyne Racing’s line-up in the NTT IndyCar Series, racing alongside Ed Jones in the street and road courses. It will be his first competition since the accident, but the doesn’t have any fear about getting behind the wheel again.
“Driving on my own won’t be a problem at all,” he said. “I think the question that I have and can’t answer right now is how is it going to be in the peloton with other drivers, the race starts, and so on; is it going to bring back memories?
“Is it going to frighten me? But I’m optimistic that it’s going to be alright.”